Sunday, November 15, 2009

Egyptian Wedding Celebration

Hany invited me to his cousins wedding celebration. The party happens the night before the wedding so it was just the grooms family and friends. As the only white people there, we were of course an attraction. The celebration was in some back streets where they had set up a bunch of chairs, a dj stand, a live band stand and a number of lights. This all surrounded a dance area at the intersection of the two alleys. The music was playing, but no one was dancing so the groom's father invited us up to dance. We quickly became the center of attention and got the party started. Soon after we began dancing, the women closed in and made a circle. When we finished dancing, others began to as well. Mostly men dancing with men, only a few women danced all night. At one point, a neighbor came out on his balcony and threw candy and cakes down for the kids. Everyone was very happy and those of us who were dancing took turns gyrating our way into and out of the circle.

Dinner and cakes were served and the dancing continued for hours. While the adults were sitting and eating the kids began to dance. This was there one chance to be part of the dancing, at other times they were pretty much pushed out of the dance area. We left after a few hours, but I was told that the party will go all night and that at some point, the groom is covered in henna and hit six times with a stick by his father. He then hits his younger brother six times and so on. The mother gets six kisses from the groom.


The other day, my shower decided to start running on its own, the faucet was off, but water was coming out. I played with it and nothing changed so I called my landlord. While on the phone with him the water stopped. So I told him not to worry about. 1 hour later the water started again. I tried playing with it and it wouldn't stop, so while we waited for a plumber we decided to collect the water because eventually we were going to run out.

Turns out the plumber couldn't come until the next day. Once I heard this I decided to play with it some more and in doing so I discovered a brilliant way of stopping the water. I turned the faucet all the way to hot (while still in the off position) and then shut off the hot water heater. This seemed to work, the water stopped flowing. I then went the bathroom and when I went to wash my hands in the bathroom sink and turn on the faucet guess where the water came out got it the shower faucet and not the sink faucet. At this point I kind of laughed and said ok, well the pipes must be connected because they're in the same room. No biggie.

Later that day I went to make some food, I tried washing the vegetables in the kitchen sink, but no water came out. That's right, it was coming out of the shower faucet! So turns out all my water sources are connected and when the plug in the shower faucet breaks, it prevents water pressure from building strong enough to force the water elsewhere. The plumber eventually came and solved the problem and now my kitchen water pressure is better than ever, but my shower's pressure is worse than ever.

Egypt vs. Algeria soccer game

Right now countries around the world are trying to qualify for the world cup, in many cases group play in winding down and teams are winning their spots. Egypt is in the midst of the qualifying round and had the last group match last night. It was against Algeria, a hated soccer foe. Algeria was 1st in the group and Egypt was 2nd. Egypt had to win by 2 goals to force a one game neutral site playoff or win by 3 to qualify for the cup and knock Algeria out.

A little history lesson now...
Algeria and Egypt have historically been two of the African soccer powerhouses. This has forced a bitter rivalry between the two nations. In past matches, Egyptian fans have thrown rocks at the Algerian coach and injured 4 players in the process. In I think it was 1989 when the teams played in Cairo, a fight broke out in the hotel the Algerians were staying in and an Egyptian lost his eye in the mayhem. This resulted in an international arrest warrant for one of the Algerian players who is now a de-facto prisoner within his own country. Here's a good read on the rivalry

In anticipation of this game, the US embassy issued its first warden's statement that was sent via email to all registered Americans here. The message warned against going to the area of the stadium let alone the game due to heavy traffic and the possibility of crowds becoming violent. So what did I do, yup you guessed it, I bought myself a ticket to the game. Four of us went and as soon as we got out of the taxi we became the center of attention. We had red shirts on, had our Egyptian flags with us and got our faces painted. We made some Egyptian friends and then went off to find a way into the stadium. One police officer told us we had to go around the corner so we did, but shortly after doing so we saw a huge crowd of Egyptians running towards us so we decided we should turn around and move with the crowd. We eventually played the dumb American card and didn't speak any Arabic. We told the police we were American and little by little we were able to get past each riot police barricade. This worked until the final gate where we just had to push our way with the crowds of Egyptians forcing our way though the police line.

The game itself was awesome. Egypt scored in the 2nd minute of play to go up 1-0. Soon after the Egyptians just missed another chance. It went into half time with the Egyptians far outplaying Algeria, but only winning 1-0. In the second half, Algeria played a very defensive game. If they lost 1-0 it didn't matter, they were still making the Cup. Egypt's play was horrendous in the second half. People even began leaving when there were 5-10 minutes left in the game. 6 minutes of stoppage were added to the end and in the 5th minute, Egypt scored and the stadium erupted. Flags were waving everywhere, people jumping everywhere and random flares were being lit. By winning 2-0 Egypt has forced the playoff game this Wednesday night.

After the game the streets were mayhem, but a fun and friendly mayhem. Flares were going off everywhere, people were dancing with blowtorches, dancing on top of buses and trucks and cars. Dancing in the streets blocking traffic. Women were also the most liberated I had seen since being here. There were car fulls of girls and women driving around. Women dancing in the streets. We met up with some Egyptians and partook in the shenanigans. We started in Heliopolis where there was just a big gathering in the streets, as it started to wind down, we walked up towards where the car doughnut spinning competition had begun. From there we caught a ride to another party, we did the ride in true Egyptian style. Two people were sitting in the open trunk, three were sitting on the roof and I was sitting on the hood with another friend. We stopped and joined the party in front of the President's house and then hopped back on the car to move onto another street party. This one was a big fire circle in the street. We danced and partied with the Egyptians outside and inside the fire circle. Last night is by far one of the best memories and experiences of my life. We had started partying for the game at about 2pm and I eventually got home at 5am.

Here are some links about the game and pictures from CNN. Picture 2 of the guy leading the cheer, I was sitting to the upper right of him

Lesson learned from this day...don't listen to US Embassy warnings, HAHA, just kidding Mom. All of you please cheer for Egypt to win on Wednesday night so I can have another night of crazy street partying that will be even crazier than last night.


I've been wanting to get out to the Saqqara Pyramids for a while now, but just haven't bothered to do so. I finally did the other day and boy was it an adventure. I took the metro to Helwan, the last stop on it and just across the river from Saqqara. This is by far the cheapest way of getting there because any metro ride you take is only 1 pound (20ish cents). The cab ride should have been short and pretty cheap, but not with the cab. I told him Saqqara Haram (Saqqara Pyramids) and of course he said ok and started driving. After a while it felt as though we had been driving too long and even though I had kept telling him Saqqara and he said yes the Giza pyramids were appearing in the windshield. Giza is 11 Km south of Cairo and Saqqara is 30 Km. So this cab driver drove 20 Km north instead of taking me across the river. I took a metered cab thinking it would be better for this ride so I don't have to argue my way out of a tourist price. Well, not with this driver. I eventually had to call Hany to tell him in Arabic that I wanted Saqqara Pyramids and the cab driver than told me not to worry about the meter. Well that was nice of him until we finally got to Saqqara (70 Km later) and he wanted what the meter said. I told him no gave him some money and walked into the entrance area. Well he followed me and got someone who spoke English to harass me about it. I told the guy what happened and how much I paid and he basically told the cab driver to get lost.

Now on to the ruins. They were great! A old tomb that was still in pretty good shape that I walked though. Then I was taken on a private tour of some other tombs with amazing hieroglyphics on the walls. Some were in color others were the chiseled letters. The famous pyramid at Saqqara is the step pyramid. It looks and is small compared to the Giza pyramids, but when I climbed up it I realized how big it was. In the picture of me on it I look like a tiny speck. The Saqqara complex was more interesting than Giza because you can just walk around and pretty much do as you please. Nobody stops you and if they do you talk to them and they let you do what you want, sometimes a little bribe is also required.


Halloween here was fun only because the Marines hosted a party at the Embassy, but it really made me miss being back in the States. It's just not the same here. I mean if you really want to stick out walking through Cairo, just wear a Halloween costume. The costumes at the party were also kind of lame, but then again it's not like there are costume stores in Cairo. I know of one and it's way outside the city in the new expensive suburbs. I think the most popular costumes were Cleopatra and wanna be Cleopatras and for the guys it was dressing as security guards which meant they wore a suit and sunglasses. I on the other hand was so creative (not really) I tried to dress as Steve Carrel from Little Miss Sunshine, I looked like him, but I don't think too many people got what the costume was. Costumes here are far less sexy as well, the promiscuous costumes here exposed shoulders and knees. Although the costume were lame, it was a good party, by far the best dance music selection a dj has ever made.


Alex is a great place! The water is blue and beautiful and the pace of life seems a little slower and less hectic. The drivers are faster, but the taxis don't argue for more money every time you get out. Cafes were more European rather than just chairs in alley ways.

My parents and I stayed at a hotel with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, just being able to sit out and catch a sea breeze was enough of a vacation for me. We did a little shopping, checked out the new library which was incredible, went to the beach and went to a Roman ruin.

At the ruins, the sky started getting really dark and I looked up to see a big black storm cloud rolling in. It was the first time I had seen such a thing in Egypt. There was a crack of thunder and it started pouring. People were running everywhere, but I was all but dancing in the rain. RAIN!! I hadn't seen rain in nearly 2 months. The only catch to Egyptian rain is that it rains dirt. There is so much dust and dirt in the air that the raindrops catch it and bring it down. We could see the dirt on our clothes and on all the cars.

The seafood, as imagined, was fantastic. We got fresh caught and cooked shrimp and calamari and hundreds of salads the one night. By far the best meal I've had here.

The train ride back and forth to Cairo was really interesting, we got to see the traditional peasant lifestyle and things were green. It really was a welcome break from the desert and dirtiness of Cairo.

I almost forgot, while in Alex, someone else asked Dad if his beard was religious.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Swine Flu Round 2????

I know rumors are often misleading and false, but this was is just too excited to not buy into. Apparently, Egyptian health departments are keeping the actual number of students with swine flu like symptoms somewhat concealed, but a classmate's friend's mom (truly rumor status now) works for one of the clinics and has said that the Health Ministry is waiting until after the Eid holiday in late November (Thanksgiving time) to close international universities for the semester!

This would result in all my classes meeting in cafes, through skype, etc. All in all it doesn't eliminate any class time, but I'm sure it will once again change the workload.

But don't worrying, I'm not oinking yet!