Friday, November 03, 2006

Happier times in Cairo

Well, if you read my last post, you are probably a bit depressed and are thinking that I hate Cairo. Trust me, I don't, I really like Cairo, in fact, it may be time to use the l word, well, maybe not yet, but Cairo never ceases to enthrall me. For instance, today I did not venture beyond the confines of my apartment, yet I still had a great day. And last night....we'll talk about that later ;-)
I just got back from a trip down the amazing convenient Metro grocery store in the basement grocery store, open 24 hours! As much as I love candy, I am realizing that it does nothing for my figure, so I'm trying to limit myself and eat more fruit, which really shouldn't be a problem. Having just purchased some lusciously succulent plums, which were ridiculously cheap, as well as some grapes, I think I'm well on my way. My phone also just ran out of minutes, and so, across the hallway from the Metro is a store that sells miscellaneous office supplies and phone cards, and, since everything stays open in Cairo until at least 2 am, I stopped there. Before you think this story is starting to get creepy, remember that I've lived in this building for about 2 months and have met and conversed with most of these people, albeit briefly. Leaving the Metro, the owner of the phone shop and his friend started talking to me; to be polite, I responded, and sat down in the chair he offered me. Although the friend, I found out later his name was Mahmoud, spoke excellent English, I always answered back in Arabic, so eventually we fell into a Arabic conversation. I ended up sitting there for a good half hour sipping tea and talking to them.
It was one of the quintessential experiences you are supposed to encounter when you study abroad, just talking for the sake of talking. For once, there were no ulterior motives, neither of them asked me if I was married (they were both older men), told me I was beautiful, or made any sort of sexual advances. They retained an honest curiosity in me and in my reasons for being in Egypt. At first, Mahmoud could not understand why I was studying Arabic, and, actually, I had a difficult time explaining it to him, because, why am I here? There are myriad explanations, of course, but to articulate those, in Arabic, was a challenge. Then we discussed what I thought of Egypt, and what people in America think of the Middle East. I actually told a joke, in Arabic, and they laughed, which meant they understood me. You have no idea of the elation I felt when I realized that I had been comprehended. It was wonderful! At that moment, I finally knew why I was studying Arabic, for random moments like that, when you can communicate with people within their culture, within their context. Ahhh, and those plums are very good; if this blog were multi-sensual, you'd all be getting sprayed with plum juice right now ;-)
Last night...was about as different as today was as the Minnesota River is to the Nile. I only have one class on Thursdays, so my weekend starts nice and early, so yesterday I sat around in the courtyard and chatted and mingled until about 2, when some friends and I strolled over to a cafe/bar start out of Naguib Mafooz. With the ground-in dirt of half a century, broken mirrors and dingy wooden chairs, and 6.75 Stella beers, the establishment is definitely the place to wind down after a stressful week. After several hours of drinking (although I didn't partake, that whole gluten thing gets in the way alot) (we in the Arabic Language Institute get started early), I left the bar famished, grabbed food from my favorite restaurant, MD, and attended a friend's birthday party on a felucca. Veritably, this must be about the best way to celebrate another year of your life, sailing down the seemingly immutable Nile in a boat with friends gathered around you, although, due to a lack of breeze, we didn't so much sail and stall ;-)
But my night was just starting to heat up, as I left the party, went home to rest for a hour, got dolled up and put on makeup for the first time in two months, and went to visit my buddies over in Cairo Khan. Unfortunately, the hotel is not the most venerable of establishments, and I had to call my friend for directions, re-orient the cab driver, yell at him when he wanted to drop me off on Talaat Harb, and eventually find my way there. Dina, my old RA (the best RA ever, by the way) had organized a group of a few girls to go clubbing at this great disco named After Eight, one of the hottest spots in town. Because of the massive rape that occured a week ago a few blocks from the hotel/dorm, she made us take taxis to the club rather than brave the 10-minute walk, which was probably best becuase, although most of us (me included) were wearing scarves to shield our natural sinfulness, a bit too much skin (i.e. part of our arms) was showing. Although we hadn't arrived until about 11, the place didn't even start hopping until 11:30, when Wust Al-Belad, one of the most popular bands in town, started playing. The 100 LE minimum charge was very much worth it! By 12:30, when the band took a brief hiatus, the entire restaurant had turned into the dance floor, even some of the tables (although I only danced on some chairs, I didn't make it up to the table level ;-) Deliciously hot, After 8 was the first place I found where the rules of Cairo didn't apply, with the alcohol flowing freely and the slick (when I say it was hot, it really was quite sweaty ;-) skin of just about every girl glistening in the dance lights. I wore a tank top! Whoa, I know, pretty scandalous, but when Shakira's hips don't lie, I just couldn't help myself. Plenty of random Egyptian guys, as well as foreigners, frequent the place, and I danced with a few of them, but I stuck mainly with my group of 7 girls and three boys, and finally left at 1:30 to a still throbbing club.
Before I put away the keyboard for the night (sometimes, I long for those days when you could say before I cap the pen, but then none of you would be reading this, so...), I should mention that the temperature in Cairo has been considerably cooler the last week or so. Perhaps I should elucidate, when I say cooler, I mean upper 70's and maybe lower 80's with nights in the 50's, which means that I actually feel comfortable in a jacket in the evenings. Can you imagine what it will be like when the temps maybe drop to 70 during the day? What will I do? If you're sitting in frigid MN right now, shivering in you parka, sorry ;-) Of course, I can always go to the Red Sea, where temps are regulated by that balmy breeze riding over the aquamarine waters and warmed by the omnipresent sun gilding everything with a bronzed tint...

No comments: