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Cairo, Egypt

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Weekend of Nov. 5

 

 

 

November 5

 

Arab Film Festival

 

Tonight at AUC campus, I went to the Lebanese film “XXXXX”. It was all in Arabic, with English subtitles. It was about a woman who loved the music of Um Kalthum, the great Egyptian singer, and as anti-American sentiment grew with the Iraqi war, her family became more and more suspicious of her behavior in learning about Lebanese and Egyptian singers. It ended with her Father and brothers doing an “honor killing” because of a suspected affair—in front of her 3 children. The student announcer said that this film had been banned in Egypt, but was being show at the Arab Film Festival at AUC.

 

 

November 6

 

Meeting With American Studies and Cairo Opera House

 

After working at the apartment all day on “the d&$#@ book”, I took the train downtown to the Tahrir Campus of AUC. I found the Falaki Building and met Jerry Leach of the American Studies department, as well as several of his students. We talked about the Palestinian—Israeli conflict to prep the students for the video conference between AUC, Georgetown University in Doha, and Columbia University in New York next week. We had an interesting discussion about peace in the Middle East, Muslim relations with Jews, and how the American government needs to stand firm against Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, according to all the Egyptian students. We then went to Pizza Hut on _____street by AUC downtown main entrance and all squeezed into a booth and had a pizza.

 

I left the group, and took the train to the Cairo Opera House for a performance at the Arab Music Festival. There were two groups: the first was a 7-member guitar and percussion group led by a young Egyptian man playing a traditional Arab stringed instrument (I don’t know what it is called, but it has a bent neck where the frets are). After intermission, then a symphony came out with a traditional male Egyptian singer singing what I have come to call “Um Kalthum” music—in that style. He was fantastic. An older man sat in front of me, and you could tell he came to hear this style music—he clapped very long and hard. He must have sang traditional songs that most of the older audience knew, because people were clapping even before the songs ended.

 

 

November 7

 

Scott’s Parents, Storytelling, and Groppi’s

I worked at home today, and at lunchtime, I went to lunch at the Green Mill with Scott Hibbert’s parents, who were in town visiting.

 

That evening, I went downtown to the Tahrir AUC campus to hear Dr. Samira Kirollos perform (a former AUC alum and lecturer): “Performance Storytelling: Myths and Stories from Ancient Egypt.” She performed the following Pharonic stories:

  • The Creation Myth
  • The Doomed Prince
  • The Tale of the Two Brothers
  • The Lost Amulet

 

She was very good, and introduced by Frank Bradley (who lives in Apartment 1 in my building). After the performance in Oriental Hall at AUC, I went town Sharia Talet Harb street to the famous Groppi’s coffeehouse. This was a prime hanging out site during the heady heyday of pre-revolutionary Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s. Now, the entry room is bare, with the exception of some pastry display cases and a cash register—not even any tables. In the back room, some dingy tables are arranged on two levels. Waiters in old colonial garb stroll through the café to get your tea or clear your table. I ordered Turkish coffee and a piece of chocolate cake, and read for my lecture the next day. Again, I am reminded of what some of us said in Alexandria: faded spender of a bygone era.

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