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".

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