My Dad Visits Egypt!!!
Today, I completed my first Egyptian marathon (unfortunately, I’m speaking metaphorically because I have been told I cannot run through the streets of Egypt, unless of course I am running after foul and falafel or from Morsi). My Egyptian marathon was a linguistic feat of 7 hours of exclusively speaking colloquial Egyptian Arabic, 2 further hours of formal Arabic and 4 hours of formal homework, and 7 hours of meandering through Muhataram (a downtown neighborhood).
The program assigns each of us a language partner to meet with us one-on-one to practice our ameya or colloquial Arabic. Hands down this is one of my favorite aspects of the program. Not only does she endure my stumbling Arabic, but teaches me expressions, vocab, and slang while exploring local youth aspects of the city. For our first meeting, a month ago, she has took me around her favorite area, which is the downtown right by the University of Alexandria, highlighting all the gorgeous architecture. Books in Arabic and English caught our eye on a street with vestibules of used books. Subsequently, I am inching through my first easy Arabic book with the leading role going to my dictionary!
After this marathon, I have to admit I slipped into English-country as my Dad visited for 3 days! We had a great time milling around the old part of the city (a much poorer region than we see on our daily commute), the Citadel, Muhataram, the Bibliotheca, a Coptic cemetery, San Stefano, and every conceivable technology shop (in desperate search of an Apple computer charger—only to discover the city of Alexandria is decidedly discriminatorily against Mac laptops, understandably). I loved exploring with him and showing him how though demonstrations may be occurring in a part of the city, life proceeds as normal. The news never shows the normal life continuing one street over, only the masses and crowds in the thick of it all. Insha’allah his witness and testimony will reassure my family and anyone whom I have unintentionally worried! Of course violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault do happen and are a problem, but one that the rest of the world faces alongside Egypt. Recently demonstrations have been held to spread awareness about sexual harassment and non-violence. In this way demonstrations have been the means and avenue through which a myriad of sentiments can be expressed. As a result, emerging on the streets is not exclusively an anti-Hosni Mubarak act but a non-exclusive forum that is self-critical and inter-discursive. Along a similar vein, graffiti presents a technologically free public discourse open to more Egyptians than the social-network connected youth. While it does not seem to be an accurate poll of public opinion (because for example the Black Block marked all of the city seemingly overnight without garnishing the same proportion of support from the people) it does display the conversation and who is participating. Propaganda and graffiti are huge topics that I will lightly sprinkle throughout my post of my weekend trip to Cairo, insha’allah, as I have been finding them so fascinating!!