Amidst a sort of "angsty" time here in Egypt, I had a great day yesterday. I am in the awkward phase right after being ecstatic to get here and right before feeling comfortable living here. It's most frequent thoughts are "What do I do with myself now?" and "Oh, I'm in Egypt." Degrees of homesickness and tears vary depending on if I have enough cell phone credit to hear Papi's voice on the answering machine, or if I'm watching Finding Nemo. So yesterday, I woke up in my crater-like bed after an emotional night. The day would heal, الحمد لله al-hamdu-lillah.
I took the tram a few stops to Ibrahimiyya, a neighborhood full of shops and souks. Elley (my new friend from Tufts) and I perused the shops, and I brought a pair of sandals from a man who proudly told us he'd been smoking cigarettes for 50 years. I guess if you're a Muslim with no sex and alcohol, you gotta have one vice, right?
After shopping, plenty of stares, and a 30-cent tram tride, we met up with a group of friends back at the Medina, the student housing complex. This group included myself, Elley, our sweet حلو friends Molly, Abe, and Chelsea from Middlebury, Chelsea's parents, "Doctor" Mata, an American studying here, and Karim, our Egyptian friend. It has become a theme for our group to pile anywhere from 6-9 people in Karim's car while listening to techno at outrageous decibels, so we did just that all the way to the Citadel, the fortress on the tip of the Corniche guarding the city. It was built by a Mamluk named Qaitbay, and has weathered many a storm, unlike its former neighbor, the Pharos lighthouse, one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
It is mostly just cool for its stature; there's not much inside of it. It officially closed before we had the chance to walk the ramparts, so we pretended to be foolish tourists who didn't know any better. This ended up paying off, as we sweet talked/bribed some policemen to let us tour the outside. Ah, the (occasional) joys of corruption and selfishness. Anyway, that was a humorous treat, and the view of Alex and el-bahr (the sea) was well worth it.
We then sat on the water in a nearby cafe, looking out at the fleet of fishing ships and the pink hue of the sky over the citadel. Dinner was next. And how interesting it was! Karim exchanged words with the waiter, and after some initial confusion, we were led to a room to "choose our dinner". Eating fish in Egypt!! I was prepared for my experience this time and was grossly curious about the array of dead fish, crabs and squid laid before us. We decided on 2 large fish, who looked pretty displeased with the whole situation, and then we ate them. They were damn good, in fact, the best fish I've ever had. I share with you Fish #1 cooked, but check Facebook for more graphic photos.
After dinner, we ditched the rents and headed to The Mermaid, one of the few places where it is appropriate for sexes to mingle, alcohol to be drank, and booties to be shaken. And we did all of those things, almost all 35 of us from the program. There were a bunch of our Egyptian friends with us, too, and it was amusing to show them that youthful and lusty side of American culture. We laughed and sweated hard. It was a perfect end to an extremely pleasing day.
Today, I woke up with a sore back, and 24 pages of reading about Islam's clash with modernity. In Arabic. FML. 12 hours later, my back still hurts, and 5 pages of laborious reading have made my brain like the mush we eat in the dorm's cafeteria. لكن بكرة يوم جديد But tomorrow is a new day, lekin bukra yowm gadeed.
و انا في مصر. And I'm in Egypt. Ana fee Masr.