Thursday, May 10, 2012

Walk Like An Egyptian

Here we go again with the chameleon adapting to her cultural environment. I went to leave the house wearing my bindy and my friend said to me,

"Umm I would not wear that."

"Why not?"

"Because you Look Egyptian and you will be treated like a local including paying less money for things."

"Okay I will take it off."

I wanted to experiment for the day without the bindy and see what happens.  It turns out he was right- everyones was speaking Arabic to me and just thought I was Egyptian.  Not wearing a veil, I thought they would maybe pick up that I was a tourist, but most people thought I was Egyptian. 

First Impressions of Cairo:

I am not sure what I expected  Cairo to look like, but perhaps I was confusing it with Dubai.  Of course, the real beauty is outside Cairo I know, but I just thought the architecture of the buildings would be better, but it is quite old.  They even have the burnt building from the Egyptian revolution still up behind the Nile river near the upscale hotels.  There is controversy about tearing it down.  The nile is nice I guess, but nothing spectacular. 

The Tahrir square is full of political banners and tents(where protesters sleep).  There are still protests going on in Egypt and actually they are right now in the middle of elections for a new president(big time in Egypt for me to be here).  The previous president, Hosni Mubarak, was in office for 30 years and per the Egyptian Revolution- he finally got the boot out of office.  My Egyptian family says that he was an awful, corrupt president and they are hoping for someone better in office-someone Islam with a "religious direction"

Chevrolet cars, ford, Hyundai, Honda, traffic lanes, all American fast food chains(yuck), malls and construction for more malls(Egypt influenced by Western culture no good), fresh juice on the streets, stands with fresh pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, falafels are back(yum!), the people are very kind and helpful(thank my higher power for this), and there are few tourists. 

Walking the streets, I wear a traditional Indian long sleeve top with my arms, legs, chest, fully covered, and people are staring. Men are approaching asking, "Where I am from?" I try to be very polite, but disengage because I know where my friendliness can lead. A man is carrying a pile of chairs on his back in the middle of the street and drops them all after staring at me. His friend knocks him in the head and we just sit staring at each other laughing.

A young boy from the museum I see on the street while I am buying some pumpkin seeds. I tap him on the shoulder to say "Hello" again and we walk together sharing pumpkin seeds and he shares his 7up with me. He does not speak English, but is so adorable. He originally thought I was Egyptian so he was speaking Arabic to me. 

On the bus heading to meet my friend, I get teased on my an Egyptian lady. 

Priscilla teased? If anything it would be me doing the teasing and bullying-tables turned around and I did not like it at all.  I think what happened is that she thought I was Egyptian and I was ignoring her questions when I responded with " I don't know." or "No Arabic, English." The girl was trying to take my notebook and mess with my camera. The bus driver started yelling at her and then another guy was shouting at her and a disagreement between all of them. Priscilla is sitting on a little stool next to the bus driver and these people are all arguing back and forth-quite uncomfortable when you know you are the cause of the disagreement.  They are speaking Arabic, but I know what they are saying. "Why are you messing with the tourist from America, this looks bad for tourism and it will make her think badly of us." So many times I can not understand, but I just know what conversation is taking place-psychology.  The bus driver says, "I am sorry." "I am sorry." I kindly smile and say, "No problem, No problem."  

And this is just the beginning of the adventure..... 

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