Saturday, October 24, 2009

REVEALING of the Quiz Answer at the End of the Week :)


Over Sheesha and Tea the other night- my friends and I were discussing the role of women in Egyptian/Middle Eastern society in relation to the women of the West.

In analytical terms, noting the major influences of cultural differences, it's at least something to
think about-

Women in the states are primarily looked at as sex objects - something to be conquered, sexually at least. We see this in music videos, on television, magazines, and even walking down the street. I know where I live (Jupiter/Palm Beach) I sometimes feel like the mothers with plastic surgery, highlights and high heels bringing their kids to school make me wonder how intrinsative looks have really become in Western society. When did being sexy become something fake? In all honesty, looks matter. I just wish it was a deeper beauty; something not as easily changed as an injection and thousands of dollars of plastic surgery.

And while unfortunate, it is simply untrue that intial judgements are made by looks. It doesn't mean it has to matter in the life decisions you make, but it is not a dismissable factor, at least accroding to those unwritten societial standards. Dress to impress, buisness causal, etc. were all created to give off a physical view of yourself that projects what YOU want to project to the world. So in the mediums most internationally projected (tv, movies, magazines, photos) the rest of the world steroetypes American's by what they see- which is sex icons. Really really pretty women who are willing to be really open, in all standards but Western, American/European girls (generalizing, of course!) are easier than the rest. The point is this: our society is one obsessed with sex. BUT the focus is 100% different. The men, who are raised idolizing this "sexiness" just want what they want.

Women in Egypt are an entirely different story. At least from the male perspective (and usually) the female perspective (excluding the wealtheir/ "Westernized" Egyptians) as well the goal is to obtain the object- the object being the woman. The main difference here is the woman is something to possess. As in a possesion, an object.

That is why it is difficult to break through the barrier here. Women are generally regarded as submissive, obviously. I'm not exactly the submissive type. I'm not a feminist, I personally just could not deal with that mindset. Well anyways, this isn't about women's rights- it was just an obversvation that turned into me avoiding my homework. Which I am going to go study

All my biggest hugs from Egypt! (p.s. everyone here thinks it is totally weird how much I hug :) physical touch here is definitely not big.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Many Camels??

The next night was interesting, we hung out on the pool deck and attempted to start a dance party. It was dreadful music. I mean really dreadful. 90’s no name music. I had
Been deprived of good music and dancing so attempted to get everyone on board. Before that I looked at the stars- luminescent over the Nile. We went through a lock and watched the boat rise to the level of the lower Nile- kinda cool I guess but overeeggerated, though. When we were stopped at the lock guys on rowboats rowed up to the cruise and sold random things to the tourists. I bought a shirt for 80 pounds but the experience of haggling through the windows of the cruise boat. They would throw you a shirt or pashmina, try and it, on through the money back to them. Anyways since I have been here, I have a new obsession/appreciated for nature and the stars. So anyways, the dance party was a bit ridiculous- very 7th grade with people dancing in a circle. We changed the music and got everyone to dance for a while- overall a good story, bad experience lol. But at AUC in general, the university is kind of like a high school. The kids here seem very young- some are 17, and almost all of them still live at home. People at the university sit in clicks on the stairs in clusters very segregated by the clicks. We affectionately refer to place the really rich kids who all sit together in one place- Gucci Corner.

Today was our arrival in Edfu, there is absolutely nothing in this town but the temple of Edfu, although it sheds some light on how people here really live- minus all the touristy stuff: although it truly sheds light on how people really live here. Edfu temple is the most preserved/completed Egyptian monument. Its gates are huge- looming and quite new(ish) looking- blocking much of the view behind. When we entered the temple we got a chance to view the best preserved hieroglyphics. Our tour guides who came with us absolutely suck. I’m sorry, but there is no other way to describe them. This has been proved by the last two days- so on day 3 of our cruise, we decided to do a self guided tour with a combo of my Lonely Planet and Carter’s Rough Guide. Carter, Maggie and I learned about the different rooms- the library, laundry room, storage room and laboratory- which was the coolest because it had all the ingredients for the different medicines and concoctions on the wall separated in columns by recipe. There were pictures of people mixing the ingredients. We got to see the story of Seth and Horus which depicted Seth as a hippo, being hunted and then caught, chopped up and eaten as cake- which we found mildly comical.

When we got back we layed out at the pool today, had our free afternoon tea around 4 and then disembarked to see the Temple of Kom Ombo which is located in the town of Kom Ombo. {Side note: foreigners aren’t allowed to stay in Kom Ombo overnight- seriously not hotels or anything!} Mostly still standing, it towers over the Nile where we arrived just before sunset. We got to see the temple that was dedicated to the Crocodile God- all the crocs used to bathe here in ancient times. All our pictures of the hypostyle halls were breathtaking, once again. We saw the sun set over the Nile and the town of Kom Ombo. After the fire red sun set, we walked through all the shops, basically a mini sook (market) set up for tourists- which are oh so convientenly stationed right beside all the cruise boats so you have to walk through them to get back to your boat. The men there (woman sellers are absent) yell things at you like “look, only look, no haggle!” “just look, no buy!”. Some even rad your arms to try and pull you into their shops. They’re always impressed when I speak Arabic, though minimally- and then they lower the price. One guy tonight told me my eyes were so beautiful so he gave me a discount- such b.s. haha. And as I walked down the dimly lit promenade with men thrusting scarves and galabayas in my face, I was tickled by the men asking me- “How many camels??” Apparently, in southern Egypt (more so in ancient times) your worth is measured in the amount of camels a husband would pay for your dowry. I got several offers, one of fifty million! And much, I’m sure to my parents dismay, I resisted the temptation of the man of my dreams on the streets of Kom Ombo.

Right now, as I write, I am on the place from Aswan to Cairo. I am looking out the window to an aesthetically shocking picture. We are cruising at a comfortable 12,000 feet over the infamous Sahara desert above the least inhabited area in all of Egypt. To our right is the Nile, the life source of Egypt, surrounded by development and lush greenery. The Nile from an aerial view literally looks like a giant green snake lazily slithering through the endless yellow dunes.

And Now I’m Back in Cairo- where to begin.
Well Tuesday night was relaxing. I did all my menial tasks, laundry, cleaning, a bit of homework, eat- then attempted to do homework- failed, and went to bed. Wednesday we hung out, planned our trip while catching up on our lives via the internet at Goal, our favorite faux Italian restaurant. I always eat a tomato and mozzarella salad in an attempt to recreate my beautiful summer experience. The mozzarella here is much chewier and is a different texture but is still good. We went out for drinks to this hotel which had a bar on top- smoked sheesha and enjoyed a chilled Stella overlooking the city of Cairo. Then we headed back to the dorms.
In other news, we spent the day (Sept 25) in Alexandria. I had to wake up at 7am after staying up until 4- I was not super awake to say the least. We hopped on a train to Alexandria at around 8:30 am after buying our tickets in Arabic. We bought second-class tickets that were shockingly quite comfortable and air conditioned!! IT was about two hours- it had reclining seats, interesting smells, and was full of families, businessmen, and a few Asian tourists- a fantastic combination for people watching if I hadn’t passed out so quickly. We arrived and our Egyptian friends, Mahmoud and Ahmed picked up at the station. We walked through the streets of Alexandria enjoying the breezy weather and decided to grab some of the fresh juice Alexandria is famous for. I got strawberry banana, Vic got watermelon, Richie got a Boreo Shake (their version of Oreo’s!)- and we got these for 2 Egyptian Pounds each, which is the equivalent of 35 cents. Not that we paid for them because Egyptians absolutely refuse to let you pay for things when you are in their city. We took a cab over to the downtown area, drank some tea on the boardwalk, haggled with some carpet sellers for fun and basked in the beautiful sunshine. Afterwards we went to the famous Alexandrian library- which was the oldest in the world until it burned down. It was closed for prayers so we decided to go to a souk (open-air market) we actually found some really amazing stuff- hand made chess/backgammon boards with pearl engravings, beautiful fabrics and some really interesting furniture. We also found and bought Disney DVD’s in Arabic and decided it would be really good practice- we got the Little Mermaid and Aladdin. We retuned to the museum after prayer. I was actually kind of surprised. It is a strange shape- like a circle- almost, but slowly rising in height from the bottom up. The windows are huge- which makes the museum feel open and light but the inside is tiered making it looks smaller than it actually is. There were tons of books in every language and even a whole section for UN documents and critiques. We couldn’t get to the old/rare book collection area-, which was a bit disappointing. But dinner definitely made up for it. We went to this restaurant with a fantastic view of the water and the fort- which was made of Pharos (which is made up of the remains of the 7th Wonder of the World) The restaurant was called the fish King of Alexandria- best food EVER! We had 6 plates of fresh fish we literally picked out shrimp, tons of different fish calamari with the usual sides. We headed to this shessha on the coast. The place was full of old men playing chess, tawola (tables) which is basically backgammon while watching soccer. Yelling at TV’s, smoking while playing and intense conversations is the norm here, a relaxation haven away from the more pressing concerns of the world. We got the best Kunefa ever- from Ahmed’s mom who made us a whole freaking plateful. I was in heaven. We caught our train back to Cairo and packed for the rest of our Swine ’09 Break.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Out in Luxor

Last night we went out with some Egyptian students who were super sweet- Romani, Malani and Mahmoud. We got off the boat and stood around for a while waiting for Romani’s friends from Luxor. Malani’s private driver picked us up and took us to the Susana Hotel. (All the rich Egyptian kids, which = all the kids who attend AUC, have drivers) We went up to the roof and we were the only people there. Egyptians, I have learned, love to be extremely generous and pay for absolutely everything. It makes me feel bad. We got a bottle and snacks and enjoyed our time. Egyptian alcohol is, well Egyptian. While this may sound silly, the majority of Egyptians are Muslims which means a good majority of the country does not indulge in alcoholic products. A lot of the young kids do, but just as many don’t. Anyways, the point is- the alcohol is basically pure ethanol. It wasn’t all bad- we had amazing company and a really good time. Afterwards we went and got a felucca (sail boats that cruise down the Nile) and hung out there, sat on the top of the felucca for a while. Maggie and I leaned over and touched the Nile. We were a bit freaked out about all the diseases so we used anti-bacterial hand wipes immediately afterwards. We watched the reeds glide by, dark houses, ducks and we were able to see a beautiful night sky. Then we pulled up to this random marshy bank and the felucca captain/boat driver whipped out a plank thing to disembark. We walked through the marsh to this locals sheesha bar. Surprise, surprise it was all men. In addition, there was a stable right next to this bar/restaurant thing so horses and donkeys were just chilling in the stables next to us. There were puppies too that were absolutely adorable and so scared of people.

Side note- Egyptians absolutely love cats. All Egyptians have cats and the streets are filled with them. Only the ex-pats have dogs and walk them in Cairo. So seeing puppies was definitely a treat.

We had apple sheesha- which is the general flavor – and talked about Moses floating down the Nile, tried to explain fraternities and sororities which did not go over very well. There is so much bromance here there is no need for a organization to celebrate it. It is completely different here than in the states. Homosexuality is something very under the radar, not spoken about. However, it is the cultural norm for men to walk down the street holding hands, having hands in each other’s back pockets and walk arm in arm. There is no stigma of sexuality about these customs; it’s just the norm. Women on the other hand, definitely do not do that. We taught them all kinds of American slang- because they of course wanted to be up to date with all the cool phrases.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Let the Cruise Begin

After we went on a tour of the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut’s temple- we were dead tired- after literally not sleeping all night we hadn’t eaten, no water- but it was still really amazing. The tombs we visited were Ramses II, VII, IX. I think you walk into these really hot caves with markings everywhere- some more pronounced than others. The way the etchings are carved was beautiful- each telling its own story and lesson. At some places- peoples names were carved into the rocks- just sad. No respect! The key of life was present in so many of the picture, a very cool concept to celebrate life everyday AND ring it with them to the afterlife. The actual grave/tomb was huge and apparently filled with lots of items to bring with them to the afterlife. The tombs were much larger than I imaged they would be. A historic aura was definitely felt by all the visitors. An overarching, nameless “thing” if you will, was felt and mutually understood by the onlookers. When you stand in a part of history like that, there are no words.

After, we journeyed to Hapshetsut’s temple, mind-blowing to say the least. The view is stunning- an entire temple pops out of the mountainside- a rock cliff with varying colors and textures sets the backdrop of the temple of one of the only female pharaohs Egypt ever saw. Today, we visited the Temple ok Karnak. Hands down one of the most beautiful architectural creations in the world. Walking through rows of columns carved with hieroglyphics: sphinxes, obelisks, pools of water, magnificent creations surrounding you on every side. Trying to imagine life there thousands of years ago: sneaking through back corners, side doors and going god knows what behind the shadows. You can stand at the top of this hill beyond the last temple and view the entire site- stunning. (Everywhere here reminds me how crazy lucky/awesome my life experiences have been thus far!) The beauty exuded in the columns and rows of pillars, heads with different forms, it could definitely be categorized as a Wonder of the Ancient World, in my opinion. The pillars reach higher than is comprehendible- especially considering the technology thousands of years ago. Oh, as you walk out of Karnak, you view Hatshepsuts temple directoly across the Nile from you. Like thousands before me, I am entranced by the majesty created by people who’s means were far less than my own.

Today, with skyscrapers and steel buildings as far as the eye can see, I wonder just how we forgot the beauty in architecture and the glorification of beauty and nature. The Wonders of the World are magnificent in all their glory- at least the 4 I have seen (Petra, The Great Pyramids, Colloseum, the Statue of Liberty) With periods like the Renaissance and all the knowledge we have gained from our brothers mistakes over thousands of years, how is it that we have lost the appreciate, or is it merely the will to create true beauty again. It would be lovely to live in an era where people created to inspire others, ones that strive to be a part of history, rather than calls for attention (Hollywood) and big steel structures.

And now, as I am laying on the top deck of our cruise- poolside- staring out into the Nile Valley- a contrast of shockingly deep blue water beside villages exploding with lush, green palms, kids playing soccer on the islands of the Nile, cows grazing the plentiful grass and the never ending desert mountain range behind. A mountain of tans and beiges- cliffs falling and curbing in the most eye-catching ways. We pass towns with yellow exteriors, teal windows and doors with an almost urban feel to mud brick huts with kids and goats playing out front. We even see the ultra-luxurious- the homes that remind me of the Palm Beach intracoastal. The mountains look like they were carved with a butter knife with a smidge of finer painting for the finishing touches. They look like so much fun to climb! On the other side of the Nile there is more marshland with some mysterious looking smoking substance rising out of the delta. This was not how I pictured the lower Nile- all of it more or less reminds me of the Moses story- floating down the Nile in a basket with reeds covering the sides of the great river.

On the cruise we have a little baby pool in the shape of an arrowhead about a foot deep- perfect for sunbathing and a deeper rectangle connected for a refreshing dip (though it is only about four feet deep) This European guy decided to do laps. Keep in mind that the pool is filled with people relaxing on the edges, and only about 8 to10 feet wide. It was a bit ridiculous. Although, I admit quite entertaining. Every time a boat goes by, our captain gives a loud jingle/honk that is greeted by an equally ridiculous tooting of a horn by the other cruise boats. I still cannot believe that I am cruising down the flipping Nile right this very moment. Our resteraunt is at the bottom of the boat so when we eat we get to watch the waves splash at the top of the ewidnows and see the random things floating in the River Nile. For example, people on little boats and empty tv boxes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sorry for the Delay (I was traveling)/Swine 09

As I sit under the Saharan sun on campus, sipping an espresso (So American!), it is easy to reflect on my time here. Choosing to study here has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Already the people here have shattered stereotypes I held, introduced me to a new culture, shown me a new dedication to religion that is more or less absent in American and opened my heart to the poverty which is the rule- not the exception. I love the way I live here- ready every day for a new adventure.

A now, a side note on the beautiful irony of being a woman in Egypt:
As a woman, particularly a foreign, blond, blue eyed American, I walk down the street, completely covered and I attract an amazing amount of unwanted attention. Stares, whistles, , etc. All this attention amounts to nothing more than annoyance. However, when I sit down at a restaurant or stand in line somewhere to get something I am COMPLETELY ignored. Quite lovely, really…it drives me flippin nuts.


My school decided, randomly apparently, to cancel two weeks of school. Awesome right?!? Well, until you have to make it up and go to your teachers house for makeup classes on a Saturday. Anyways, the point is- school was canceled for another week and a half on top of the Eid Break which was 4 days. So in a matter of 2 days, people made travel plans for Turkey, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Kenya for Mt. Kilimanjaro and all over Egypt.

We really wanted to go to Kenya. I planned a trip and had a flight ready to book. When we went to get our vaccinations- guess which one they didn’t have? The only one we needed, yellow fever. Very typically Egypt. We went all the way to Mohandiseen with Romani, our Resident Director who is super cool, got tere with all the crying babies, refrigerators with labeled test tubes and fluorescent lights. We talk to this woman to register to receive the shots, who looks like she was as bored as is humanly possible- literally staring straight ahead while answering our questions in Arabic, head in hands, ready to either fall asleep or say something monotone. Afterwards, we walked, rather dejectedly, to the best Kunafa place in Zamalek. Now, if you don’t know what Kunafa is, I am truly sorry for you. You are missing out on the most amazing unhealthy deliciously satisfying Ramadan dessert. Check this out before continuing reading…

Okay well, imagine the deliciousness that was. Appreciate it. Take it in. Okay now we continue, so it (Kunafa) is my ultimate vice- if you have not already guessed. Thank god Ramadan is over otherwise I would gain 400 pounds strictly from Kunafa.

The next day, Carter and Maggie and I went to Tahrir Square and talked to this really nice guy who is an Arabic professor for little kids in Cairo. He showed us this great shop where we got papyrus and perfume that smells exactly like Chanel Chance- we got to see how Papyrus was made with soaking it in water, pressing it, hammering it, etc. Then the owner walked us through all the different hieroglyphics meanings and pictorial depictions. It was pretty interesting, but the best part was having Carter try the man perfume, which by the way smelled like cleaning fluid. We went to meet Richie’s mom and brother across the bridge at my favorite restaurant in Cairo- though I have no idea what the name is, but it has pik trimming and its in the Cotton Market- we waited because there was the Ramadan ruh. We had the usual- fresh tomoates, cilantro and cucumbers with Arab bread, tehina and Bird’s Tongue soup (!!) so good) with rice and chicken. All this for 6 people it was unde 100 ounds- equivalent $20.

We had to get home pretty quickly to pack for the Nile Cruise- so we set back off to pack. Since we finished early, we though we would go out for Stell’s to lessen the 8 hours of travling about to ensue. Beer was probably a bad idea- we had to get on the bus at 1:30am drive to new campus, go to the airport, which we didn’t get to until around 4. The security at the aitport was a joke. The security was exactly this: walk through a metal detector. Note the a. Meaning 1 metal detector. That’s it. No ID, you can baksheesh (tip) the guys if you want to bring your water on the plane. We ad to wait until 6 am tio get on our flight. Meanwhile I am dozing for 10 minute periods just about everywhere- the buses, the luggage age, the terminal, etc. I was so tired.

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