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Cairo, Egypt

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Last Week in Cairo

I’m playing catch-up on my diary. Last week was the first week of class, as I’ve already written about. I also met with Dr. Jerry Leach on Monday, Sept. 7, the director of American Studies. We talked of two possible projects that I could work on: interfaith dialog research, and/or mediation/conflict resolution research with Sherif Elnageny. He also mentioned I should think about one or two public lectures I could give as part of my service to the American Studies Program at AUC. I also attended the noon meeting of Jerry’s “Team of Five” student research assistants. Only 3 were there, Ahmed, Ramadan, and Muhammad, but they were sharp students who enjoyed learning about American colloquial English.

 

On Thursday, Sept. 10, I went to dinner at Sussan and Richard Babaie (fellow Fulbrighter). They invited an AUC professor (one in Middle East Art/Architecture) and his daughter who goes to CAC, and another family (he works for BP and his Egyptian wife works with CARE, an NGO that works with poor Egyptian women). We had a delicious dinner of lamb and Persian rice, and great conversation. Hala, the Egyptian women, volunteered to be a guest speaker in my Gender and Power in Development class at AUC.

 

On Friday, Sept. 11, I finally got in touch with Sherif and he invited me out for souf, which is a late meal that comes after Iftar and before sunrise the next morning during Ramadan. It took him a while to find my Midan Digla (the square or roundabout in the Digla section of Maadi where my Road 204 dumps into) and pick me up, but he finally did and he brought 2 friends: Ahmed and Karim. We went to the Cilantros (kind of like Egyptian Starbucks) on Road 216 and 206. His friend Ahmed had visited the US many times, and even got to experience snow in New Jersey while staying with an Uncle.

 

It was also strange to think that one year ago today, we evacuated Houston for Hurricane Ike and was in Austin for a week.

 

 

On Saturday, Sept. 12, I met up with Glen and Scott (fellow “single” AUC new guys) at the Maadi Metro station and we went to Khan-i-Khalili market. We walked around for about 2 hours, and took a road east of al-Hussein mosque that I had never taken, and got into the poor, dirt streets of that district. It was interesting to see the squalor, and then just a couple blocks over, the area had been “gentrified” and made more appealing to tourists. We then took a cab back downtown (the cab driver gave each of us dates to break the fast) and ate at Falfalla’s the great Egyptian restaurant. We met Wendel, another Fulbrighter who Scott and I met in Washington, who is a student from Morehouse in Atlanta studying Arabic for the year. We also met a woman from New Zealand, Kelley, who was traveling on her own to visit Cairo and Athens. None of our stomachs were 100%, so we stuck with grilled vegetables, bread, tamina, and fuul and tea.

 

On Monday, Sept. 14, I took the subway to Dokki district to pick up my boxes from the Fulbright office. I thought I knew where it was, but got lost and ended up taking a taxi there. I picked up my check, and the 4 boxes I shipped from the UPS store in League City arrived, more or less in good condition. I then dragged the boxes to the end of the street (Amr street is way too narrow for taxis to traverse) and caught a cab back to Maadi. Navigating the noise, dirt, smog, and traffic of Cairo for 4 hours was exhausting, and it was nice to get back to the solace of the apartment in relatively calm Maadi.

 

That night, I again took the subway to Dokki, this time to find the Judges Club along the cornische (boulevard along the Nile) to meet Sherif and his family at a huge 40-member family Iftar. I had met his father, mother and sister before when I was here in June at Renita’s wedding, but met many cousins and Aunts/Uncles too. I also met Sherif’s good friend Ahmed, who is also a prosecutor for the Egyptian government. This guy was brilliant—new a lot about Western philosophy and sociology. We had a great conversation about Ibn Khaldun, the Muslim Brotherhood, Obama and the American CIA, etc. He gave me a gift of one of his books of short stories, written of course in Arabic. Now I have a good excuse to learn to read Arabic much better! He dropped me off at the Opera Metro Station on the way to his home.

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