Friday, February 24, 2012

Recovery, strawberries and little bit of wine

Last weekend, I recall  coming home to my own apartment as Cairo was waking up to a new day. Long nights with wine, discussions and music are downright wonderful, but they do take their toll on you. So, this weekend I'm all about recuperating my tired and sick body, giving it patience, love and a lot of good food. As a result of this decision, this night has been awfully relaxed - and awfully good.

After a good dinner at our usual place (one month in Cairo, and we have "a usual place", that's kind of cute), we bought some wine, some cheesecake and went home. To our apartment. We lit candles, slouched on the couch, put on some good music and read all the books and articles that might be appealing. And ah, if there ever was a thing my body needed, it was this. Cheap Egyptian wine, a chapter about the pillars of Islam and a little basket of strawberries. The usual recipe for relaxation, you know.

Youth knows no pain

Lykke Li is singing how youth knows no pain. So I've decided that neither will I. I'm like a vitamin piñata at the moment - filled to the brink with all kinds of yummy fruits and pills. Birds are chirping outside my window, and I've got some fantastic music on the speakers. All in all, this look like it's going to be one fine day in Cairo. And when you decide that days will be good, they usually get a lot better. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hectic tick tock

Compared to my previous university, student life in Cairo offers quite a different beat and rhythm. The readings are longer, the classes more frequent and the days more hectic. The grasp of the Egyptian winter is still squeezing on Cairo as well, so in the end it's not a surprise that my body decided that a little break would be very much welcome. And when my body wants a break, it simply takes one.

So, after a night of fever and shivers, there was just not a single cell in my body that was eager to attend the Arabic morning class that I start most days with. Somewhat dizzy in my haze of paracetamol and coughing, I decided to check out the medical center of AUC. And man, welcome to the services of a private university. Within an hour, I'd been examined, handed a bag of medications in all kinds of bottles and pills, and found myself on a bus back to my part of Cairo. The security guards at the entrance did not support my plan to take a taxi across the Egyptian capital - "oh, not safe madam, please not" - so after a few minutes of jogging around, they found me a bus. Yes, I got my own bus, just me and my smiling driver.

And now, now I'm just sitting here, as a ball of blankets, pills and tea. Got my fingers crossed for a calm weekend, insha'allah.

Monday, February 20, 2012


One of the words in my Arabic class today, was حرية  - freedom. My professor laughed, and tried to explain the word:
-"Horreya"! Freedom! We tried one year ago, but alas, nothing. Suppression, suppression!

And then she laughed some more, shaking her head, and continuing the class. Outbursts like these tend to pop into conversations every now and then, and I never quite know how to react - do you laugh or do you shake your head and say "better luck next time"?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's allright to be tired

It's allright to be tired. It's okay to spend some time alone. And it's perfectly fine to light some candles, listen to some music and just let your heartbeat come down to a steady rythm. Egypt follows a Friday-Saturday weekend, which means my actual school week is over for now. Reading will continue though, that's how life goes. But for now, I'll just stay here in my bed, with wonderful music in the room and scented candles on the nightstand. Feminism and development in the post-colonized Middle-East can wait, the same goes for arabic adjectives and nouns. For now, I'll just crawl up into some blankets and listen to a good song. And it'll be just perfect.

Explosions in the Sky - First Breath After Coma

A quiet voice in my ear

Last night, eager to get home from a long day amongst the library walls, I took the bus home to Zamalek. The clock was around eight, so the sun had set and nighttime embraced Cairo. Then, as I huddled up in my scarf and headed towards my apartment, a young man snuck up behind me, mumbled to my right shoulder and took off. “Fuck you”, a quiet voice sounded next to my ear. “Fuck you”.

Before I had the time to come up with a sharp answer in Arabic, I was alone again. And it’s not uncommon to have things like this happen to you; no matter how conservative my outfit may be, no matter how much I focus my eyes into the distance or onto the dusty ground. A part of me whispers "accept the culture, accept the rules, relax, resign" - ethnocentrism isn't all that appealing after all. And then there is the part of me that shouts "culture is not something permanent, something cut in stone; it's something dynamic, a part of the world that includes and excludes new signs, habits and norms as the time floats by".

Episodes like this doesn't make me want to pack my stuff and go home though. It makes me want to put my chin out and walk some more. These streets are just as much property of the women, as they are for the men. Having old men purr at you when you walk by can be demotivating in exploring a new city. Me? I just grow more defiant.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A day on the balcony

The sun is bathing my balcony in light, painting my face with a temporary drizzle of freckles. Down on the street a few men are drinking tea, chatting and looking at people passing by. They've been there for hours, just mumbling into the air in a language I still don't understand. After a little while, the rhythmic call of the midday prayer - dhuhr - fills the air with the chanting of "Allahu akbar", and suddenly the city is filled with echoes from various minarets. "God is great, God is great". Cairo is called the city of a thousand minarets, did you know that?

Today has just been a relaxing day on my balcony in Zamalek, my district in Cairo. The weather's wonderful, life is just pretty allright, and the fresh smell of sweet tea has been lingering since I woke up. Life's good.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The pyramids of Sakkara

After almost a month in Egypt, I finally took the time to see a pyramid. It is simply one of those things I feel is mandatory when living in this country, and at least if one is located in the chaotic capital of Cairo. As the strike and all the commotion around the weekend suddenly left us with empty schedules and a few extra days on our hands, we headed south from Cairo, and to the old burial grounds of Sakkara (Saqqara/سقارة)‎.

It is not at all at grand as I imagine the pyramids of Giza will be, but then again, extravaganza and awe isn't always what we're aiming for, is it? The step pyramid of the old pharaoh Djoser is one of the oldest buildings in the world, and even predates the pyramids of Giza. In its glory days of ancient Egypt, the pyramid reached about 62 meters above the ground, but I believe that the teeth of time and sandstorms have done some to those numbers.

"They don't look like much", you might say. It's not all about what your eyes perceive though. These grounds have seen humans come and go for more than 4600 years. Think about all the different kinds of people that have walked in this sand, all the life and death that these stones has witnessed. Imagine that there was a civilization here, that had the means and imagination to build constructions that still would stand, after several millennia. And then try to tell me its not impressive.

A city within a city

So, we went to a mall yesterday. Or another country, hidden inside the borders of Egypt. I'm not quite sure, as it was so big, so crowded, so.. much. The City Stars Mall is located in Heliopolis in the eastern parts of Cairo, and apparently also has a hotel. And a cinema. And just wow.

It did feel a bit strange to head out to a monster-mall, knowing that some parts of Cairo were getting ready for the first anniversary of Mubarak's ousting. But that's how life is in this city and country at the time. There will always be things going on, and we can't participate or know all about it, all the time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finally online in Cairo

For the first time in history, I am now able to report live and direct form my apartment in Cairo. After numerous insha'Allahs here, and a bit of "no, speak Arabic, no English" there, we finally managed to get this place online. 

I understand that a few of my friends and family have worried a bit about our well-being here in Cairo, as the medias presentations of the last days seem rather dramatic. And they are. The situations can be dramatic - but not for us. I personally feel 100% safe here, and even though I've talked to people who'd experienced a few uncomfortable situations, our neighborhood and streets are calm. At times you can feel tension and anticipation, but I've not once felt threatened or stressed. 

If you do want to stay updated though, I think Al Jazeera's live blog from Egypt is okay, in addition to their general news section. For now, I'm going to get a sweet cup of tea, and try to catch up some more news. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

A city of extremes

Cairo has it all. Poverty to your right, and designer bags to your left. Revolution at Tahrir Square, and expats drinking cappuccino in Zamalek. The world has many extremes, but in Cairo they're so obvious it feels a bit overwhelming at times.

My bus ride to school takes about one hour in the morning, an hour where we pass through areas with embassies, and then the dusty streets of Downtown. Looking out of the window we stare at the peripheral areas of Cairo - the City of the Dead - where both living and dead reside among the graves. Minutes later we face New Cairo, an immense building project of malls, offices and private houses with exteriors that has connotations closer to embassies than to a private residence. And then there is our university. Out there, in the desert, with fountains, enormous buildings and a gym the size of a shopping center.

And when the day is over, you jump back on the bus. You look at the whole scenery once more. And then it overwhelms you all over again.
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