February 24, 2009

My roommate’s English student, whom I have mentioned before, came over for tea the other night after their lesson. I was actually a bit sick from what I think was some bad Nile fish, but we were hanging out and we got to talking about Mohammed’s education at Al-Azhar, where he takes classes. We asked if he is taking a Quran class and he said that he is not because it would be too easy for him. I asked why and he said that he has actually memorized the whole Quran so of course such as class would be boring for him. Many religious Muslims do this and they start at a young age; Mohammed is 17. He and I are friends and I thought it would be ok if I gave him a little “quiz,” mostly because I had never really seen this type of learning in action. I asked him if it wouldn’t mind reciting a bit for us and he said he would be happy to do so. I picked a sura (a chapter) of the Quran which we had been talking about in class the other day and which was neither the beginning nor the end of the Quran (because I thought that might be easier to remember) and asked him if he would recite it. He simply said, “sure.” He preceded to recite the whole thing. It was pretty amazing. That is some serious religious devotion, and I really respect him for it.

Breaking News: “The Human Side of Hosni Mubarak”

February 20, 2009

Breaking front page news from Wednesday’s edition of the oldest Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram.

الصفحة الأولى

44633 ‏السنة 133-العدد 2009 فبراير 17 ‏22 من صفر 1430 هـ الثلاثاء

‏ موقف إنساني للرئيس مبارك

‏تعرض المصور الفوتوغرافي أحمد عفيفي المرافق للرئيس مبارك في زيارته للبحرين إلي حادث بسيط خلال مراسم توديع الرئيس في مطار البحرين‏,‏ حيث تعثر وسقط علي الأرض وأصيب بجرح قطعي فوق حاجبه‏.‏

وقد بادر الرئيس مبارك بالتوجه إليه علي الفور للاطمئنان عليه‏,‏ وطلب من مرافقيه معالجته والاطمئنان عليه حتي استقل الطائرة عائدا إلي القاهرة‏.‏

One of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s photographers fell and got a cut above his eyebrow; Mubarak rushed over to help him and called for backup. So happy to see the president’s “human side.”

Ayman Nour Released

February 19, 2009

Check out Matt Axelrod’s post on the release of Egyptian politico Ayman Nour at the Foreign Policy Association Egypt Blog.

I also have a post, albeit a little less interesting, on traffic accidents in Egypt.

Coming to America

February 2, 2009

I just wanted to quickly share something that I hear often from average Egyptians I meet on the street.

Today we went to our local “Fuji film” store to scan my writing homework to send to my professor. We spoke for a minute with Osama, who works in the store and is probably is his mid to late twenties and is unmarried. He asked where I was from in the States and then told me that he has family in California. He said they have been there for forty years and are happy but do not have very much money. I asked him if he has every visited the US. He said no, rubbed his fingers together in the universal $ sign, and said he wished he could go.

Again, the socio-economic culture in Egypt does not afford many of its citizens the opportunity to leave the country for the US or Europe to either work or to “start a new life.” At least half of the Egyptians I meet-those who are not students at AUC-want to move to the US or Europe in order to work, but are completely financially incapable (the majority of students who go to AUC have either already been to the US or likely have the financial means to go) . It is easier for Egyptians to go to other countries in the region, most often the Gulf, to earn money and then come back to Egypt to start their own businesses, help provide for their families, etc. The New York Times and other papers have written extensively on this.

Anyway, it feels akward sometimes to come from such a privileged place when I am speaking with friends on the street whose unattainable dream is to move to my country.