Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm back with my nose to the thesis grindstone after a splendid impromptu jaunt to Turkey. While my trip was mostly for pleasure, I also managed to meet with Rachel Levitan of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Turkey for a thesis interview. Ms Levitan with two others recently published an article called "Unsafe Haven: Security Challenges Facing LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey" in PRAXIS: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security. The report that led to the article can be found here.
Istanbul reminded me more of Seattle than of anything in the Middle East. The clean air, the calm, the uncongested streets, and the courtesy of vendors, restaurateurs, hostel proprietors and the general public were a welcome departure from the noise, chaos, and stress of Cairo. (Just as I typed this, the lovely trash collector who rang our bell yesterday over forty times while my flatmate Cynthia was sick in bed returned. He's been ripping Cynthia off all summer. When he returned today to ask for the money, I told him in my awful pidgin Arabic that I'd already paid him for the month (and then some) last time he came and that I wouldn't pay him again now. He seems to have relented, thankfully.)
Anyway, classes are supposed to resume soon across Egypt, but I've heard rumblings of further delays and class suspensions, so we'll see. I don't have any great plans for the rest of my time off beyond buckling down and working on the ol' thesis.

News & Issues

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Swine and Turkey

I neglected to blog yesterday because I was busy scraping together plans for an impromptu trip to Turkey. Most of us in the CMRS program have decided to make the best of this swine flu class-cancellation debacle by traveling. I'm not sure I have the money for the trip but, then again, when I do have the money I probably won't be conveniently located in Egypt. So why not, right? I'm bringing along materials to be able to continue to work on my thesis everyday. I shall, insha'Allah, find the discipline to do so somewhere deep within.
In other news, today is the first day of 'Eid. So 'Eid mubarak to all of my Muslim friends! Obama wishes you the same.
Because I have rooms to book and more plans to make, I'll move onto the news.

News & Issues

And, recalling gender-based violence during 'Eids past, here's a clip how Egyptian women are fighting back against sexual harassment:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Last evening, after an unspectacular meal at Zamalek's La Bodega (with which I had previously been quite impressed), I went with Phil, Marise, and Michelle to El-Sawy Culturewheel to see Wust el-Balad in concert. The venue is right along side the Nile and is small enough to be cozy but large enough to allow the acts to turn a profit. Now, I must preface my description by saying that I am one of those unfortunate souls who is generally unable to enjoy live music. I know my preference for polished, iPod-ready tunes makes me boorish and unsophisticated, alas. Anyway, the performance started out in true Egyptian fashion, that is to say, over an hour late. The people-watching and the company of my friends were enough to keep me occupied in the mean time. The crowd was mostly Egyptian, the young among them came primarily from that segment of society that loves knock-off Abercrombie and tees splattered with nonsensical English. Hijab-wearing girls sat next to unveiled friends sporting SpongeBob SquarePants paraphernalia. Wholesome-looking families were there too with plump children who enjoyed the music with greater vigor than most.
Before the band played, they were introduced by a man who, Marise tells me, suggested that the upcoming 'Eid holiday is not a time for air horns and firecrackers but for the appreciation of music. Parents were told that the idea of delighting in scaring adults with loud noises instilled in children a terrorist mentality. While I don't think firecrackers are at the root of terrorism, I do think the man should go on a lecture circuit touting the benefits of peace and quiet or at least of nicer noises than car horns and screaming.
Nicer noises like the (Middle) East-meets-West stylings of Wust el-Balad. To my untrained ears, about half the songs sounded like "Hotel California" as they started out except when they sounded vaguely Caribbean. The crowd favorite was "Antika", a song about how after a woman captures a man's heart, she keeps it on her shelf like a knick-knack or an antique leaving him beholden to her forever...or something like that. You'll have to find your own translator if want to truly sympathize with the lyrics of love and heartbreak. My personal translations were drowned out by off-tempo clapping and general enthusiasm together with the crackling of the sound system and the admittedly mellifluous voices of the band. Click below to hear "Antika".

All in all, the Nileside concert was a fun cultural experience. I hope to get back to Culturewheel again if my thesis-angst and swine flu don't do me in.

News & Issues

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clearly, living along a river that snakes its way through a vast desert, Egyptians have a certain appreciation for water. Ancient Egyptian culture was deeply informed by a dependence on the River Nile. This is something I'd learned in history class long ago. In college, however, the research one of my professors conducted in water policy led me to understand what a vital role water plays today in international relations and conflict. It was therefore with great interest that I read about Israeli FM Lieberman's visits to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, home to the two most important sources of the Nile. This while Egypt and the other Nile Basin states are attempting to resolve their differences over water use issues. Though I'll refrain from Biblical allusions, it looks very much like Israel is trying to use water as a means of leverage over the Egyptians.
What made me think so much about water today wasn't anything on quite so grand a scale: My flatmate Phil purchased a couple of bottles of Hayat brand water for me before my return to Egypt. He prefers it, apparently, for its taste. I am a Nestlé Pure Life man myself it having been recommended as a reliable clean and neutral-tasting choice. I'd always been a little leary of Hayat. Phil and I debated the finer points of the Egyptian bottled water industry (while we weren't in our rooms, noses to the grindstone, working on our theses) agreeing that Baraka tastes the least pleasant of the major brands. With all of the discussion and my admittedly unsupported claims that my brand was healthier than his, I decided to check into the matter further. Such a riveting topic apparently hasn't warranted much journalist attention or blogging lately, at least not in English, but I found an article from early last year referring to Ministry of Trade and Industry tests. The results (probably interesting only to potential consumers of bottled water in Egypt) were that only seven brands were both fit for consumption and accurately labeled for mineral content, etc.: Aqua, Aqua Siwa, Aquafina, Dasani, Mineral, Nestlé, and Siwa. Schweppes, notably, was considered unsafe. Unsafer still are other sources of water in Egypt. Some 40% of Egyptians drink contaminated water that leads to typhoid outbreaks, kidney failure, and thousands of deaths a year. Recent water shortages across the river in Giza have forced local residents to pump their own water only to discover that it is contaminated with sewage. If anyone finds more recent material on bottled water in Egypt, do let me know.

News & Issues



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

( Fear of ) Swine Flu Strikes Again

This morning, I received the following email from AUC's VP of Planning and Administration:

AUC will be suspending classes beginning Thursday, September 17 until Saturday, October 3. The decision follows a request by the Egyptian government that the university suspend its classes in line with government universities, which have suspended classes due to concerns relating to the H1N1 flu.

There have been no positive cases of the flu reported on the AUC campuses or by any member of the AUC community.

The university’s administrative offices, the library, sports complex and food outlets will be fully operational during the suspension; however, the day care center will be closed. Staff who rely on the day care center will be provided leave during the suspension, if necessary.

Faculty and students are encouraged to utilize all available electronic resources to continue classroom activity. The Office of the Provost will provide guidance and direction on a revised class schedule to ensure all academic requirements are fulfilled.

As already announced, the university will be closed for the Eid September 19 to September 22. We will continue to provide updates to the AUC community immediately following the Eid.

Splendid. First all the pigs are slaughtered, now education is disrupted for every student in the country. For me, this means missing four class sessions (especially problematic given that each of my classes meets only once a week) and not starting my Writing Center position for another three weeks. American colleges haven't gone to such drastic measures, but they are bracing for a significant outbreak of the strain that has already killed students, so maybe my cynicism is a little unjustified. And, on the bright side, clearing my calendar until the 3 of October will permit me to hole up in my H1N1-free bedroom and churn out more thesis copy.

In other, slightly frustrating news, the garbage man and the man who washes the floors in our building's common areas once a week have been taking my flatmates for a ride all summer. charging them as much as eight times more than they were supposed to be paying. And, in my absence, my landlord absconded with our hard-won vacuum cleaner. The little un-joys of Cairo. By and large though, despite my natural tendency to come unhinged as little stressors accumulate, my re-adjustment to Cairo as been quite easy. I am less bothered than ever by comments on the street, terrible if well-intentioned customer service, and things never happening as they're intended.

News & Issues

Middle East
And last but not least, check out KABOBfest, an amalgamation of blogs written primarily by Arab-Americans about a variety of topics impacting the Arab world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just beyond a strip of palm trees, the desert spreads out before me. The sight is much more in keeping with what most people think of Egypt than what I see most days. Between me and the little palmeraie, are the large panes of glass that let ample natural light into AUC's new campus library. I know I mentioned it last time, but this place really is gorgeous.
I hopped the Route #12 bus to the new campus this morning just in time to get here and get lost. The Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) building is not clearly marked on any of the maps around campus which in turn are unhelpful in that they don't have any sort of "You Are Here" indicator. Embarrassed, I resorted to calling the head of the Writing Center a total of three times to orient myself. Once I reached the actual building, I found that the numbering system made little sense. Ma3lesh. I found the professor I was looking for, he gave me the rundown on the Writing Center, and I was off to complete my next errand. Procuring a bus sticker was utterly painless and getting the process started for my student visa application was nearly as easy. The anticipatory knot in my stomach that manifests when I know I have to go to an office in Egypt gave way to a tentative satisfaction. AUC? Not so bad, right?
I ran into my Egyptian friend Reham on the way out of the administration building and strolled along with her, taking in the warm sun, the cool breeze, and the impressive architecture while catching up. When she headed to a bus to take her back to reality, I met up with an Iraqi-American friend who was involved with the International Affairs Organization and Model UN with me back at Bradley. She's studying here for the semester, taking classes on the history of the Middle East, Sufism, and Arabic. Over koshary—which after all of the horror stories of overpriced new campus food was comparable in price to what you'd pay downtown—I listened to Helen explain the novel sensation of being in a new place where she had such an affinity with the majority of people around her. She's eating up the mannerisms, the warmth, and the flowery phrases.
At one point, we popped into the library (whither we have returned) to grab a book for my thesis. I was overly impressed by the 3-M check-out machines. Now, I realize that all the cool kids have probably used these at their public and university libraries, but scanning my ID card and then laying my barcode-less unopened book on the apparatus to check it out seemed pretty space age. And at AUC no less. The self check-out machines and the ID-scanning posts at the one of the gates and at the library give a veneer of modern efficiency. So did the copy center that Helen had to stop by to get her course packets. That is, until she returned to pick them up and her order had mysteriously disappeared from the system. You can't win 'em all, I guess.
After today, I can't say I'm dreading coming to the new campus twice a week. Clean air and the lack of clutter are a welcome change from downtown. The construction in the library itself during regular hours today, however, keeps a little of that rustic, never-finished atmosphere. Feeling guilty about enjoying the place, remembering the misgivings friends who study urban planning and sociology and sustainability shared with me, I was relieved at the very least to find that the campus was designed to be low-impact and energy-efficient. This isolated desert community model, though, does seem as though it's draining the energy from the very heart of Cairo. Another blogger has this interesting entry that speaks about the trend and specifically about a community called Dreamland, coincidentally the first place I stayed in Egypt back in 2005.

News & Issues

· Online radio station to be launched by activists affiliated with the party of opposition leader, Ayman Nour
· MPs debate definition of death in Shoura Council
· Foreign Ministry defends murder of African migrants (see also Bikya Masr article)

· In a country where a majority of women don headscarves, women who do so and seek access the haunts of the small upper class sometimes find themselves discriminated against. Increasing conservatism has made the practice more popular, but many in the élite reject it. When I returned to Egypt this last time, I noticed that EgyptAir's flight attendants were unveiled just as many many television personalities on state-owned channels are (though there's been a row over this). It's interesting that the government would seemingly be interested in showing a "modern" image of Egypt to the world while this image doesn't reflect the practices of the majority of Egyptians.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Setting about reading for my class on Palestinian refugees, I have nothing profoundly culturally interesting to report. My current view of Egypt is obscured by the walls of my air-conditioned bedroom, where suitcases still lie on the floor not entirely unpacked. The challenges of Egypt have mostly left me alone even if they haven't been so kind to some of my friends (Cynthia has a strange bruise on her arm at the site of one of the several injections they gave her after she went to the hospital with her left eye swollen shut from an ant bite). I'm running a steady course and trying to be a conscientious student. Boring, right? I begin work at the Writing Center next week. I'm looking forward to it despite the added time commitment.

News & Issues


· Down the street from my apartment is Tahrir Square, home of the infamous Mogamma, the insides of which I hope never to see. An American journalist tells his story of navigating the infernal Egyptian bureaucracy there with his infant in tow.

· Israeli PM Netanyahu and President Mubarak met to discuss peace efforts. No deal has been reached on kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Meanwhile, Daily News Egypt, has reported findings that Egyptians are more open to peace with Israel than their other Arab neighbors. Given past actions and agreements, I should think this would be obvious, but wars and discord between the two countries are far from passing from Egyptian national consciousness.

· Egypt destroys tunnels used to transport contraband to Gaza

· A/H1N1 fears continue to impact schools

· Possibility of father to son power transition has opposition leader Ayman Nour calling for united front against handover

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Last night, I had a delicious iftar in Zamalek at my friend Hadeel's. I arrived just in time to eat a date to break my not-so-fast again with other faux-fasters and a few Muslims who were actually observing. The spread laid out was delicious. I had bamya (okra and tomato stew), wara ainab (rice-stuffed grape leaves) and other kinds of mashi (rice-stuffed vegetables), molokhaya, and more. In between servings, I met some of Hadeel's friends, mostly journalists and professors. We had conversations about Canadian politics, Egypt, racism, sociolinguistics. Later, Hadeel, an Iraqi-Canadian journalist, told us about her experiences in Baghdad. Rather than retelling them myself, I recommend you check out a story she wrote that was carried by several newspapers and networks in the States. The desserts came out and sealed the deal–our food comas were well worth it. Qatayef, baqlawa, konafa, and other Middle Eastern pastries took their places next to chocolate cake, brownies, and cupcakes.
Today I headed to the ol' copy shop near AUC's now-sold Greek Campus. I purchased enough course packets to turn my reusable grocery bag into a strength-training apparatus and then went to wait in Tahrir Square for my friend Amanda. From my perch in front of the Hardee's, I could feel the warm sun and the breeze. Drowning out the noise with my iPod and closing my eyes, I almost felt like I was somewhere by the ocean. Then I realized the ocean spray was in fact air conditioner condensation dripping on my head. Oh well, can't win 'em all. I watched with empathy as three different people tripped over paving tiles jutting up from the uneven pavement. I bet that a little more attention to the infrastructure in Egypt would lower their healthcare costs. My friend Amanda, who had been spirited off to the far reaches of Qasr al-Aini after her cabdriver misunderstood her request to be taken to Tahrir, arrived around one and we headed down into the metro station. She caught the womens' car to enjoy a more tranquil ride down to the Ma'adi station where we met back up again and headed to Lucille's. Yes, it's been less than a week and I've already taken refugee in my favorite American restaurant. Prevention is better than cure, right? After I polished off some mushroom fajitas and Amanda her burger, we strolled onto the network tree-lined residential streets just adjacent. It was like being transported to another world. An Egyptian man begging, however, and grafitti on a utility box in awkward English calling for the downfall of the rich reminded us of the incongruousness of this community with the realities of Cairo. We walked by golf course-lush grass and stopped to look at it as we mused about what our post-Egypt lives would be like. We took a gander in a grocery store and looked at all of the imported European and American foods a little to pricey to indulge in for the time being and began to plan for Thanksgiving.
Feeling a little guilty about my un-Egyptian day at first, I am now looking at my thesis research spread out around me and the hefty heap of course packets waiting to be read and am reminded that it's ok to take it easy. There will be plenty of time for culturally enriching adventures once I get back into the swing of things.

News & Issues

· Pig cull has consequences more far-reaching than anticipated; tensions high over trash problems
· Israeli PM Netanyahu meets with President Mubarak over iftar
· Copts mark new year with prayer rather than protests aimed at ending discrimination against them
· New Coptic TV channels elicit worries over the propagation of extremism
· Osama Diab of the Guardian weighs in on the government's campaign against those eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours
· Budget airlines to link Egyptian cities with destinations elsewhere in the Middle East and in Europe

Middle East
· Islamist thugs' campaign of gay killings in Iraq facilitated by the internet
· Differences remain between Israel and US over peace talks with Palestinians

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One of the things I was struck by when I returned to my neighborhood (Bab al-Luq) was not a bus or a taxi, but the progress made on a particular building whose entrance is on Fahmy Street which opens into Falaki Square a block west on Tahrir St. from my apartment building. I'd passed by the concrete structure many times on my way to classes, initially presuming it was a parking garage. Later minarets began rising from from the structure and I thought to myself, "Another set of loudspeakers tinnily calling the devout to prayer five times a day?" Lo and behold, when I returned, at the top of these "minarets" were Coptic crosses. A new church had been built downtown. Or I should say, is still in the process of being built. When I walked by the other night, there was a large depiction of Mary and either Jesus or a saint of some kind made up, of course, of lights. It looked like a giant Lite Brite creation. This was just after iftar had begun. Muslims were in the same street under tents enjoying their meals after having broken their fasts paying no attention to the wooden screens with crosses on them and the service or other kind of gathering going on inside.

Given the recent fatwa prohibiting the construction of new churches in Egypt, I was surprised at the lack of resistance in the community. Then again, as a non-Arabic speaker, I am not particularly integrated in my community here. But there have been no protests, not so much as a suspicious glance that I've seen. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar had already declared the fatwa to be in error, but sectarian tensions in Egypt are already a problem without it. The recent arrests of Christians for not following Ramadan restrictions threatens to inflame them further, but perhaps the example of convivencia in the heart of Cairo is cause for a little optimism.

Also upon my return, I was exposed to a more light-hearted picture of peaceful religious co-existence. My flatmate Phil introduced me to CBC's Little Mosque on the Prairie, a program about a small Canadian town where a Muslim community rents out an Anglican parish hall to serve as their mosque. Canadian cheesy in the best way, the show still manages to bring compelling issues to the fore, causing people to stop and think. Plural marriage, gay marriage, wearing the burqa, dating, terrorism, Islamophobia, and more are addressed in the series that is well worth watching online if, as a non-Canadian you don't have ready access to CBC. If you are in Canada (and I may here be overestimating my readship), you can watch full episodes here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yesterday, though I wasn't fasting, I began iftar in the traditional way, by eating a date. My flatmate Phil and I joined friends Shannon and Eric at the Yemeni restaurant on Iran St. in Doqqi for the meal. After the dates, we had soup, sahawiq, fasuliya (a fried bean dish) with eggs, and a potato dish and the meat-eaters had fahsa, all to be eaten with rashoosh (Yemeni flatbread).
Meanwhile, in Yemen itself, recent events have caused a great deal of turbulence. Thousands upon thousands of displaced people have been moved to IDP camps.

After dinner, I returned downtown for the class I recently switched into, Migration and Refugees in International Relations. I have to say that my first impressions of both the professor and the class lead me to believe it could be one of the best I'll have taken here at AUC. We discussed the impact of migration and globalization on the concept of the nation-state and what that meant for the field of international relations.

Later on, I headed back across the Nile to Mohandaseen to Cedars to hang out with CMRS colleagues. I sipped on a spicy ginger drink while the rest of the gang enjoyed shisha. When we piled in Marise's car to leave, we got to see the full gamut of Cairo's flashy new traffic signs. Neon lights, the darlings of cab-drivers, have now come into official use, presumably as a means of drawing attention to under-heeded signs and traffic lights. The funniest of these is the crosswalk sign. In most other countries, the sign depicts a man calmly crossing a road. Here in Cairo, there is a man composed of green lights shown running like a bat out of hell across a glittery white crosswalk. Running is indeed preferable to lingering in Cairo traffic, but sometimes staring down a bus is just such fun.

As many struggle with how to remember and interpret the events that happened eight years ago today, the direction of relationships between the US and the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims in the US itself are brought to the fore. Al-Ahram Weekly examines these both through the optimistic lens of Dalia Mogahed, an Obama advisor, and in light of the still-difficult realities many Muslims face. Prejudices and confusion about Islam and Muslims are still a major obstacle to peace and understand. To find out more about Islam, check out the BBC's religion page.

News & Issues:

· 155 arrested in southern Egypt for not fasting during Ramadan
· TV serials during Ramadan intended to foster patriotism
· Thinktank CPA speculates on succession

· Outburst by Republican congressman focuses more attention on irregular migrants and their place in the US healthcare debate
· US soldier seeks asylum in Canada claiming sexual-orientation based persecution

Thursday, September 10, 2009


As you might have noticed, my links section has changed a bit. If you haven't checked out the right side of my blog, on the other hand, you really should. There's some cool stuff in there about Egypt, about how to apply to be an Ambassadorial Scholar, about the clubs and districts who sponsored and hosted me last year, info on migration and refugees, news links, and more.
Anyway, my scholarship period came to an end in June. I have reworded my Rotary links to reflect that change, but have kept them up because of the importance of the organization both in my life and to the community at large. Because of scheduling conflicts, I have not yet given speeches back in the US about my experience in Egypt, but will arrange to do so sometime in early 2010. In the meantime, my belated congrats to Three-Month Cultural Scholar, Elizabeth Killingbeck from the Land of Goshen Rotary Club who is serving in Sénégal and to Dr Fetene Gebrewold, sponsored by the Bushnell Rotary Club, who spent the summer as a Three-Month University Professor Ambassadorial Scholar in Ethiopia.

News and Issues:

· Doctors suspended after country's second A/H1N1 death
· FM Aboul Gheit says stopping illegal settlements in Palestine is necessary precursor to normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel
· Jewish Nazi-hunter supports embattled Egyptian Minister of Culture in UNESCO bid
· Norwegian national prevented from leaving Egypt, told she is a "national security case"
· Slate examines Egyptian 9-11 hijacker, his urban planning studies and frustrations with Cairo

Middle East
FP article on "Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings" Even as the US is hailing progress in Iraq, the wartorn country's LGBT population remains incredibly vulernable as their government, and apparently occupying forces, turn a blind eye.

Migration & Refugees
· UNHCR has created an educational online game to allow people to understand the dehumanizing challenges refugees have to face to escape persecution and begin new lives.
· Amnesty International calls on Egypt to halt border killings of African migrants

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

American Blogger Deported

After rectifying the situation with the canceled class (I am now taking a class on refugees and international relations, perfect for synthesizing my undergraduate studies with migration and refugee issues), I realized I had not even mentioned that an American freelance journalist who used to keep a blog about his experiences in Cairo was deported last Thursday.

An article from the Los Angeles Times reports that the journalist, Travis Randall, will remain in London while sorting out the reasons for his deportation and possible remedies. The blog / news site Bikya Masr has a string of articles related to the situation.

Molasses Laps

It occurs to me anew that getting things accomplished in Egypt is like trying to swim laps in molasses. Not only in the resistance that you mean in accomplished even the most mundane of tasks, but in the mindset you inevitably fall into. Knowing that everything will be an undertaking, you're disinclined to take initiative. I say this, I'll remind you, having only been back a day and a half.
I awoke this morning (with a sore throat-hopefully just Cairo pollution and my AC which, al-hamdulilleh, is functioning again) to breakfast while watching Al-Jazeera and then to set about trying to look into visa requirements and to respond to emails. Lo and behold, once is marked "URGENT" and comes to me from AUC. Once of my two classes for the semester, the European System of the Protection of Human Rights, has been canceled due to low enrollment. That's some excellent planning on the part of the university, especially when they've known for months how many students registered for the class. Now I have to find another class from the sparse list of those that count as CMRS credit.
My other class, the one focused on Palestinian Refugees, despite being held out in the desert and requiring a total of nearly two hours commuting round trip, promises to be interesting. As I was walking to the Mustafa Core Center in the darkness, I looked around the courtyard in front of the library and was reminded that, despite the bureaucratic nightmares and the poor planning, AUC built a gorgeous campus in New Cairo. I mean it really is stunning. Less stunning was the busride back. The creative driving approach the driver took and his liberal use of both the gas pedal and the brakes, sometimes nearly simultaneously, left me feeling thoroughly nauseous by the time (after 11 PM) I staggered out at the gates of the old main campus.
Despite the relatively short duration of my honeymoon, I am determined to keeping doing things–anything that seems even mildly productive, rather than zoning out and peering deep into the glow of Facebook blue that all-too often emanates from my laptop. Reading for my thesis seems sensible and I think I'll put off going to the visa office until after Ramadan when the hours have returned to regular. After dinner, I'll probably go get groceries in Doqqi or Zamalek.
Speaking of Ramadan, here's a clip of CNN's Zain Verjee reporting on Ramadan in Cairo a little over a week ago:

Israeli PM Netanyahu to visit Cairo next Sunday
Egyptian government threatens to take action against private telecom companies for low prices
Egyptian police kill yet more African migrants trying to reach Israel
Al-Jazeera Clip: Israel settlers push further into Palestinian lands

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cairo Comeback

Last night was the easiest and most pleasant of my arrivals at Cairo International Airport. The combination of knowing the system, arriving at the most modern terminal, having my bags be among the first to roll out onto the carousel, and having two great friends waiting on the other side of customs to pick me up made returning a whole lot easier and more fun.
I flew EgyptAir which, while not the most glamorous airline, managed to accomodate me with a vegetarian meal. Their in-flight magazine, Horus, was distinctly Egyptian, obsessively providing titles with every name mentioned-CEO Pilot such and such, etc. And then, there was the laughably bombastic article by Zahi Hawass, general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities who spent pages name-dropping, talking about palling around with Obama, and then reliving in detail his personal battle against an Exxon-Mobil exec. So the literature wasn't inspiration, the cabin wasn't especially luxurious nor was the service exceptionally attentive, but the view out my window as we made our final descent was magical. The green lights of the mosques and minarets twinkled brightly within the otherwise orangey-yellow glow of the city whose contours were shaped by the complete darkness of the desert.
From the airport, Marise and Phil spirited me off to the Trianon on the Nile Dragon riverboat where the French music and tasty food at our Nileside table eased even more my transition from Europe back to Egypt. It being Ramadan and me being a glutton, I ordered an entire konafa, having a piece there and bringing the rest of it back home.
Speaking of home, my apartment has a new shine. During my absence, my friend, classmate, and travel companion, Phil moved in with Cynthia and has been conscientious about getting our friend Erin's cleaning lady over. The internet, the water, and the electricity are all functioning as well as the washing machine. Most of these, at some time or another, had gone out over the summer. My AC worked last night but seems only moments ago to have broken again. At least it's not August, I suppose.
I woke up relatively early this morning after spending the early morning hours catching up with Cynthia and Phil. The reality of my being back is upon me--I already got a call from the human rights law department confirming my enrollment in one of their classes and had a little rudimentary Arabic conversation with the gas man whom I had the pleasure of paying. I have class tonight out on the new campus...from 8 - 10:30 PM. The Ramadan schedule is en rigueur for the next couple of weeks and I'm not especially keen on it. Ma3lesh. I'm sure Palestinian Refugee Issues will be a great course. It's with the same professor I had for International Refugee Law and Comparative Migration Law, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I don't start my fellowship duties for a while yet, so I'm not sure of my hours or the details on that.
In less egocentric news:

As the US condemns continued Israeli settlement in Palestine, the Palestinians are calling for other Arab nations to stand in solidarity with them against the illegal move. The next steps Israeli PM Netanyahu will have to be careful ones as he balances pressure from the right-wing with internal and international pushes for peace.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government's renovations of Jewish historical sites have caused some Egyptians to reconsider the role Jews have played in Egyptian history.