|My name on a necklace. 80LE|
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
|Roommate listening to the Call to prayer from the mosque outside our balcony|
I made the move from Downtown Cairo to the suburbs of Maadi at the beginning of the summer. The degree of harrasment downtown finally reached a level that I couldn't excuse any longer. During my time living there, downtown Cairo felt like an amalgamation of all the worst aspects of human kind were being unsuccessfully suppressed there.
Maadi can sometimes seem like a different world. The area is populated by many expats and foreign families. I stumbled upon Cairo's version of Chinatown here where many Chinese food restaurants, Japanese sushi bars, and Korean BBQ restaurants were sprinkled around the neighborhood of Asian families! Like Zamalek island on the Nile, Maadi is an area meant to cater to foreigners taste as best as Egypt can provide. Metro Market, a completely Western supermarket, sits right off the El Maadi metro stop filled with splurge imports from Fruit Loops to Earl Grey tea. English is widely spoken and understood by those providing service in the stores and shops. Traditional Egyptian stores and markets are also available and well stocked all over Maadi.
|McD's drive thru in Maadi|
|on Rd. 9, One of the many Chinese food restaurants in Maadi|
When one first steps foot into Maadi, you assume that the Egyptians who live here are accustomed to foreigners and more open-minded. In reality, you soon realize it's the other way around; it's the foreigners in Maadi who are accustomed to the Egyptians and no longer feel obligated to abide by their social norms. Many foreign families here have private drivers, nannies and maids,and send their children to private school which limit their contact with the locals. They send the maid to do the shopping and have the driver take them to the latest restaurant and pick them up so that hey don't have to bother with taxis or public transportation. Their children are in private school in their national language and don't need to speak Arabic. Their homes here are elaborate fortresses and the dusty old apartment buildings carefully hide the modern lofts inside. Many of the nice villas also come with their own security detail.My current apartment beautifully blends ostentatious crystal chandeliers, hard wood floors,and old world charm. Foreign restaurants shops,and posh cafe's line the streets. It's one of the few parts of town where you will find foreign women, or their Filipino maids, pushing children in strollers and wearing short sleeve shirts with their knees bare. Maadi is comparatively lush compared to other parts of Cairo. Tree lined streets and grassy lots, both a rarity in Cairo, are haphazardly displayed around Maadi with some semblance of urban planning. Maadi is also relatively quiet compared to the rest of the city in which the honking of cars all day and night blocks out the any other sound.
|One of the many walled off villas in Maadi|
|Boys playing soccer outside of my apartment|
In the News:
Redevelopment of Cairo aims to trade chaos for elegance
Why Egyptians don't revolt
PETA in Cairo : Spice up your life, go vegetarian
Wealthy Egyptian business families venture abroad
The Nubian dream: Caught between old and new
Monday, July 26, 2010
My Microsoft Zune mp3 player took it's millionth and final fatal fall this week (I ditched my Ipod for a Zune last year). When it initially fell, I just picked it up and kept walking, unperturbed. Later on, when I got on the bus and tried to listen to a NPR podcast, the screen read 'unavailable'. I tried another podcast and several songs thereafter and received the same message over and over again! I tried turning it off and then back on only to be met with the 3 most devastating words you can encounter when you're abroad: "Contact Customer Support". I kept walking around the empty house and singing to myself in the absence of music and hoping to resurrect my Zune somehow, "One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain..."
I realized a few days before my Zune's death that both my roommates would be returning to the U.S. this past weekend. Everyone else I know has left already or is leaving Cairo as fast as they can during the 1st week of August while I'll still be here a few more weeks after that. Although, I was saddened at the thought of being in Cairo (alone), I was surprised to realize it was my Zune's death that really made me feel vulnerable and anxious to leave. It rendered my world silent and in that silence I was reminded of all the things I wanted to block out. Suddenly, I wanted to go home and complete in the U.S. whatever I hadn't already finished here. It seemed to me that there were pressing matters that needed to be attended to and I could only to get my life back in order State-side. After several frantic, spur of the moment calls to Continental Airlines, reassessments of my time table and goals, and lengthy debates with myself, however, I've decided to stay in Cairo the allotted time...unless Continental does find a seat available on an upcoming flight then DUECES . Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name..and they're always glad you came.
On a side note, I want to lend my full support to the activist dedicated to the passing on the Dream Act, a proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress that would offer immigrant students in the U.S. without residency status a conditional permanent residency status and the opportunity to get a college degree. Education is a right, not a privilege.
In the News:
Mubarak TV address calms health fears
Egypt through Western Sunglasses
U.S. upgrades diplomatic ties with Palestinians in a bid to woo Abbas
The Budget Traveller Guide to Sleeping in Airports (not surprised CDG made the top of the Worst Airport list. It's still the worst, most disorganized airport I've ever been in!)
Palestinian jailed for 18 months after consensual sex with an Israeli woman (...Jim Crow, anyone?)
Friday, July 23, 2010
If you love this blog and appreciate its insight, or if you just like looking at the pictures and wondering when I'm coming home, please take a moment to nominate Black in Cairo (http://blackincairo.blogspot.com) for Best Travel Blog and Best New Blog categories using this quick nomination page: https://3eighteenmedia.wufoo.com/forms/2010-black-weblog-awards-nomination-form/ CONTEST ENDS JULY 25TH so don't delay!
Run and tell your friends-all of them- to do so as well :)
La Bodega's is still my favourite restaurant in Cairo and has the most prompt and attentive service hands down. A few weeks ago, my roommates mother treated us all to dinner at La Bodega's. This time we got to see the dining area of the restaurant as well as the bar. As usual, the food was spectacular.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Taking a cab in Cairo is always a (mis)adventure. After my first experience with an a**hole cabbie, I've developed a technique for taking cabs based on experience and learning from the experiences of others. There are 3 types of cabs in Cairo: the black and white cabs are the most common. They are usually very old cars, no air condition, and un-metered. Some people prefer the black cabs because you can sometimes haggle for a cheaper price than with the white cabs. The white cabs, which I personally prefer especially when traveling alone, are newer, air conditioned and metered. The least common cabs are the yellow cabs. These cabs are the only cabs that are regulated by dispatchers. I have no sustainable experiences with these kinds of cabs because they are still quite rare. One most request a pick up well in advance to catch these cabs. Here are my basic rules for catching cabs.
- Keep small coins and bills on you. Cab drivers will always claim not to have change
- Always pronounce the name of your destination in Arabic to avoid being taken for a ride
- If you are familiar with your destination and the cost of getting their, do not negotiate the price beforehand
- If you are not familiar with your destination, ask someone else how much it will cost to get there. When a cab driver pulls up, negotiate your price BEFORE getting into the cab.Often, if a driver doesn't agree with your base price or destination, he'll refuse to take you and drive off. Don't worry, another cab will soon pass since there are literally hundreds of black cabs on the road. Generally, cab rides are more expensive for foreigners and most range from 5LE-10LE.
- Most cab doors open on the back passenger side. Women, if it can be avoided, DO NOT sit behind the cab driver or in the front passenger seat
- I prefer to avoid talking to the cab drivers. Often, cab drivers will make sexual comments to foreign women or offer you camels in exchange for your hand in marriage....it's best to simply avoid the small talk
- Ladies, avoid eye contact in the rearview mirror. This will most likely be misconstrued as an invitation
- ALWAYS get out of the cab to pay! Hand the money to the driver from the passenger side door
- Quickly scurry away. Most of the people I know have developed a brisk jog to get away from aggressive cab drivers. There is no guarantee that they will not try to get more money out of you or chase you down so its best to get away as soon as possible
- Keep small bill and coins on you at all times
- -Like the black cab, pronounce the name of your destination in Arabic and see if the driver will agree to take you there.
- Always make sure that the white cab is using his meter. If a white can driver is trying to haggle with you about the price or insisting that his meter is broken, walk away.
- Once you're in the cab, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE METER. White cabs are sometimes easier to deal with because you can avoid haggling over the price; however, they can also try to rip you off by rigging their meters to move incredibly fast. The meter should go 25 piasters for every 0.2 kilometers. If, for any reason, you are suspicious of the meter, have the driver stop, get out, pay the metered price and just catch another cab
- Avoid small talk and eye contact as well
- ALWAYS get out of the cab to pay! Hand the money to the driver from the passenger side door and quickly get away
UN rights chief deplores Egypt’s use of ‘lethal force’ against migrants in Sinai
French parliament approves ban on face veils 336-1
Monday, July 12, 2010
We've been able to discuss a variety of complex and controversial issues on this blog open-mindedly and curteously. The majority fo comments I recieve only further add to the discussion in a meaningful way. However,an anonymous comment left on one of my older posts has made me realize it's time to have that talk on Islam. I'm not Muslim. Although I am knowledgeable on Islam, I don't claim to be an Islamic scholar or well-versed in the Qur'an or the Hadith. However, even someone with just a superficial recognition of Islam as a monotheistic faith should know that Arab ≠ Muslim ≠ Egyptian. I find it necessary to state the obvious because some may come to the conclusion that Islam is to blame for all the various shortcomings that have crippled Egypt. Personally, I find Islam alone as culpable for the issues that plague Egypt as Catholicism is to blame for drug war-torn Mexico (aren't they devout Catholics?!) and I hope my readers will also look for a deeper understanding of Egypt .
In conversations with older Egyptians, they sight many factors that have led to what Egypt has become today: the millions in aid the U.S. spends annually to bolster the corrupt and repressive regime, the high unemployment rate amongst single young men, and yes, the radicalized Islam being spread by Saudi Arabia. They all say that it didn't used to be like this, 70, 50, even 40 years ago. Amongst other things, these factors have create deep rooted societal issues that the Egyptian people will need to address head on one day. However, focusing on Islam alone as the culprit for issues here or in the broader Middle East is a short-sighted and simplistic tactic to avoid discussing the complexity of issues that one will always encounter when a society struggles to embrace modernity yet still remain true to its own cultural norms.
Whether discussing Christian America's high divorce rate or Muslim Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists, religion plays an ever-evolving role in every society but it should never become a scapegoat for the moral decay of its followers Lackluster believers and the strong arming of religious interpretation by corrupt leaders happens in every faith. One doesn't have to look far to see how Christianity has been used to justify some of the worst crimes in humanity or how fanatical Orthodox Jewish settlers have promoted occupation and violence in the name of Judaism. Thus, regardless of what your religious background, let he without sin throw the first stone.
For more information on Islam, please read Suhaib's comment and check out his website.
p.s.- Congratulations to Spain on winning their first World Cup (Ada an Ieisha want me to be nicer to you, so there).
Friday, July 9, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
During the week of the U.S. vs Ghana game, there was an air of racial tension in our household. I've mentioned my 2 roommates before, one Somali girl and another American girl of German/Irish descent. My Somali roommate, who'd gone to school in Maine. My other roommate had grown up in a largely homogeneous Mid-Western city.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Martin Luther King, Jr.