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

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