We have finished up our tenth week here, and Harris noted a few weeks ago that he has changed from counting how long we have to stay to how long before we have to leave. We like it, in other words. It hasn’t gotten cleaner or safer or quieter, but we have changed. I suspect major reverse culture shock is in store next June, ISA.
I still remain a member of the Church of Eternal Maintenance, so this week meant a mani-pedi and massage at the N Bar—a truly guilty pleasure up the street, a lovely nail salon with lots of services that plays “Gossip Girl” dvds while you get preened, a show I never watched until being sucked in by the N Bar—and a visit to German Heidi, my hairdresser. In tribute to Gary of Northampton, my hairdresser at home, may I note that although Heidi is terrific, Gary is better and costs less (in a city where services are cheap)? There’s a reason I’ve known Gary longer than Harris…..
|Islamic Museum exterior|
This week is the run-up to the big Eid holiday, which everyone takes off and you pay bonuses to your bowep (apartment super) and housekeeper. The students at AUC are under the gun because it’s midterm time, and like all the other faculty, I am assigning their big midterm work before the Eid break so I can get it graded before they return. The campus has that harried, frantic, under-slept atmosphere common to every campus at midterm time.
This week’s outing was to the Islamic Museum, another AUC-sponsored trip. The museum is long on treasures and rather withholding of information for the non-Muslim. I had to take photos off the internet since it was forbidden inside, but the objects that drew our attention most were textiles (in particular, carpets), pottery, and furniture. Some were inlaid so complexly with gold and ivory that the craftsmanship was mind-boggling. The beauty of both the ancient Kufic script and the more elaborate cursive Arabic decorated everything, even some carpets.
|Islamic Museum gallery|
Saturday is also a big market day, with outdoor stands vending everything from fresh bread and fruits to meats.
|Outdoor butcher in downtown|
|Fruit cart downtown|
Other than that, we’ve mostly worked and nested. I’ve mentioned the glories of Luxor alabaster previously, and we indulged in some more retail therapy at the alabaster store. I think we may be full-up by now, so future visits will be devoted to buying gifts. We also succumbed to mattress fatigue, especially after a week of sleeping on a great mattress in Sharm. First, we asked AUC to replace our rock-hard mattress with something more forgiving. They readily agreed and brought…exactly the same brand and model. So, we got Emad to drive us to the showroom of MasterBed, the one and only maker of memory foam in Egypt; thankfully, Emad was there, because we really needed his Arabic skills. After a week’s wait, our mattress pad was delivered along with some nice pillows, and this princess no longer feels the pea. Not to mention how the prince is back to his Olympic-quality recreational sleeping.
|Luxor alabaster lamps|
A few more local observations:
When I went to the ministry of health back in August to get my mandatory HIV test (needed to obtain a work permit), I noticed lots of men with large bruises on their foreheads. Poor things, I thought, no wonder they are at the ministry of health. I’ve since learned that they sported bruising from praying, and in fact, we see men with such bruises, even callouses, all the time. It would be rude to photograph them, but it’s one of those things that remind us we aren’t in Kansas. Another thing I think about as I consider the many cultural differences is the practice, outlawed in 2008 but according to the U.N., still common, of female-specific surgeries performed on girls, Coptic and Muslim. According to the U.N., somewhere around 90% of Egyptian women have had such surgeries. Something to think about.
|Stenciled street art near AUC Tahrir|
We see a lot of often very artistic and exciting graffiti related to the revolution. Since we don’t read Arabic, the meaning is usually lost on us, but there are some talented future Banksy-style stencil artists out there whose work speaks loudly.
|Old villa, Road 210|
As I walk to the bus stop on teaching days, I pass a lot of shops and apartments, and also a few villas remaining from when Maadi was all villas. This rusticated stone creation is one of my favorites.
Our best and cheers. We depart for a week of diving next week, so I’ll wait until our return to post anything.