Imberah my 1-on-1 professor was late. As always, I expect nothing of it, since, let’s be honest, Arab time is a flimsy and malleable thing. But then she phones me and confesses to being laid up in bed with a sore back… meskeena. Of course Veronica and I will find our way to your sha’a so you can sit comfortably while you lecture us. Meshii, eshuf hadratik kamaan showea. So we casually jump into the afternoon zehma, garnering some good stares along the way. We make it to her turf, and proceeded to discuss the strength of Copic nuns and how the overdose of testosterone in men’s brains prevents them from being successful leaders. Women really should rule the world. Can you fathom the challenge of dedicating yourself to dialogue with God, in a cave for decades, at that?! Umne Yirini grew miracles from air, and my Usteza Hiba guides me with her t3leem down an unknown path. There is something about this place, perhaps everyone’s inherent religiousness, that leads me to not only desire God, but to see him in Everything around me.
Dinner includes awkward conversation, liver (a spicy tang), and dead cockroaches. But I like it when those at first cumbersome conversations turn down greener paths; it is so rewarding, so I keep at it, and end up genuinely laughing. I’ll take that.
But sitting down in a bar that would be divey in America but is just classic in Egypt with some good and familiar people is heaven. Chelsea, Amanda, Hima, Chris, later gayeen Dan wi Jon. We let loose about Egypt; even I need to vent, rehash, and we do, passionately. I can barely remember the last time I had a political discussion, so even despite the never-ending frustration that comes with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I am intellectually grateful. Then in walk the Arabs themselves, Karim wi Kholy, Bazooka wi Tabaakh. I feign outrage when Hima offers to sell me to Kholy, who then states he doesn’t want me. I shine because I can understand them and they me. I found Faree’ Marwaha, which involves me, Bazooka and Tabaakh pounding fists and whirring. Beer fills my stomach, laughter my mouth, love the rest of my body.
I wake and prepare for some sensory goodness from Amreeka! On the way to breakfast, I am reminded of the lack of personal space in this country when a woman feels Chelsea up on the tram, meaning (in Egyptian) “Let me by”. Breakfast is a clash of kitchens, with pancakes smeared in Nutella and frowla versus Egyptians strewn all about Khalid’s apartment. I cut strawberries and putz around, and Khalid and I beat Semeh wi Farahaat at Dominos: Team Amreeka Fuck Ya 1, Team Welcome in Masr 0.
Elley and I leave, surrendering ourselves to Alex’s streets, reaching the lengths of Mohatta Raml and crossing over into Manshiyya. We undoubtedly feel comfortable in the city, and we look around shamelessly, seeping any last culture it can offer. I lightheartedly banter with shopkeepers, knowing they will ask my name and then “Wa intii fi3lan gamila.” As if it is original for me to hear "And you are actually beautiful" after introducing myself here. I am unphased, even letting them convince me to by an unk made in damn China. Asking for and comprehending directions is one of the most gratifying experiences I will recall here. Alhamdulillah, begad.
We dip bangar in tahina, wrap our fuul in a3eesh, top off our palette with gibn almost sweet. The simple joy of food at Mohammad Ahmed calls for silence as we compete to finish as much as we can as fast as we can. And all for $2! That will never get old. I feel strangely Egyptian as I lean against a car licking ice cream from Halwiyaat Masr afterward; if only I wasn’t laughing in public while my uncovered hair billowed in the Mediterranean winter wind.
I depart my girlies, heading south to meet Hima & Khalid for our tegriba sakafiyya. The concert turns out to not be classical Egyptian music, but rather your average classical music, although strung by some very good-looking Egyptians. M3lihsh, I was surrounded by good company. Afterward we let the cold night push us around Mohatta Raml, glancing up and around, chit-chatting. We buy popcorn and TinTin adventures in Arabic while staring at the enigma that is an Egyptian wedding. While narkab-ing the tram, Khalid guards my innocence from a gross and inappropriate man; InShaAllah Hima took note and will be a savior to some girls next semester. I allow myself to be unaffected by it as I have been almost all semester; is this dangerous complacency or analytical acceptance?
Tabaakh and Karim and Bazooka are waiting for me, much to the conservative dismay of the soldier guarding the Medina. Haraam, akeed. Damn, I can laugh with those boys, and they can so easily become my boys. Time with them pulls my steps back from leaving Masr’s shore, makes me want to waste nights in ‘ehwas with them. I confess to Karim how much I’ve missed him, that I never stopped caring, that I hate hearing about his moods vicariously. I adore him, for all is irritating idiosyncrasies that somehow make me dramatic, too. I think I slithered into the everest green of his eyes, bypassing the gray he covers himself with. I promise them all I will come back.
I know they will all be waiting.