Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Nook

I love nooks. I suppose the word summons images of old books, coffee tables and eccentricity. The smell of old books may be the best part of the American library system.
My nook in this sprawling African city lies in Garden City, next to the Nile below a residential building. A little Arab/French cafe, it is filled with desserts (my weakness) from both cultures. Glass display cases show off the culinary perfection displayed. From besbousa to croissants, the smell takes me back to memories of France. Attached is a cafe which serves amazing coffee and conveniently has become my study place. My nook gives me my free time. I figured out while traveling, alone time is an absolute necessity. I used to dread grabbing lunch by myself and now I find that I actually prefer it. Life changes you without evening knowing it.
Tonight I met two gentlemen, bow ties and all, in my nook from Syria and Egypt. They began to speak to me in Arabic asking about what and why I was studying. One of them was a translator between Syria and several Spanish speaking countries. The other was a radio announcer for a Cairo Radio channel. Speaking in perfect fuhsa (classical Arabic) we conversed about the media portrayal of the Middle East in America. We agreed that generally the ME is shown to be a place full of terrorists, backwards customs, extremism and deserts. Anything could be further from the truth, at least in the places I've been. While some of these things are obviously present, the majority of the people, the land and the ideals are diverse. We switched to Aamiya (street Arabic) and I learned about some great new places to go and more about my new two friends. I have never met two more polite, welcoming and elderly gentlemen in my life. Conversations with random people have changed my life. It is high on my to do list in every country.

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