Tuesday, April 28, 2009

  I neglected to mention a couple of extraneous but delightful observations yesterday.  When Erin and I were riding in the cab to Carrefour, we saw a pick-up truck carrying a perfectly smug-looking trio of camels.  I've seen a dozen men packed into a pick up, I've seen just about every type of produce piled from the bottom of the bed of trucks to twice their height, but I've never seen dromedaries being spirited away from central Cairo.  I'm not sure what they were up to or why they looked so non-plus about their journey, but Erin and I spent the rest of our own trek to the store guessing.  Perhaps this means we have no lives.  It's better than thinking about the economic crisis or swine flu or group work (the last is the far gravest threat, I'm convinced).
 While shopping, we also spied a women wearing a niqab carrying around a toy sword in fron the Nike store and all through Carrefour.  It was far funnier to see than it is to describe.
 The taxi ride back was more like a carnival ride than a form of transport as there were no shocks and each tiny bump sent us flying into the beige cloth drooping down from the ceiling.  Oh, Egypt.
 Today I had an economics-heavy session of Migration and Development which wasn't the most rousing thing I've ever experienced.  Cynthia, who's now entirely moved in, cat and all, and I joined Ross for dinner at the fatatri place on Tahrir for dinner. Fiteer was a cheap, delicious, and Egyptian dinner option, but not the least greasy.  Ma3lesh.  I can spend the summer munching on organic mixed greens in America...or tamiflu.
  Speaking of swine flu (since everyone else is), Egypt seems to be just as alarmed at the prospect of a pandemic as other countries who have halted pork imports, issued travel advisories, etc.  Some members of the lower house of the Egyptian parliament have called for the nation's 250 000 plus swine to be put to death immediately.
Other news:
  A Saudi-based IGO pressures a controversial video game manufacturer to remove a combat game from its site that allowed players to pit religious figures such as Muhammad and Jesus against one another.  

  A brother of a Hamas spokesman was arrested on the Egyptian side of the border with Palestine today.
  The European Union plans to strengthen ties with Egypt according to the Czech presidency.

Monday, April 27, 2009

  After a Methods class focused on a few of the controversies regarding people trafficking and how to define it and legally address it, I hopped a cab to the fringes of Ma'adi to get some shopping done at Carrefour with Erin. We lingered for quite some time, overwhelmed with the fluorescent-lit consumerist fairy tale.  Each of us picked up some household goods and some edibles by the end of our shopping excursion.  Believe it or not, it was an exhausting experience.
  I'm back at home finishing off a bottle of ISIS brand doum juice.  ISIS optimistically describes its flavor as gingery, but I myself think that Egypt's gastronomic strengths lie elsewhere.
  Now that the EU has issued travel warnings for the US, I'm thinking I've picked quite the fine time to return home.  Egypt is apparently moving all of its pigs (admittedly, not very many) to a 238-acre plot in 15th of May City far away from residential areas.

Other news:
The Muslim Brotherhood is distancing itself from a debate over Shia and Sunni Islam.  Egypt is a majority Sunni country that has recently experienced tension with Shia countries and groups like Iran and Hizbullah.  The two sects differ over the legitimacy of certain of Muhammad's successors, but the rift often goes far beyond theology.

An ancient necropolis discovered at Fayoum oasis yields dozens of artifacts.

An Egyptian delegation in DC paints a picture of Egypt that Egyptian-American students and others aren't quite prepared to accept.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

  I polished off my Migration and Development reaction paper today, only to move on to the final draft of my thesis proposal.  The latter is actually quite enjoyable since a thesis is so much more a personal thing.  
  All over the news are reports of the swine flu and its pandemic potential.  Some nations are even issuing travel warnings to not only Mexico, but the States as well.  It's strange to feel so unaffected by virtue of being in Egypt.  Usually it's the other way around: "Oh good, another case of bird flu?  Parasites in the water?  Bilharzia in the Nile? Pollution so thick you can taste? Wish I were in America."  For now, I'm glad the pigs are so far away.


  An entry in a Discover Magazine blog discusses bird flu in Egypt and swine flu in the Americas and peoples' reactions to them.

  Factional violence continues to threaten unity in Palestine (video) :  Muslim Brotherhood distances itself from Hizbullah terror cell
  I know I have before apologized for including too much detail of my culinary adventures when more important things are afoot here in Egypt, but I must share that this evening, my friends and I went to the Thai restaurant at the Four Seasons in Giza.  Lai Thai has the best service I've experienced in Cairo, even better than that which is proffered by the attentive folks at Crave in Zamalek.  The food was delicious and not outrageously priced (by American standards).  I had the som tum I'd been craving for a while, a vegetarian entree, and coconut sticky rice with litchis for dessert.  Perfect!  And the company wasn't half bad either.  Afterward, four of the six of us diners continued on to Mohandaseen where we hung out at a café for a couple of hours.  It was great people watching made better because I was the only blue-eyed Westerner in the joint.  Alas, now I'm very tired from early morning chats with Egyptian and American friends and need to wrap up the entry before it's really begun.

American journalist imprisoned in Iran goes on hunger strike (video):

Friday, April 24, 2009

  I trekked to and from Zamalek today to have some lunch and run errands.  At Café Arabica, my French friend Antoine was introduce to the joys of oatmeal.  I myself had my old favorite, fiteer with roasted bell peppers and haloumi cheese.
  Other than that, I've gotten another quarter of my Migration and Development about gender and people-trafficking and its relation to economic development.


Egypt's religious endowments minister encourages all able Muslims to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic) to "show the whole world" that the city is "something that concerns all Muslims".  Jerusalem is considered by many Muslims to be the third holiest city in Islam.

France's international news network, France 24, is launching its expanded Arabic-language news service in Cairo on Monday.

Individuals detained and jailed in Egypt Twittered their experiences from their cells.  Twitter, a micro-blogging service, was instrumental in the release of a UC Berkeley grad student from an Egyptian jail last year.

  Voilà, another entry where the news will be meatier than the description of my day.  Cynthia came home after being released from the hospital.  She's been taking it easy on the living room couch and I've been trying to be as helpful as I know how.  Other than that, I got through a quarter of a paper for Migration and Development, tweaked my thesis proposal, and corresponded with some sources for my thesis research in the States.


The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt supports Hizbullah in row with Cairo.  While the Egyptian government is pointing fingers abroad at the likes of Iran, Qatar, etc., the largest (and officially illegal) opposition party is embroiling itself in the tension by expressing its disagreement with the administration.  With the president vowing that Egypt will "hit with an iron fist anyone who messes with its national security", it is unclear whether the government will ramp up pressure on the Brotherhood as well.

Coptic Church provides conversion certificate to Muslim-born Christian.  This is unprecedented in a country where conversion is no easy process if not formally banned.  The convert is trying to get his identity documents changed to reflect his new beliefs.

American president Barack Obama's envoy says that the two-state solution is the only solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Meanwhile, word is spreading that Egypt is threatening to abandon its role as mediator between Hamas and Fatah. American Secretary of State Clinton is not optimistic that the two factions will reach a unity deal in the near future.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today was a productive day, but one whose details are so entirely quotidian, they probably don't merit my foisting them upon a readership interested in big news and cultural phenomena. This evening, I went to the ahwa (café) where I learned to play towla and had sahlab with my French friend. We chatted about our recent travels and summer plans. Cynthia was supposed to come home (to our place) from the hospital, but just when the doctor was supposed to come up and discharge her, they told her she needed to stay yet another night. Hopefully she'll be out tomorrow.


Omar Suleiman, Egypt's "spy chief", has traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli government officials including defence minister Ehud Barak. I included an article from the Telegraph about Mr Suleiman in an earlier entry. He's not someone one hears an awful lot about, though he wields a great deal of power. It will be interesting to see where his career leads. His visit was also notable for the fact that he met with Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman who's loose tongue has offended many in the Arab world and beyond. Apparently, despite Egypt's FM's strong words that Lieberman wouldn't be allowed to set foot on Egyptian soil, Suleiman extended just such an invititation. Among the issues discussed were relations with Iran.

An Egyptian woman died today from bird flu, the twenty-fifth fatality from the illness.

The emergence of an "Islamic MTV" raises fears that the Muslim world is growing ever more conservative. I have to wonder how analogous these efforts are to the contemporary Christian music phenomenon in the States. Certainly both are vehicles for values and a particular message, but do they have different goals? Some hope the satellite channel will reach Muslims in the West who aren't "coming to the message" of Islam because of they are, apparently reprehensibly, "fully assimilated".

An article on Muslim migration to Europe appeared in the Wall Street Journal today. I cannot say that I agree with it entirely, but it makes interesting contentions about the relationship between migration and politics.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

  Preferring to webchat with my mother, brother, and grandfather who I'd not spoken with in ages, I haven't reserved much energy to type out anything extensive and inspiring today.  I will say, however, that some sort of sublime Zen calmness and pleasantness has followed me back from Tunisia.  The break was even more recuperative than I'd anticipated.  I'm ready to get back to work and end the semester strong.
  This was undergirded by the discovery of the finest grocery store I've yet encountered in Cairo.  It may sound silly, but grocery stores are something of a sanctuary for me–my "happy place".  Ok, I sound like a nut.  Anyway, the Alfa Market in Doqqi is much better-organized and better-stocked than the other branch in Zamalek.  The employees are courteous and attentive and even generous-they let me try physalis fruit when I asked how it was meant to be eaten.  Something I first saw in France, the fruit grows inside a flower that vaguely resembles a little birdcage and tastes a bit like a tart cherry tomato.  I dropped over 200 LE in hopes that the groceries will last me for a while.  
  Prior to this excursion, I grabbed sushi with a contingent of my classmates after visiting my friend Cynthia in the hospital.  While I was away, she fell ill and ended up extremely dehydrated.  She's been in since yesterday and will be there at least through tomorrow.  They haven't clearly diagnosed her yet, but they think it may be parasites.  She looked good today and sounded better than she did last night, so hopefully the myriad IVs they've got her hooked up to are of benefit.  The hospital, though appearing a bit like something out of a movie from the 50s, was much cleaner and better-run than I anticipated.  Cynthia's a trooper, trying her best to parlay her limited Sudanese Arabic into some kind of lingua franca to help her half-communicate with the nurses and doctors.  I'll probably head over to see her again tomorrow if she hasn't been released by the time I'm done with class.  She'll be staying with us most likely when she's free.
  On the topic of health, I'll segue into the news:

  Even as experts explain their belief that H5N1 has not undergone any significant mutations in Egypt that would suggest adaptation to humans, an Egyptian boy has died after contracting the virus.

  Egypt is pointing fingers at states it believes are directly linked to supporting Hizbullah whom it accuses of plotting attacks on Egyptian soil.  Iran, for its part, claims that Egypt's recent arrests are an attempt to influence upcoming elections in Lebanon.  Egypt's state-owned newspaper, Al-Ahram, has also suggested that Qatar is intent on bringing Egypt to the point of a coup.

  In an ever-more macabre twist on the problem of organ-selling and organ-stealing in Egypt, an operation in which Yemeni children were trafficked to Egypt in order to have their organs harvested and sold was uncovered by Egyptian authorities who have since returned the children to their country of origin and arrested five suspected human traffickers who will face trial soon.  The ring, whose leader was a Jordanian, included Palestinians and Yemenis.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Carl (Back) in Cairo

  In my old perch on the couch with my laptop, typing feels funny and only now am I beginning to fully realize how marvelous being away from the internet for eleven days is.  Tunisia was absolutely fantastic.  If anyone for any reason wants to visit North Africa, Tunisia's the calmest, cleanest, most pleasant bit of it.  
  To be honest, I was dreading heading back here to Egypt, but as the plane was making its final descent into Cairo, I felt a twinge of relief that I'd be heading "home" to my shabby digs on Tahrir Street.  We left rainy weather behind in Tunis and I was delighted to find that Cairo has not yet become an oven.  The evening ride with the warm breeze was a nice start to easing back ino things.
  I journaled every day while I was on Spring Break, but I won't bore you with every detail.  A quick summary: we roadtripped over fifteen hundred miles around Tunisia hitting every region the Lonely Planet guide breaks the country into.  We saw everything from snow to sand, visiting the sea, the mountains, the desert, and the plains.  We got stuck in the mud and made friends with local who helped tow us out with two Caterpillar tractors (Peoria pride!) and got a flat tire and made more friends who had rather particular opinions of Egypt and of George Bush.  When we weren't hiking or touring historic sites or sampling local cuisine, we were sunning on the beach or getting lost in the car or on foot or shooting the breeze in cafés.  I used our several days on the beaches to work on a modest tan and finished reading Salinger's Franny and Zooey, which I liked a lot.
  Tomorrow it's back to school, but for now, it's wading into the veritable sea of emails and finishing up some school work I put off.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


  The author of a Saudi Aramco World article from the early 80s claims that the "magic" at the Egyptian National Circus in Cairo "is slightly stronger" than at other circuses whose general spell-weaving appeal consists of the "smell of great beasts and sawdust" and the "shrill sound of a clown's whistle".  I think the poor chap was being a bit optimistic.  Many of the acts described in the article are no longer part of the underwhelming but delightfully kitschy performance we saw under the "big top" in a Agouza last evening.
  The first magic trick involved a man producing a white dove from a flaming goblet.  The white dove proceded to hop happily around the floor for a few minutes before assistants tried to recapture it.  They attempted to step on its tail feathers with their feet but were unsuccessful.  The bird flew up to a ledge in the audience inciting a quiet scramble that ended in a sparkly-veiled woman reaching out ninja style and grabbing the poor creature by the neck and then passing it off to the crowd of assistants.  Corpulent men in bright pink shirts and ill-fitting pants unicycled around afterwards and then a trio who had not quite mastered the art of the Chinese yoyo lingered in the spotlight for just a little too long.  Young Egyptian girls in leotards contorted themselves from atop a shaky apparatus to pick up objects behind, such as an Egyptian flag, with their teeth.  Another man balanced things on the end of a stick protruding from his mouth.  For his grand finale, the lights were dimmed and blinking trinkets that resembled the lighting on Cairo taxis were stacked up on plates to demonstrate his supreme balancing prowess.  A single little person came out at one point to faux-fight with a clown in act that I'm sure would be considered entirely politically incorrect in the States.  All the while, another contingent of men in street clothes were walking around with a lion cub offering people the opportunity to, for a fee, get their picture taken with it.  Among them was a flunky who's sole responsibility was to wave off unpaid-for, surreptitious photographs.  Tying the whole show together was the assembly of a wobbly makeshift cage inside of which several haggardly lions and two wily tigers were bothered by man with whips until they did things like lie down and leave the cage.  Impressive.  My favorite part was watching the rather sparse crowd.  At one point, a women wearing a niqab saw her husband volunteer to joined a flashier, less-veiled woman for a "trick" involving handcuffs and men holding up a tube of fabric around them.  After what seemed like five minutes, the fabric tube was dropped to the ground and the man was left in his undershirt while the woman who was part of the act was now handcuffed and wearing his shirt.  The dutiful wife snapped pictures with her camera phone.  I only wish I could've seen the expression on her face.  Aside from families with adorable giddy children and us, the only other demographic were unruly single Egyptian men who were falling all over each other laughing at jokes they were making and shrilly whistling and applauding for no reason during every possible moment of the show.  A lone balloon-seller with a face that resembled a prune and a little white hat looked so forlorn as he ambled around the tent that I nearly purchased all of his garish heart-shaped balloons.  In the end I didn't, of course, because I'm cheap and have no practical use for balloons.
  Following our circus adventures, several rounds of Boggle, comical conversation, and an overdose of delicious fiteer awaited us at Marise's place.
  Today I have law class after which I'm meant to call an immigration lawyer in DC to ask questions relevant to my thesis.  Following that, packing for Tunisia.  I leave tomorrow morning!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Today turned out to be a lot lower-key than expected. Few protests actually took place, an AP article saying efforts fizzled "amid heavy security presence". It seems like the opposition is dispirited and increasingly cynical. Sarah Carr's blog has an account of what little did happen.
Speaking of security, Phil, Antoine, and I met up with Marise and her visiting entourage at the Khan al-Khalili to hang out at al-Fishawy Café, crossing through the area where the bomb went off in February. The entire souq "complex" is extremely porous. Security manning a single metal-detector on the northeast side of the area clearly don't process the majority of visitors to the neighborhood. Worse, there's a nearby gate to allow tour buses in where under less-than-vigilant attention, just about anyone can circumvent said metal detector which in fact always beeps anyway. Anyway, after hanging out at al-Fishawy, we went to a baladi joint where my friends had pigeon and kofta. A couple of the pigeons still had their wee necks attached, but thankfully were head free.
On the way to the Khan, our smiley cabdriver found it appropriate to pull off on a side road and head to a gas station where he made us wait in the car while he filled up. No consideration whatsoever and no concept of us needing to be somewhere in a timely fashion. The cabride back home was less eventful and much quicker.
Class went well, I got my draft thesis proposal back and it seems I'm on the right track. I need to further clarify some things, but should be good to go when it comes time to submit my final proposal.

Obama declares US not at war with Islam
Egyptian president invites Israeli PM to Cairo
Israeli conductor's upcoming visit to Egypt causing a stir

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yesterday evening the usual suspects plus some of Marise's friends and family headed out for a felucca ride. The temperature and the breeze out in the middle of the Nile was absolutely perfect. I think late March/early April is the best time to be in Egypt. Our our on the river was even more agreable than the first time we went out together in December. Cairo is quite a sight all lit up against the night sky. The relatively little boat traffic made for a tranquil relaxing ride, boat rocking gently, little waves lapping. Perfection.
Afterward, we climbed one of the lion statues on the downtown side of Qasr al-Nile bridge to snap photos. Usually there are scores of young Egyptian men on the statues doing the very same thing, but Cairo was unusually uncrowded. Our next stop was Fatatri Tahrir where we all enjoyed fiteers and reveled in being able to see Cairo through the eyes of a visitor. When people see everything as amazing and novel and exciting, it tends to rub off.
Once we'd stopped at Horayya and decided it was too smokey, we headed back to the apartment to chat about the day and about school and our upcoming spring break plans.
Between now and when I take off for Tunisia on Thursday, I need to get a lot of schoolwork accomplished, but I think getting it out of the way so that I don't have to do any work while I'm traveling will be well worth it.

April 6 Movement Strikes
Tomorrow there are meant to be strikes and protests all across Egypt. The April 6 Youth Movement used Facebook groups (the largest one, an Arabic-language group has over 75 000 members) as a main form of organizing last year and appears to be highly organized again this year. The Islamic Brotherhood, which has expressed its support for action tomorrow, has a background on the movement on its website with hyperlinks to a New York Times article. Called by some the "Day of Rage" or the "Day of Anger", tomorrow is expected to be filled with anti-government demonstrations. Preparations have already provoked arrests and a beefing up of security around the country. The self-described official website of the movement has an explanation of its purpose in English.
As with any movement that has such broad supporter, some voices who likely do not represent the viewed of the majority have waxed anti-Semitic, anti-Western. However, the authors of so-called official pages are careful to clearly enumerate their grievances in a way that is free from unproductive hate speech. A contingent of AUC students are attempting to coopt the day for their own, largely unrelated protests with the support of some but to the ire of others. At any rate, while I support democracy, free expression, and respect for basic human rights and oppose corruption, police brutality, and torture, I think wading into a complex political situation I don't fully understand would be naive and counterproductive. I therefore will share my observations here and keep my readers (if there are any) abreast of the situation without participating in anything.

Egyptian couple sentenced to seven and three years in prison for "sexual perversity"
While I think monogamy is an essential component in marriage, this ruling is extremely severe. The way the law works in Egypt, the breadth of acts for which Egyptians can be charged with prostitution dilutes the meaning of the charge.

Despite tensions with Israel, studies of Hebrew language and culture longstanding in Cairo
Despite misgivings about the hawkish direction of the new Israeli government, there are still instances of peaceful and productive interaction between Egyptians and Israelis. The uneasy peace between the two neighbors has been tested by the accession of Avigdor Lieberman to the position of foreign minister. Recently, he has been investigated by the Israeli police for fraud.

Underground organ trade in Egypt puts poor in precarious position
This Boston Globe article comes a few weeks after the announcement that a prominent Egyptian cleric sanctioned the "removal of organs from executed convicts to be transplanted in others".

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm snacking on some frozen peas while taking a break from a reaction paper for Comparative Migration Law that I began yesterday in the courtyard of the Greek Campus. My friend Cynthia, who shares my affinity for frozen peas, joined me there to get some work done and to walk her turtle, a recent gift from some of the Sudanese guys she works with. As the sun and its warmth began to wane, we left AUC with the intention to reconvene later.
We met up with Antoine and took the metro to Ma'adi where we met Phil, Marise, Marise's mom, and Marise's friend Sean who's visiting her for a few weeks. We ate at Lucille's perhaps not the most representative choice of the kind of food Egypt has to offer, but Sean graciously indulged our desire to have faux-Mexican and American food. Antoine, who's never been to North America, was unacquainted theretofore unacquainted with the delights of nachos and so stole some of Cynthia's while enjoying a barbecue burger. Because Marise's mom graciously treated the whole table to our meals, a contingent of us continued on to Zamalek to have chocolate fondant.
Today has included more academic reading and paper-writing, although I joined Ross at his window for the first spotting of the sleep-disrupting rooster of doom who apparently stalks the area hemmed in by our building and those adjacent. I include, for your Where's Waldo?-esque pleasure, a photo of the crowing fiend amid the piles of trash and debris which, depressingly surround makeshift homes and crumbling smaller apartment buildings. My backyard, as it were, is not exactly enviable.I've just finished reading an article in The Christian Science Monitor that my friend Reham posted to Facebook. It talks about terms "not to use" with Muslim. While I find the article interesting, and certainly feel that there are ways to engage people from outside one's own faith or belief system that work and others that don't, I think it would've been much better for a Muslim to write up such an article.

A mob in a village in southern Egypt set fire to homes belong to Bahá'ís
To read more about the situation of Egyptian Bahá'ís, click here. For a joint press release responding to the incident from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, and others, click here.
Palestinian unity talks in Cairo founder
Criticism over Al-Masry Al-Youm's "shoddy journalism" after paper publishes article suggesting that AUC was providing Egyptian state secrets to US

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Indefatigable, I am going to pound out an entry before succumbing to the sandman's evil wiles. The highlights of today including lunch at the French cultural center with my Egyptian friend and colleague Reham, discussing the implications of polygamy and gay marriage on family reunification policy in my comparative migration law course, dinner at a Syrian restaurant in Mohandaseen with friends from AMERA, an excellent seminar given by Barbara Harrell-Bond, and tea and macaroons with my French friend Antoine on my balcony overlooking noisy and fluorescent Tahrir Street.
I took Falaki Street from Falaki Square all the way 'til it dead-ends next to the French cultural institute. Along the way I passed fully-veiled women buying two-piece bikinis alongside the road and then further down the widest selection of remote controls produce in the 1980s that one could ever want. School children were out en masse, making dodging uniformed rugrats and soccer balls quite the task. Once at the cultural center, I joined Reham, who was already being flirted with by the waiters, at a table in the courtyard. She seemed on the one hand to be annoyed by the attention, but on the other to be flattered by it. She decided she didn't mind, after reflecting, their winks or their calling out to her with Arabic equivalent of "hey, beautiful". I felt more like eating crêpes than analyzing what that meant about Egypt and so I did. I suspect they don't use Clément-Faugier crême de marrons there. Shame.
Reham and I headed to Greek Campus afterward where we met up with classmates to chat until it was time for class when an ever-effervescent Cameroonian from among our ranks decided to share with us that his first lady was the best-looking in all the world and that Cameroon was the best country in all Africa. His claims turned into a riotous discussion of the best and worst things about various African countries and whose country had the best looking first lady. Most Americans concurred that Michelle Obama won. We moved on to the more serious topic of family reunification, touching on the rights of refugees and migrants to be with their loved ones as well as the accompanying complicated citizenship rights a person has as the spouse or child of a citizen of a given country. We discussed the difficulties surrounding resettling to the West refugees who are in polygamous relationships, perfectly legal in many parts of the Middle East and Africa. Currently the restrictions on such resettlement has led to husband's lying about second wives or abandoning them altogether. We talked about whether there was any relationship among multiple wives to one another that would establish a right for any of them to sponsor each other to join the family in a country of resettlement and a number of other theoretical family configurations that might complicate questions of family rights.
After class, we went to hear Barbara talk frankly and with a perfect dash of dry humor about the state of refugee protection in the Global South. She's soon going to be unveiling a website to facilitate networking for those providing legal aid to refugees. A wealth of information is available here.
Following the lecture, a dozen or so of us headed to Mohandaseen to have a going-away meal for our friend Saba who is returning to the States tomorrow. I talked mostly with Canadians as it turned out. I got a lesson in Acadian history in French from one and discussed LGBT refugee claims (the topic of my thesis) with another who has a lot of experience with them from her work at AMERA. We're going to exchange notes and articles, so that should be productive as I finesse my proposal. My law professor agreed to join my thesis committee as well, so things seem to be taking shape.
Not too long after I came home, my friend Antoine came over bearing macaroons from Fauchon. I'd passed by it several times when in Zamalek before thinking it must be a knock-off at best, but when we passed by the other night (sadly, after it was closed), we discovered it was indeed an authentic branch of the famous French traîteur. Though they're not Ladurée macaroons, their geographical proximity to me and their significantly lower cost make them very appealing as a potential future purchase.
As I feel like my overly-detailed descriptions of my culinary experiences demand I add something weightier to my entry, I'll move on to the news:

New Israeli Foreign Minister takes conciliatory tone toward Egypt
Despite fears about far-right wing Avigdor Lieberman's appointment to the post of Foreign Minister, things don't seem as grave as they could be. Hopefully the willingness to cooperate with Israel's Arab neighbors expressed by FM Lieberman is genuine and representative of the approach he will take during his term.
Egypt to try and curb the flow of irregular migrants to Italy through vocational education
On the heels of the sinking of a ship carrying migrants to Europe, this effort should be expanded and supplemented with other initiatives to stem the tide of irregular migration because of the risk the migrants themselves face.
AUC denies supplying Pentagon with Egyptian state secrets
As the Egyptian media aren't the least sensational I've ever encountered, you can imagine that charges that AUC were supplying top-secret intelligence to the US military are largely trumped up. At any rate, I would find it hard to believe that the watchful Egyptian government would miss such espionage. As I understand it, it was a cooperative effort to study avian flu which is more prolific in Egypt than in any other country outside of southeast Asia. I suppose this conspiracy is less absurd than the nutty allegations that text messages arriving from abroad to the cell phones of Egyptians were causing brain hemorrhages and death.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I have nothing particularly eventful to report. My new landlord passed by this morning nearly two hours before he was meant to arrive. Aside from the fact that his English and my Arabic were both too limited to discuss amending the contract and the fact that his idea of fixing our broken front door involved a piece of cardboard ripped off a nearby box of empty water bottles, things went smoothly enough. I emailed his niece to see about ending my contract early and about possibly renting the place again in the fall. We'll see.
The rest of the day was pretty quotidian–hanging out with my classmates on the Greek Campus, enduring Migration and Development, and heading to Zamalek for dinner afterward. I did some more grocery shopping accompanied by my French friend Antoine (my French is improving far more than my Arabic these days) with whom I later walked all the way back downtown. Now Cynthia and I are hanging out in my living room chatting about Egypt and our studies and what our aspirations were in college for the future compared to what they are now.
Tomorrow night, we'll be attending a seminar given by Barbara Harrell-Bond who's something of an icon in the department she helped to set up. After reading many of her articles and one of her books, it'll be interesting to hear what she has to say and to put a name with a face.

Amnesty: Iraq set to execute nearly 130 people charged after proceedings unlikely to have met international standards
A century of restrictions on the press in Egypt
Egyptian comic book author, publisher on trial for infringing on public decency