Monday, January 15, 2007

Random Reflections

And now, some random things I've noticed in Cairo since I got here:
  • Sometimes you think it looks like its going to rain, but then you realize its just the pollution.
  • About 90% of Muslim women in Cairo veil now, by my estimate (pretty rough), up from my (much rougher) estimate of 70% a year and a half ago. This is apparantly part of a greater trend towards orthodoxy and Islamism in Egypt. It was one of the most liberal Arab states 15 years ago, but the trend is reversing.
  • Gallibayas are awesome.
  • If you (a woman) go outside with your hair wet, it is like advertising you just had sex.
  • If you have an unmarried man over to your house, people will assume you are having sex (because you are a foreigner and considered of loose morals. exceptions: wealthy, educated upper classes are more open-minded, and in certain large groups it is acceptable)
  • If you (a woman) look men in the eye, they may think that you are interested in them. Eye contact is a no-no. Also, if you respond to cat-calls, hissing, low dirty comments, loud admirations of your beauty or sex appeal, or marriage proposals, even with a negative comeback, this is considered encouragement. That said, you can throw a fit if they touch you, and people will help you.
  • Be friendly, but not too friendly. You can talk to male shopkeepers, ask for directions (although asking females is preferred) or talk to male cabbies (I haven't seen a female cabbie ever, but I hear they exist), but not too much. Don't ask me what this bit of advice is supposed to mean.
  • The front car of the Metro (subway--and the front 2 cars during rush hours) is reserved for women. It is a great relief, and I love it.
  • Every blonde I have seen portrayed in the media--billboards and TV mostly--is a ho.
  • When you get off the subway at the Sadat stop downtown, an awesome techno version of the James Bond theme blares from the TVs,and it fits very nicely with all the veiled women and men in gallibiyas rushing around. Sometimes there is also a bizarre TV ad where a village of American Indians (who look suspiciously Egyptian) are being raided by T-rexes, and scenes of schools of swimming fish are randomly interspersed.
  • Egyptian Coptic (orthodox) Christians (about 5%? maybe?) have little square crosses tatooed on the inside of their wrists.
  • Alcohol is forbidden and generally frowned upon, but there are still billboards for Heiniken. The beer of Egypt is called Stella.
  • As far as I understand, "respectable" women do not smoke, or smoke hookah. There are, as always, exceptions for the upper classes, and foriegners.
  • Women also do not go to the sidewalk cafes where the men sit around and play chess (or something like that) and smoke and talk.Which is a shame, becuase it looks really fun.
  • PDA is quite frowned upon. Also, dating is not really the way to go. Engagements are more frequently broken off here than in the US, and are kindof modern Egypt's answer to dating. Young couples often go to a neighborhood away from where everyone knows them to have dates. One girl (Sally) told me that while she had dated her now-fiancee for years, she didn't meet his family until right before they got engaged, and that was the norm. But I've also heard that to date like that is not the norm, but she's pretty rich.
  • I've noticed more black people ("real" Africans, I guess) than I did a year and a half ago. Maybe I'm more observant now,but also I think that there are a lot more Sudanese refugees, and immigrants from nearby countries, and the number continues to grow. A lot of Sudanese come to Cairo to escape trouble at home, and get stuck here, whether becuase of poverty or beurocracy, and their lives kinda suck. But also there seem to be more well-off immigrants. And in some neighborhoods (richer ones, I'm guessing), they mix with Egyptians, but sometimes not. Also, some of the younger guys dress like they're from the South Side, which makes me smile and miss Chicago.

Try to take my mass generalizations with a grain of salt. I am not trying to be racist or anything, and I am aware that there are always exceptions. Its just to give you an idea of what life is like here, and to give me an outlet for everything I've been wanting to say.

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