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Cairo, Egypt

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Fulbright Pyramid Trip

 

Fulbright Trip to Pyramids

 

Dec. 10

 

This Thursday night, I met Karl Schaefer (the Fulbrighter from Alexandria working at the Bibliotecha Alexandrina) at the Sakanat Maadi Metro station and we went to Loucilles for dinner. He was in town for the Fulbright events of the weekend. We talked for a couple hours about Fulbright, his time coming to an end (his grant ends on Jan. 15), his work at the Alex Library, and academic life back in the US. We also saw Cady McClure and Chris Schaefer there having dinner alone. I got back on the train to spend the night with another Fulbrigher, Ginger, and I went home to read.

 

Dec. 11

 

Fulbright trip to the Pyramids. We had our guide Dr. Chahinda Karim again (who also took us on a walking tour of Coptic and Islamic Cairo) who did a fantastic job. We met at the Fulbright offices (I got a ride with Richard, Bilal (their driver), Sussan, and Jian) at 7am. We took the bus to Sakkara, visited the Tomb of Ti, the Pyramid of Teti, and the area around the Pyramid of Zozer (the Step Pyramid). Then we went to Memphis, saw the various statues including the huge Ramses II in the open air museum, and then traveled to Dashour. We saw the Bent Pyramid, and went into the Red Pyramid (I took pictures this time). Then we drove back to Giza and had lunch at a Greek restaurant, Andrea’s—one of those open air restaurants that kind of caters to tourists. I got to know Zohair Hussain and his wife and daughter a little on this trip (he and I are trying to coauthor an article). We ate a huge amount, and got back to the Fulbright offices in Dokki and decided not to all go out for dinner.

 

I then ended up taking the train to Tahrir and the AUC downtown campus and read for my lecture on Sunday before attending the Cairo Choral Society concert, “Haydn: The Creation.” It was very good, three talented soloists, plus and orchestra and choir. Mostly AUC faculty, but also some other Egyptians and expats. I ended up leaving about 2/3 of the way through, since it was late and I had had a long day. The concert was held in Erfurt Hall in AUC Tahrir, and was a beautiful facility. Karl and Kathy had said it wasn’t very good when they went to the same concert on Tues, but I found it great and probably was because I love those 18th century composers. Before the concert, I went through the new art gallery at AUC Tahrir, Margo Veillon which had an exhibition called “Nocturnes and Fantasies.” There was also an exhibition of past winners of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, and as I was looking through the pictures of the winners, I saw Somaya Ramadan’s picture, one of the Egyptian Friends. She won in 2002 for her book “Leaves of Narcissus.” The next day I checked it out from the AUC library!

Here are photos:

Dr. Chandra at the Tomb of Ti

Dr. Chandra at the Tomb of Ti

At Sakkara--The Steppe Pyramid

At Sakkara--The Steppe Pyramid

Steppe Pyramid

Steppe Pyramid

Me in front of the Step Pyramid in Sakkara

Me in front of the Step Pyramid in Sakkara

Nile Canal on the way to Memphis

Nile Canal on the way to Memphis

Sphinx at Memphis

Sphinx at Memphis

Ramses II in Memphis

Ramses II in Memphis

Close up of Ramses II--thought to be Pharaoh during Moses time

Close up of Ramses II--thought to be Pharaoh during Moses time

Famous "Bent Pyramid" in Dashour

Famous "Bent Pyramid" in Dashour

Stairs up the "Red Pyramid" in Dashour

Stairs up the "Red Pyramid" in Dashour

Pyramid within a Pyramid--Inside the Red Pyramid

Pyramid within a Pyramid--Inside the Red Pyramid

Stairs within the Red Pyramid leading to another chamber

Stairs within the Red Pyramid leading to another chamber

Tunnel between passages in Red Pyramid

Tunnel between passages in Red Pyramid

From Red Pyramid entrance, looking down at desert

From Red Pyramid entrance, looking down at desert

Canal on the way back to Cairo

Canal on the way back to Cairo

Andrea's Restaurant -- Roasting Chickens

Andrea's Restaurant -- Roasting Chickens

Andrea's Restaurant -- Fresh bread

Andrea's Restaurant -- Fresh bread

Fulbrighters having lunch at Andrea's

Fulbrighters having lunch at Andrea's

Fulbrighters having lunch at Andrea's

Fulbrighters having lunch at Andrea's

Fellow Fulbrighter Sussan Babaie and I

Fellow Fulbrighter Sussan Babaie and I

My Fall 2009 AUC Classes

Here is my Gender and Power in Development Class on our last day this week:

Gender, Power and Development Fall 2009

Gender, Power and Development Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology Class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology Class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology AUC Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology AUC Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology class Fall 2009

Intro to Sociology Class, Fall 2009, me in picture

Intro to Sociology Class, Fall 2009, me in picture

My Trip to Alexandria

 

Trip Alone to Alexandria

 

December 1-2. We were given the rest of this week off because the Egyptian government again decided that swine flu was a threat, so all universities and primary/secondary schools in the country were closed. I decided on a whim to travel to Alexandria. I packed up a day of clothes, booked a room in the Paradise Inn Metrople on Saad Zagloul Square (next to the Sofitel where we stayed on the Fulbright trip), and left the apartment at 7am Tues, Dec. 1. I got to the Ramses Train station, and found my way around to buy a ticket just minutes before the train left. It was a very comfortable ride, and took about 2.5 hours to get to Alex. I got there and ended up walking in the exact opposite direction of where I should have gone—in the direction of the Cornish. But, I eventually asked enough people how to get there, that I finally found it. I was way east of where I thought I might be: Saad Zagloul square and the Biblioteca. But, I walked for a ways and crossed a beautiful bridge on the Cornish and found the coffee shop Zanilli’s. I camped out there for several hours, having lunch (Fettuccini Alfredo) and coffee and tea. I wrote in my Journal and Timeline, making up for most of the last 3 years that I hadn’t written much of anything. I felt good to catch up. As I left the coffee shop, I noticed that it was right under a hotel, the Dovil Hotel. I went in and asked if they had a room, and it was 1/5 the price of the Metrople. So, I got a room, and canceled my other reservation. This turned out to be the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Only one of the four light fixtures worked; the hot water heater leaked all over the bathroom floor; the shower had no curtain, so the water just ran into the floor drain; the TV worked, but you had to press 2 buttons to change the channel. Luckily there were no bed bugs, so I did sleep ok that night.

 

I took a walk along the Cornish at sunset, took some great pictures (see below) and then took a cab to Saad Zagloul square and ate at the French café. It wasn’t that great—they had no French fries, no salad, and the service was terrible. However, it did look out onto the Cornish, and I got some reading done. I walked back to the hotel, past the Library (the guard didn’t let me go up onto the Library square), and stopped at a huge coffee house near the hotel and had some tea. I ended the night watching an episode of Law and Order: SVU and Grey’s Anatomy on the TV.

 

The next morning, I had breakfast on the 7th floor of the hotel. I was the only one there, and breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, some bread and jam, and bad coffee. I went back to my room to read and finish in my journal. Because the room door would not shut properly, you had to lock it to keep the door closed. When I finished up and was going to leave to go back to the train station, the lock in the door wouldn’t work! I was locked in my room. Of course, there was no room phone to use, so luckily I had picked up a card from the front desk and called them on my mobile. I said I was locked in my room. They came up quickly and messed with the lock for a while, but couldn’t open it. I luckily moved away from the door, because eventually they just rammed the door open and the wood framing went flying everywhere. Like I said, this certainly qualifies for the WORST hotel I ever stayed at. I took a cab to the train station, and jumped on the train to Cairo, paying (again) for the ticket home to the conductor.

 

When I got back to Cairo, I went to the AUC Tahrir campus to have my Arabic lesson with Amani.

On a whim, I decided to take a trip to Alexandria by train since the Egyptian government again decided to suspend all university classes an extra week after the Eid al-Adha.

 

Ramses Train Station in heart of Cairo (at Mubarak Metro line)

Ramses Train Station in heart of Cairo (at Mubarak Metro line)

 

 

Inside a first-class cabin on the Train to Alex

Inside a first-class cabin on the Train to Alex

 

 

Bridge on Mediterranean Sea, Alexandrian Cornishe

Bridge on Mediterranean Sea, Alexandrian Cornishe

 

Mediterranean near sunset

Mediterranean near sunset

 

 

My coffeeshop and nasty hotel in Alex

My coffeeshop and nasty hotel in Alex

 

 

Sunset on the Mediterranean

Sunset on the Mediterranean

 

 

Sunset in Alex

Sunset in Alex

 

My crappy hotel room

My crappy hotel room

 

 

My crappy hotel room in Alex

My crappy hotel room in Alex

 

 

View of Cornish from my hotel window

View of Cornish from my hotel window

 

 

Public Art along the Cornish in Alex

Public Art along the Cornish in Alex

My Arabic Tutor–Amani

I have been tutored all semester by Amani, a fabulous Arabic tutor and translator.

Here she is at the white board giving me a lesson:

Amani giving a lesson

Amani giving a lesson

Amani giving a lecture

Amani giving a lecture

Amani lecturing

Amani lecturing

Creperie Des Arts, where we sometimes met for lessons

Creperie Des Arts, where we sometimes met for lessons

Located on Misr-Helwan Street in Maadi

Located on Misr-Helwan Street in Maadi

Maadi Digla – My neighborhood

I finally have taken more pictures of my neighborhood, especially the Digla Fountain in Digla Midan that defines our neighborhood. My apartment is 3 buildings down from this fountain.

Midan Digla Fountain (finally running when I have a camera)

Midan Digla Fountain (finally running when I have a camera)

Midan Digla Fountain

Midan Digla Fountain

Flower shop I buy flowers at to take to Egyptian colleagues' homes: Midan Digla

Flower shop I buy flowers at to take to Egyptian colleagues' homes: Midan Digla

Butcher shop/Vegetable Stand near Sakanat Maadi Metro station

Butcher shop/Vegetable Stand near Sakanat Maadi Metro station

Eid Al-Adha

 

November 27

 

Today was the first day of Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic festival that commemorates the sacrifice that Abraham was wiling to make of his son to God, but at the last minute was told to sacrifice a lamb. Muslims celebrate this festival and its connection to the end of the Hajj by each family slaughtering a cow, sheep or goat. I asked around to my students and found out that the Al-Azhar area of Cairo would be a great area to witness some animal sacrifices, so I got up at 5am, and after waiting for an unexpected rain to end, I made my way to Al-Azhar. I stopped at the Dar El-Salam Metro stop, but couldn’t find any killings. When got the Azhar, there were animals everywhere; most tied up to lamp posts or car bumpers. I found a side road, and 4 guys had a cow tied up, and were trying to pull him down. This was right next to a butcher shop. One guy was sharpening a knife, and when the cow was down, he cut its throat. Blood everywhere; the cow was jerking; spectators were sitting around watching; cars and motorbikes were driving by. Very unsanitary. One guys helping out with the slaughter was barefoot, another guy was smoking a cigarette and the ashes were falling into the open body cavity, and he would pause every now and then to sip some tea. One guy was getting the guts out, and would stick the knife in his mouth as he would tug on the organs. Meanwhile, people walking through the blood back and forth. I watched all the way through the skinning, the moved on. While I was walking back to the Metro station, I saw one guy walking through the street with a cow’s head in his arms. I saw another guy kill a ram, and then blow into a hole in the leg to separate the hide from the muscle. Male children were helping out, part of a male right of passage. One 12 or 13 year old boy has on a white galibaya with bloody handprints on it—part of the proof of his participation in this religious ritual. By about 8:30am, I had seen enough, had taken enough pictures, and headed back to Maadi.

Eid Al-Adha is the Islamic festival coming after the Hajj or pilgrimage, and commemorates the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his son to God. At the last minute, God intervened, and required a sacrifice of a sheep. Thus, Muslims slaughter a cow, sheep, or goat to comemmorate this event. Traditionally, families that sacrifice an animal keep 1/3 of the meat for themselves, give 1/3 of it to family, and distribute 1/3 of it to the poor.

On the morning of Eid Al-Adha, I took the train at 6am to the Al-Azhar section of Cairo to see the sights. Below are some images I captured. I will warn you, however, they are pretty graphic, and if you don’t want to see animal parts and blood everywhere, don’t look.

Cow waiting for the end

Cow waiting for the end

In the area of Al-Hussein Mosque

In the area of Al-Hussein Mosque

The great Al-Azhar Mosque and University (1000 years old)

The great Al-Azhar Mosque and University (1000 years old)

Sacrificing a cow

Sacrificing a cow

Family watching on as "their" cow is sacrificed

Family watching on as "their" cow is sacrificed

Sacrificing a Ram

Sacrificing a Ram

Cutting up the meat

Cutting up the meat

Slaughtering a cow inside a Auto parts store

Slaughtering a cow inside a Auto parts store

Visit With Hassan Awad

Last Thursday, I had a chance to meet with our good friend, Hassan Awad, our regular guide for UHCL’s trips to Egypt. He was in Cairo giving a tour, and had the afternoon off, and we met at the Khan-i-Khalili area for tea. Here is the best Egyptologist in Egypt!

Hassan Awad

Hassan Awad

Trip to El Fayoum with AUC

 

Camping in the Desert

 

On Friday and Saturday of this week (Nov. 20-21), I took a trip with several other AUC faculty to Lake Fayoum south of Cairo for a camping trip. We got picked up in Maadi at Midan Victoria, and then met everyone at Tahrir Square before switching from buses to 4X4 off-road jeeps. We drove out of Cairo before going off road into the dessert. We stopped at some sand dunes for tea, then went on to Soknopaiou Nesos, a 3rd century BC city that was established by the Ptolemaic pharoes (this was the cite we think Valentina, Glen’s Italian girlfriend, was excavating at). We had lunch there, and went on to see the Crocodile Temple at the shore of Birket Aarun, an outgrowth of the Nile that is slowly drying up and becoming saltier. It was amazing to see this one rectangular temple out literally in the middle of no where, now about 1000 meters from the lake (although right near the edge 2000 years ago). We then went onto set up camp on a plateau behind some large outcroppings. Several times our driver got stuck in the sand, and other times it was not clear we were going to make it up the sand hills.

 

The camp was set up when we arrived (everything arranged by Mahmoud Expeditions). There were several tents, plus the central area for dining and eating. By the time we got our gear in our individual tents, it was almost sunset, so several of us climbed a hill and took pictures (see below). I walked around and did some meditation, and then gathered at the dining area for tea. We had a traditional Egyptian meal for dinner, and some people played Scrabble while others drank coffee and talked. We had some interesting talks about AUC and its future: some are very hopeful due to its provost’s call to become a “world class university” and lead the region in scholarship; others feel that the poverty, corruption and inefficiencies of the Egyptian society will hold back any real progress. After dinner, the tour operators gave us a little concert on drums and flute and singing while pulling people in for traditional dance. I walked off into the desert to look at the stars—awe inspiring. This is why I wanted for a long time to camp out in the desert: the stars. I was not an dark as Big Bend National Park in Texas, but you could clearly see the Milky Way, but also the organgish glow of Cairo on the northern horizon. I went to bed fairly early, but woke up many times since it was pretty cold, despite using a nice down sleeping bag from AUC faculty services.

 

The next morning, we had a traditional breakfast and broke camp (the outfitters did this; we just put our gear in the 4X4s. I climbed up a large hill and had a 360 degree panoramic view of the desert—almost as impressive as all the stars the night before. Very desolate, but with its own beauty. We drove down off the plateau and over the desert to Wadi El-Hitan, a World Heritage Nature Site that is known as the Whale Open Air Museum. This was an amazing place. 37-42 million years ago or so, this whole region of the Sahara was under the Tethys Sea and whales ancestors roamed the area on the edge of the sea. Over time, food became scarce, and whales walked to the shore to find food. Over millions of years, they evolved to look for food in the sea rather than the shore, and became sea-dwelling creatures. Whale still have floating arms and legs not connected to their spine. We got a short talk from Dr. Phillip Gingrech, of the University of Michigan, who discovered fossilized whales with feet and knees and arms (this was the guy who actually found this stuff, and he took ½ hour out of his day digging on a moment’s notice to talk to us). Then I went alone on the 2 hour walking tour of the Wadi El-Hitan area, seeing many whale bones and beautiful desert formations. As I started the tour, I saw the end of the Fulbright tour which had also come out for a day trip. I said hi to Scott and Sussan and Cathy Kain and others. I would have liked to be with them, but was glad I had done the overnight camping—one thing off my “bucket list.” By sundown, we had finished out late lunch and walking tour, and drove the road back to Cairo in the 4X4s. It was very bumpy, and my butt was sore after the 3 hour trip back home.

Below are photos from the desert camping trip:

Our 4X4 caravan through the Sahara desert

Our 4X4 caravan through the Sahara desert

Beauty of the Desert

Beauty of the Desert

Beautiful colors and formations

Beautiful colors and formations

Pharaonic Temple in the middle of nowhere--Crocodile God

Pharaonic Temple in the middle of nowhere--Crocodile God

Inside small temple at Fayoum

Inside small temple at Fayoum

Ancient City walls

Ancient City walls

Ancient road that lined Nile with city to transport mumified Pharaoh from Solar Boat

Ancient road that lined Nile with city to transport mumified Pharaoh from Solar Boat

City wall with holes to store scrolls

City wall with holes to store scrolls

The camping was amazing! I can now check off my “bucket list” to camp in a major desert. Beautiful scenery, and the stars…billions and billions.

Our campsite in the Sahara Desert

Our campsite in the Sahara Desert

My tent--it shook all night with the high desert wind!

My tent--it shook all night with the high desert wind!

Sunset in the desert

Sunset in the desert

Camp set up for breakfast the next morning

Camp set up for breakfast the next morning

Around the campfire

Around the campfire

The expanse of sand

The expanse of sand

After camping the night, we visited Witan El-Hitan, the largest congregation of fossilized whale bones in the world (yes, that’s right, in the Sahara Desert!).

Pictures of my 2 hour walk through Witan El-Hitan:

World Heritage Site visitors center

World Heritage Site visitors center

Impromptu talk by discoverer of Hitan: Dr. Gingerech at UMich

Impromptu talk by discoverer of Hitan: Dr. Gingerech at UMich

Whale Bones!

Whale Bones!

Amazing Formations!

Amazing Formations!

Amazing Formations!

Amazing Formations!

Fulbright 60th Anniversary

The Egyptian Fulbright Commission recently celebrated its 60th anniversary in Egypt–one of the longest serving Fulbright commissions in the world since Sen. Fulbright from Arkansas created the program. On Nov. 14, I went to Sharif’s house for dinner with his friend Ahmed and sister Sunduq. His mom prepared a fabulous meal once again, and then me, Sharif, and Ahmed went to the Fulbright Concert down at the Opera House in Zamelak.

Here are some photos of the day. Here is the Metro Stop at Muhammad Naquib station where I wait for Sherif to pick me up:

Metro Stop Muhammad Naguib

Metro Stop Muhammad Naguib

Statue in Midan Muhammad Naguib (looking away from undeground Metro station)

Statue in Midan Muhammad Naguib (looking away from undeground Metro station)

Mosque across the street from Metro Station Muhammad Naguib

Mosque across the street from Metro Station Muhammad Naguib

Bread delivery right before dinner at Muhammad Naguib Midan

Bread delivery right before dinner at Muhammad Naguib Midan

Sherif, Ahmed and I fought traffic to get from Nasr City to Zamelak for the concert. First there was an art exhibition, then the gala concert.

Staircase in the Cairo Opera House

Staircase in the Cairo Opera House

Lobby of the Cairo Opera House

Lobby of the Cairo Opera House

Soccer Madness

Last Week, Egypt played 2 soccer matches with Algeria to qualify for the World Cup in 2010.

Here are some pictures:

Taxis driving around with Egyptian Flag

Taxis driving around with Egyptian Flag

Nov. 15--Egyptians happy they beat Algeria 2-0 to force a playoff on Wed in Sudan

Nov. 15--Egyptians happy they beat Algeria 2-0 to force a playoff on Wed in Sudan

More celebrating on the "Lion Bridge" between Zamelak and Downtown

More celebrating on the "Lion Bridge" between Zamelak and Downtown

Celebrating ON the Lion Bridge--people were filling the streets as the police looked on

Celebrating ON the Lion Bridge--people were filling the streets as the police looked on

Of course, the next Wednesday, Egypt and Algeria played again, and this time, Algeria won 1-0, thus going to the World Cup next year and crushing Egypt’s return to the World Cup after 20 years. The next few days, rumors flew about Egyptians being killed in Sudan (where the last game took place), rioting in Zamelak by 100s of Egyptians in front of the Algerian Embassy, etc.