Seeds of Peace Alumni Video

December 29, 2008

Despite what is going on in Israel and Gaza right now, I recently came across this video by an Egyptian graduate of Seeds of Peace, a wonderful and important program of which I had the fortune to be able to be a part. It’s always nice to have a little bit of hope.

Lots of Sit-ups

December 24, 2008

It’s pretty humbling when an Army Ranger says “shukran” to you after telling him what you do.

You Know You’re in New England When…

December 21, 2008

You walk off of the plane and there is a snow storm. Pretty though, isn’t it?img_1223

“Egypt Teacher Tried Over Beating”

December 21, 2008

Something which has made it into the mainstrean news lately is this story about an Egyptian teacher who beat his student to death for not doing his homework.

I don’t think this issue needs really in depth analysis (when have I given any, anyway?), but education as a whole remains a huge problem in Egypt. From lack of funding, students’ apathy, poor materials, widespread cheating, focus on final exams as opposed to the actual learning of material,  and this,  unqualified teachers and inappropriate methods of teaching. As the article points out, it is hard to find teachers  as the work is hard and the pay is next to nothing. So you get people who really should not be dealing with kids on a daily basis, and things like this happen.

I also want to point out that hitting children is something that I have seen more than once since I have been in Egypt. While a friend was helping a 10 year old who lives on our street with his homework, he stood slapping the kid in the face when he wasn’t getting the problem right. The kid did not seem happen but certaintly accepted it, so maybe an interesting question would be was the teacher really in the wrong for hitting the student in the first place? Or did he just go way, way overboard in doing it.

“Vindicated Sex Assault Victim Now Accused of Being Israeli, Lying”

December 17, 2008

This is a little bit of a backtrack, but I had wanted to write about this before and did not have a chance to, and just found this article about it in English.

In a water-shed case an Egyptian man was convicted to three years in jail for sexually harassing a woman on the street, something which happens all of the time but is rarely talked about and for which people are rarely held accountable. This case got significant media attention, and has likely encouraged the government’s beginning to deal with the problem. For a bit more info on this check out this Foreign Policy Blog post here.

Some highlights from the article:

“Lawyer Nabih al-Wahash has issued a lawsuit against Rushdi, calling for her arrest for harming national security and lying about her attacker. He argues that Rushdi is Israeli and is attempting to undermine the sentiments of the country.”

“Nagla’a Imam, a lawyer who initially came out in vocal support of Rushdi, is now saying that the 27-year-old filmmaker is an Israeli who is attempting to tarnish Egypt and is using the case for her own personal gains.”

This is another example of disgusting Egyptian anti-Israel sentiment. Not only that, but these accusers are completely ignoring the essential problem, which is rampant sexual harassment in Egyptian society.

Foreign Policy Blog Egypt Year in Review 2008

December 17, 2008

We’ve just put up our 2008 Year in Review for the Egypt Foreign Policy Blog.

You can check it out here:

The Shoe Incident

December 15, 2008

Most of the Egyptians I have spoken with today, despite the fact that they either strongly dislike or hate President Bush, did not think what happened at the press conference yesterday was appropriate. In fact, the majority of them said it was “ayb,” or shameful that an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at the President.

In Egyptian and other Middle Eastern cultures, the bottom of one’s shoe is an extremely dirty thing. No pun intended. Showing the bottom of one’s shoe is considered insulting, so people here do not often cross their legs lest they show the bottom of their shoes. Slapping or hitting someone on the back of the neck is also a very nasty insult, and likely to lead to a serious streetfight. But the worse is probably hitting someone on the back of the neck with one’ shoe, or throwing one’s shoe at someone, which is kind of a combination of the two because one is not only attacking someone else, but with one’s shoe, no less.

I found this interesting because I would not have been surprised had a lot of people supported the reporter’s actions. I get the sense that people here appreciate when someone stands up to the US, especially to President Bush, even if it is just symbolically (or even if they miss). Not necessarily because they hate the US, but because from the other side, it probably seems like the US is a bit of a bully sometimes.

So the fact that this cultural norm overrode this common feeling I thought was interesting. I think most people saw through the pettiness of that action, despite what they think about the American President or the War in Iraq.

More Conspiracy Theories

December 11, 2008

I think I have mentioned before how popular conspiracy theories are in Egypt. Frankly, I am getting a little tired of hearing them. It’s not only that I find most of them offensive on many levels as well as completely unrealistic, but that a lot of people here really truly believe them.  They do not question these ideas. There is no academic or rational reflection.

So I try not to get into these conversations these days if I don’t have to, but the guy in the book store down the street said to me today “oh, you are American? Do you think Bin Laden was the one who brought down the towers?” He said that it did not make sense for Bin Laden to do this because he was a wealthy man, so why would he leave his riches and go live in the mountains? In addition, it is not in Bin Laden’s مصلحة, or interest.

And guess who’s interests it is in? America’s, because they do not have an enemy after the fall of the Soviet Union, “so they bring the towers,” and according to him, it’s as simple as that. In addition, surprise surprise, it’s in the Jews interest, because in order for Israel to survive there needs to be conflict in the Middle East. He said that if there is peace in the Middle East, then all the Jews will return to the countries from which they originally came (including Egypt) because they will not need Israel to protect them any longer. I really did not get that one.

I asked this guy where he got all of these ideas from, and he said “I read it in a book!”

Eid Mubarak!

December 10, 2008

Before I forget, an Eid Mubarak and كل سنة وانت طيبيين to everyone celebrating Eid Al-Adha!

On Egypt and Iran

December 10, 2008

An interesting article from the new UAE paper The National on Egyptian-Iranian relations and the relative influence of both countries on the region.