While the idea that I have different “lives” across the world is something I resist, It’s true that it’s often hard to forge connections between lifestyles, friends, scenery and activities, which are vastly different. Life as a novella, sometimes seems more fitting.
Showing Jess my street, apartment, favorite juice stands and Sudanese restaurants, (where I can never order quite what I want) Boston, the choices I made to be here and the continuity of my life and identity felt more tangible.
Seeing Jess accept the anomalies of Cairo, hang out in my office and flat, and laugh and argue with my friends, my world felt smaller.
We learned an important lesson in Alex.
Being a tourist during Ramadan is rough.
After catching a bus arriving and enjoying a delicious fish lunch, we set off for the two “touristy” destinations Jess was interested in. The first, Fort Qaitbey, is a citadel built in the 1480s and revamped by Mohammed Ali. According to my guidebook it’s the site of a lighthouse, which was one of the ancient wonders of the world, but was reduced to rubble by earthquakes in 1303.
Remembering the views of the city, fishermen, vivid green algae and salty fresh breeze, I was eager to return too. Upon arrival we learned it had abbreviated hours and we couldn’t enter.
Off to our next destination, Alex’s famous $355 million library, we hoped the guidebook’s 7 p.m. closing time would not disappoint. Hopping out of the cab, unlit windows and closed doors greeted us.
Though our day of being touristy turned into mostly coffee and conversation, it was one of the best. Unlike back in Cairo, where I feel at home, in Alex we were genuinely traveling and exploring together.
Come back to Cairo.
I miss you Jess!!
This Saturday afternoon found the majority of the Resettlement Legal Aid staff chowing down on delicious Iraqi cuisine and learning dubka dancing in one of our translator’s living rooms.
A couple weeks ago I posted a video of some Iraqi friends dancing dubka in a park. Apparently it’s a competitive form of entertainment across the Middle East.
A couple days a go a few of us interviewed young women affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood for stories we are writing. One of the young woman Sondos, invited us out for dinner, along with her sister, Marwa.
They showed us unbelievable kindness and welcome, put up with endless questions (this was not supposed to be an interview!) showed us how to tied headscarves and encouraged a photo shoot. To be fair, they asked their fair share of questions in return. These are the types of friendships which truly lead to cultural understanding. Marwa puts the hijab (headscarf on Rachel). Headscarves are a sign of modesty. They are also a huge part of the culture. Most Muslim women in Egypt where them out of choice. At least here, it’s as much a fashion statement as a profession of religiosity.
Thanks Marwa and Sondos! I look forward to seeing you when I return to Egypt.