Monday, January 15, 2007

Out with My Egyptian Friend

Thursday (first day the 5:30 call to prayer doesn't wake me up) was more class, and more wondering about apartments. I'm still with Melissa and Liz and Marie. I especially get along with Marie, we had a couple really good talks. They're very encouraging since they've done the "woman alone in Cairo" thing before. They're good for cultural advice, more so than some poeple at school who don't really care how thier lifestyle looks to their Egyptian neighbors.

Also, I went out with my friend Sally,who is Egyptian, who I had met when I was here before and corresponded with on email for awhile. She's recently engaged to Mahmoud. She is studying French lit at AinShams University, and he works for GE out in Heliopolis. Her English is pretty good, her French is great, and his English is really good. So, she picked me up where I was waiting for her outside AUC (she drives, in Cairo, which is impressive in and of itself, although she isn't a very good driver and has no sense of direction--not that I'd do any better) and we dropped her best friend and two random girls that "we dont' like at all" off somewhere else downtown. She wears a headscarf now that she is engaged (because her hair is now only for her husband to see, not other men) but she hates it and its always falling down. But it was her choice, she says.

We went to the "sporting club" that her family belongs to--there are a lot of these in Cairo, where there is usually a pool, and sports fields, and places to relax. I think hers--Nedi Ahli ("the club of the century") is one of the nicest. We sat on this very nice terrace and talked about boys, our families, my experience coming here, etc. She says she wants to travel, to live in the States, where there is more "liberte" and life isn't so "complicated." Hm. Anyway, she's way cool. Then her fiancee came. As I got to talk to him, and since he spoke good English and works with a lot of foriegners, it was nice to be able to be friends with and trust an Egyptian male, as so far I have been avoiding them.

The 3 of us went to her grandma's house, in an old part of downtown. Her parents grew up across the street from each other. I watched her and Mahmoud flirt, learned a ton of colloquial Arabic, was fed so much Egyptian food I almost burst, talked and tried to understand what was going on in Arabic, and had a good time. Then it was 9:30 and her mom and 5-year-old cousin came, and we went across the street to the Other grandmother's, where there was the weekly "family meeting." Which means they all come to grandma's once a week and eat a lot and the men smoke a lot and everyone talks. These are quite little, dark apartments,the 2nd grandma's living room had light-up framed pictures of Mecca and Medina. We also bought the 5-year-old, Mahmoud (called, hilariously, DooDoo) a light-up Spiderman at the shopfront around the corner. He was adorable,and loved Sally. There were a ton of relatives, and grandma #2, called Cookie, forced me to eat even more sweets. Which I managed.

Everyone has these cute nicknames. Its like they pick one or two consonants from their name and add a sing-song vowel sound. DooDi, Cookie, Nini, etc. Even Amy is a common nickname--for Iman. Sally and her cousin played with thier cell phones, downloading songs. They listen to the absolute worst of American pop, along with lots of romantic Arabic hits. Mahmoud found an English-language radio station in the car for me, it was kindof comforting. Its funny to see girls in head-scarves sing along to songs like, "get your body on the floor," and Shakira and the like. I tried to tell them that not all American music is like that. I also told them what "doodoo" means in America, and Mahmoud (the fiancee, also nicknamed Doodoo) demanded that he not be called that anymore. Anyway, I had a great time, and they dropped me off at the Metro after making further plans--I might go to Alexandria with thier family, and lots of other around-Cairo plans.

On the Metro I didn't make it to the women's car, so it was a bit awkward with everyone staring at me, but I successfully ignored it and no one bothered me. Then in the taxi for the last jaunt of my voyage, I saw an Opera program in the bag of the woman next to me (the taxis put in as many people as possible going to similar destinations), and it turns out she is an opera singer, and she told me to go to the performance. So I was kindof star-struck, but I made plans to go on Sunday, if I could find someone to go with. And then I stayed up late, reading. Most of my anxiety is gone, meeting Sally and her family and friends was amazing, and I feel much more comfortable now.

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