Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Yacoubian Building, and other news

Weekends are always exciting in Cairo, and this one has started with no exception. I went to a movie theatre tonight at the Grand Hyatt, on the left, (very classy! And they had popcorn, although the container was too small for my voracious appetite ;-), and saw the Yacoubian Building in Arabic with English subtitles. It was a scintillating movie, costing twice as much as any previous Arab film, and introducing uncomfortable topics like Islamic militantism, homosexuality, sex, torture, you name it, it was there. Of course, risqué to Americans and risqué to Arabs are two entirely different notions. We are used to rather graphic sex, lots of skin, and plenty of making out. This movie didn’t go quite to those extremes, but there were two males crawling into bed together; the torture and implication of male rape; sexual harassment in the form of, well, one small step away from sexual intercourse, with one partner more enthusiastic than the other; a radical Islamic training center for terrorists, in fact, a quite plausible path for a young man from depression to radicalism; and, of course, the token terrorist scene with excessive gore and guts. The only point of discomfort, for me, was that I was watching the movie impugn Islam and show how many of the sheikhs and religious leaders manipulate young men to commit terrorist attacks. I was sitting in a dark theatre, surrounded by mainly Egyptians, on the top floor of the Hyatt, with gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows revealing spectacular panoramas of the Nile just outside the theatre door (in other words, a fairly exclusive theatre for the average Egyptian), watching the film unfailing critique the current situation in Egypt, and, most importantly, the wealthy few who rule it. Anyway, it was a wonderful experience, and I never tire of gazing at the Nile in wonder, especially at night, when the muddy color is transformed into a shining ribbon sable reflecting the lights of numerous hotels and businesses.
Alright, so that’s what I did tonight, but my day was interesting, as well. I paddled around in the Nile pool for awhile, and learned that I will have a private tutor for spoken Fusha Arabic. Very exciting! The U requires me to maintain a 15 credit minimum to maintain my scholarships, and 21 class hours at ALI only converts to 13 credits. Thus, I needed two more. It was a bit sketch, though, the way the tutor introduced himself. I was sitting in class, attempting to learn some grammar, when a man walked in and asked for Laura. I nodded, he handed my a piece of paper and said “Call me.” The looks I got from my classmates were priceless! Of course, the paper explained who he was, but it was rather flustering. For 4 hours of the rest of the day, I sat in a lovely new coffee shop, The Coffee Bean, that opened a block from my place, and downloaded all of my pictures into an online Kodak album and Facebook. If you need to the link, e-mail me at
Oh, yeah, I joined the scuba team! I start classes Sunday evening, have them everyday until Thursday, when we go to the Red Sea for four dives over the weekend. It costs about 300 dollars, for certification, equipment, and all that, and the trip will cost minimally more. I can’t wait to finally leave the snorkeling surface and delve into the nooks and crannies of the reef. And I’ve finally obtained a power cable for my computer (I love Radio Shack!), and internet should be coming soon, so soon I’ll have unlimited access to all of you!
I’ve been slowly acclimating myself to my neighborhood and neighbors. A British guy lives across the hall from me, there’s a lawyers’ office next door (I was putting the garbage out, wearing one of my camis that go under shirts, thinking that I wouldn’t encounter anyone, because I’ve never before, but of course, one of the neighbors happened to be standing outside, so we chatted for a bit before I scampered inside), another British guy lives downstairs, and numerous AUC and ALI students live in the building. And then there’s the guy in the apartment across the alley, so basically his building is five feet from mine. He always seems to be wandering around without his shirt on ( there was the one night, at 2 in the morning, when I was just about to hop in the shower when I remembered I’d forgotten something in the kitchen. I was fully clothed minus a top but plus a bra, thinking, again, who’s up on a Monday night. But there was the guy across the alley. I don’t think he saw me, because I saw him and fled back into the seclusion of my room)! It’s so weird, or maybe not, but I’ve never lived this close to so many people before. We all see each other’s laundry (and the American girls always air their VS underwear and bras on the clothesline on the balcony, because dryers don’t exist in Egypt), hear every noise, and listen to the Friday afternoon sermons that come in so clearly from the mosque across the river. I live in a soap opera! I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow (perhaps a bit of wagib, homework), but Saturday I go to the pyramids with a real guide. I’ll report back soon. Thanks for reading!

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