Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today has been an exceptionally nice day and it's not even five o'clock yet. Though I stayed up quite late to capitalize on the little time I had left to hang out with Ablavi, I awoke at a reasonable hour, ate, checked my email, read the news online, and started to map out my draft thesis proposal. Before long, it was time to hop a cab to Doqqi. As I left my building, it felt as if all of Egypt were getting in my way. I weaved to avoid stockmen passing boxes assembly line-style into the foyer, destined for the contact store on the ground floor, dodge slow-moving elderly women and families and buses, and hopped into the cleanest taxi I've been in in eons. The drive was courteous and efficient–I almost felt obligated to pay double. As we crossed over Qasr an-Nil Bridge and I saw the palm trees and the hotels and business offices and billboards and feluccas and cars stretch out in every direction, bisected by the Nile, I had one of those beautiful moments where I think, "Oh my gosh, this is actually my life. I'm living in Cairo." Times like that make me want never to stay within the confines of my over-priced abode, to forget coursework, and to explore as long as my walking legs will hold up.
Once at my destination in Doqqi, I fished out an additional handful of fifty piastre notes to add to the five pounds I would've paid for a less comfortable ride, thanked the driver, and headed toward Misaha Street. After a bit of searching, I found next to the Algerian consulate a "villa". My subsequent haircut inside was quite the surreal experience. I timidly wandered in as there were no signs, but I found myself in this semi-swank colonial manor with crown-molding and high ceilings and a team of Egyptians dressed all in white milling around. At the center of the operation was a Parisian hair stylist who was a multi-tasking master–cutting hair, making nice with the customers, directing his team of assistants. As soon as I walked in, I was initiated into the cult; they put a white smock on me and led me to a comfy armchair where they offered me something to drink. A bit overwhelmed and wondering just how much such treatment was going to cost, I declined and looked around the place. Relatively tasteful music played just loud enough to drown out the din of Arabic, English, and French being spoken by employees and customers some of whom were Egyptian and others of whom were European expats. Before long, I was led into a room with comfy reclining chairs and wash basins. The shampooing room had artsy light fixtures and was ridiculously large and airy for its purpose. Wooden doors were drawn shut as I got my hair shampooed (twice?) and conditioned and had a full scalp massage. After that, I was led out to a chair where the stylist and occasionally his assistants lowered my ears. After finding out I was American, he complimented my French, but even better, he didn't screw up my hair. We discussed refugees and living abroad during the cut, and before I knew it, I had a lot less hair, was less than twenty US dollars poorer, and back out in the sunshine. Determined to save money, to get exercise, and to enjoy being out and about in Cairo, I walked all the way home. I crossed two bridges, passed a veiled woman speeding by on a 4x4 in the middle of traffic, and outpaced a worn-looking horse drawing a carriage. Upon reaching downtown, I was delighted to find that what seemed like ten times as many traffic police were out. No weaving and bobbing and ducking and dodging. I walked straight to the Mobile Shop, bought credit for my phone, crossed a half dozen streets without having to worrying about the errant taxi colliding with me.
High on sunshine, sporting my new haircut, listening to my iPod and satisfied with Egypt, I strutted up to my building, began to climb the steps and then fell up the steps. Can't win 'em all. Haha. So now, in addition to my new 'do, I have a new gash on my arm. Ma3lish. I'm sporting an inventive shoelace and sterile bandage contraption to keep the wee wound under wraps.
And now, back to working on the draft!

"Israel and Egypt: A chillier peace", from The Economist
Analyzing the causes behind sexual harassment in Egypt
Islamic cleric issues fatwa against female genital mutilation
Editorial on chances of peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict

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