Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hanging with Vin Diesel and Jack-Off

We exited Hurrayah in a somewhat drowsy state. It was Thursday night (weekend night cuz they can’t get anything right here)and pretty late. I was pretty full of western beverages and Lima beans (see below), content to go home and sleep both off. (Quick aside, they weren’t Lima beans, but that’s the closest description I can give you. Where most bars put out peanuts, this one put out these disgusting Lima bean substitutes. I ate them tho because I have an eating problem. Which reminds me of a few weeks ago when the bartender at this classy British place, Pub 28, absolutely refused to give me and my roommates another plate of peanuts. Again because I have an eating problem.) Back to exiting Hurrayah. While I was in what Mitch calls in his native tongue the “washroom”, my roommates struck up a conversation with three Egyptians outside. They took an extreme liking to us, and a few alley ways later, we started to be able to understand what they were saying.

One thing that could be understood by both groups was “sheesha”. This excited the Egyptians and we started off quickly through the streets. While traveling in between the donkey carts and taxi cabs we learned more about our new friends. There was Rallah, the only one who could speak understandable English, and is currently at the University in Cairo I believe. You would have to ask Richie though, as those two were holding hands the whole walk so I assume there’s more of a bond there. Then there was Risslaba, who obviously enjoyed curling (and not the kind Mitch enjoys in his native country). Most jacked Egyptian I’ve ever seen. Then there was Achbar. His one but memorable contribution to the night was nicknames. Richie got Vin Diesel, because of his shaved head, tough guy attitude and the beater. Mitch got Jack-Off, for reasons that nobody will ever understand. I was watching Mitchell all night and there was nothing to suggest he had just or was about to jack off. Both names stuck immediately, despite Jack-Off's great efforts.

We ended up in this alley way which turned out to be a sheesha bar, After Eight. One pound sheesha! What could be better? ONE POUND FALAFEL! Not at After Eight, but a store real close by. Needless to say, the night had developed into one of the most fun downtown trips in my time here. In stark contrast to the next night.

We agreed to meet them the next day to see the movie “The Expendables”. I never wanted to see this movie in the first place but decided to go for the experience. At three Risslaba called Ryan and wanted to know if we were there yet. We told him no, had just about woken up but would be there soon. We get there at five. They say they will be there in twenty minutes. I have a few one pound falafels. At SIX THIRTY they show up, saying not to worry the shows at six. We walk to the theater, and they’re not even showing the movie. So we walk to another theater. No movie. And another and another. Finally we get to one where the movie starts at ten, and it is eight. They ask if we want to sheesha. Uh yeah sure. Ok lets go to After Eight again. Wait the place we just walked an hour from? Why, you won’t walk? I mean I’ll walk but it seems a little far, please don’t give me a name like Jack-Off!

So we walked all the way back, sat for ten minutes, then walked back to the theater. It was a good way to see Cairo though, just walking around with three middle class guys. At one point Risslaba and Achbar saw a girl they knew and stopped to talk to her, but twenty minutes later we were back on the hike. All to see The Expendables. Gah.

This weekend I headed out to the Red Sea, a welcome break from the bustle of Cairo’s nightlife. But first, we headed over to St. Anthony’s Monastery. The bus ride was pretty painful; there was this tiny bus and we packed it to capacity. I was prepared to amputate my legs to ease the pain. My mood was such that our tour monk almost met an early demise when he was showing us the ramparts. He was suck a quiet, slow speaker, and then all of a sudden he’d be like why isn’t anyone listening to me? Oh I’m sorry, which monk I’ve never heard of came from which place I’ve never heard of? You’re a joke. Then he showed us a miraculous spring in the middle of the desert. And the less miraculous faucet they built so we could DRINK MIRACLE WATER. I shimmied the line to get to it first, but I still can’t speak Arabic. By the way the water was miraculous because according to Monk Look-At-Old-Stuff it absolutely never rains there. And I believed him until it started raining while we backed out the driveway. Get a real job, like reading resumes.

Then it was just straight up beachin’ it for the next day and half. It doesn’t need a paragraph to explain, I sat on the beach for a day and a half. Also, I drank the most delish banana milk ever. That monk should spend less time making stuff up and more time milking bananas.

An interesting, ongoing story, Risslaba has called Ryan every single day since we’ve met him. The other day I got a call at 2:30 in the morning from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered because I’m lonely. It was Risslaba, wondering why Ryan wasn’t picking up his phone. No idea. Vin Diesel? No idea. Jack-Off? Good night, Risslaba.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Take an Educated Guest

A month ago I got off the plane in Egypt naïve, hungry and pale, ready to conquer the world and learn Arabic on the side. Today I type this more cynical, spilling koushary over the keyboard, and slightly less pale. I climbed the pyramids, journeyed the Nile, and dropped Arabic like a hot falafel.

But it hasn’t been all fun and games! I do occasionally go to classes, which are held here very occasionally. Now, having been to three classes of each subject, I feel comfortable summing up the Egyptian style of schooling through my experiences. That’s right; in the month I’ve been here I’ve been to 12 classes. Deal with it.

My first class is Romantic Literature. I thought it would be like reading rom com scripts, but that is far from the case. Sarah Jessica Parker is not in a single one and there are almost no montages of dates gone wrong. My professor is a character. American by birth, space cadet by nature. His unspoken goal in life is to use only 50 point Scrabble words in each sentence. Invariably, he always falls one word short, and pronounces that last ten point word with a look of utter disgust on his face, like he just swallowed one of the flies that are a constant distraction to my education. A sentence of his resembles, “Currently, interpreting Rousseau provides abundant opportunities toward introspection for the um, errr, aggghhh, reader.” I’ve never met an eccentric man as boring as he.

But hark, readers, I’ve fallen in love! Perhaps it’s the Romantic Literature course, or maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of aloneness that the desert offers, but she is all I ever think about lately. I do not yet know her name, but she works behind the falafel counter, at the restaurant Al-Omda. Al-Omda translates to “the mayor”, and she certainly governs my heart. It started when she handed me my change; I couldn’t help but to notice her skin possesses the gentle texture of floured pita bread. As I looked closer, her skin is the color of kneaded chickpeas, fried for 2-3 minutes in cooking oil at 360 degrees, which is about as hot as my face feels when speaking with her (our dialogue almost always entails “Two falafels please.”) I could not catch her scent over that of her trade, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is impossible for me to smell falafel without associating her face with the dish. And the laugh! There was a sauciness to her cackle when I tried to order koushary after 5 pm. Not the sesame seed flavored Tahini sauce which so often graces my lunch, but a richer sauce, something more akin to the garlic-chili sauce that you have to ask for, the kind only passionate Al-Omda lovers know. While the feel, sight, sound and smell of the object of my affections pleases me, what has captured my heart is the desire to learn of the fifth sense, and the more intense lust for the answer to be falafel. O! The pains and pleasures my habeeby gives me!

That actually is just an example of the kind of reading I’m subjected to in my Romantic Literature course. I wrote it in class (BAMF) instead of interpreting his interpretations. While bearable in short doses, imagine hundreds of pages of that nonsense. When half my book, Rousseau’s Confessions, fell out of the binding and blew into the Nile during the cruise, my only concern was I had added the most vile trash to an already endangered body of water. To self-project a bit, Rousseau shamelessly self-promotes and glorifies the most trivial activities. If he had engaged in a juice drinking competition, you could bet he would include it in his book.

My second and easiest class is Ethics in Media. Everyone knows ethics; it’s applying them that’s the hard part. My Egyptian professor is the communications point person for the highest UN official in Egypt is kind of a scary thought. One minute she damns Rupert Murdoch’s CNN forays in China (on the grounds that he is a communist/robber baron) and the next she insists there is no free press in America because of the Zionist lobby. She brought up the well known example of when the Zionist lobby threatened to bankrupt the New York Times should it print anything favorable to Palestine (link not found) as well as a few other indisputable pieces of militant Zionism. Here, she made eye contact with me, and perhaps thinking that there is a chance I’m Jewish, made it clear she hates Zionists, not Jewish people. I nodded understandingly, but not so understandingly to further her suspicion of my ancestry. Part of me felt I should’ve spoken up about how I perceive the press in America, which certainly isn’t favorable but I have never been a believer in the Zionist plots. But, not really caring, I didn’t. So I compromised by not yelling anything anti-Semitic. And thus adhered to my ethics.

My next class is Magazine writing. This is actually a delightful class in which the teacher is American and the focus of the course she decided will be food writing. Ever since she announced this I’ve been gorging myself in the name of research. Our professor is extremely enthusiastic, speaks overly dramatically, and always holds the end of her sentences for an inordinate amount of tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime. Additionally, she fails to pronounce “D’s” at the end of words. This style of speaking wouldn’t be that noticeable, except the author we are reading is Jonathon Gold. Hence, every time she reads his name it sounds like she’s announcing an Italian soccer game, and this happens anywhere between 50-100 times a class. I’ve started finishing her sentences for her. She thinks I’m trying to prove my intelligence, but I’m really trying to protect my sanity.

My next class is International Development, again taught by Egyptian. Just more American bashing here. Apparently we built their country wrong and that’s why nothing works. Oh so that’s why. It has NOTHING to do with everyone taking a month off in the middle of the year? Or your maybe-I’ll-show-up-today-for-my-job-as-the-only-employee-of-the-post-office attitude? To be fair to my Egyptian classmates, they often cite their nation’s work ethic as a reason for the lack of development. In fact this cause didn’t even occur to me until they said it, but once I heard it, I started to connect the dots.

Congrats to Mike Kelly for being the youngest person in my recent memory accepted to med school, and for Emily Heltzel getting a prestigious internship-to-job gig at Customs and Border Protection Agency, putting her I think 16th in the line for the Presidency. And at the rate the world is getting angry at the Zionist USA, the first fifteen might not want the job anymore. What’ve the rest of you been doing in my absence? I expect everyone to have the next ten years of their lives accounted for when I get back.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Legendary and lecherous Manchester United striker George Best once said, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Before this weekend I could have said the same about water, falafel, and taxi rides. But the $400 dollars I spent on the cruise from Aswan to Luxor was the best $400 I ever spent, and that includes the broken cuckoo clock I bought in the Black Forest.

It only lasted for three days and two nights, but I would’ve paid the price of admission just for the food. In sharp contrast to the involuntary fasting I have participated since my arrival, the cruise offered buffet-style meals; it was like TDR on a boat. So I gorged myself on dates, various forms of chicken and meat, and made the dessert table my own. I know my eating habits is not the primary reason you’re reading this, but I feel not mentioning my number one past-time would be entirely misleading, lying by omission if you will.

But now to the adventure! We left AUC at 3:30 am Friday and our flight landed in Aswan around 8. When I say Egypt is a backwards country, I’m not being condescending. They call south Egypt “Upper Egypt” and the Nile flows north, defying the laws of gravity. Also, there are no human rights and they shut down the whole country for a whole month to celebrate Ramadan (which, Ham d’Allah, ended over the weekend). There, that’s me being condescending. We got off to a wild start by looking at some dams. Spirits were low, as we were tired and hot. And when I say hot, I mean rul hot. Aswan is on the ominously named Tropic of Cancer, which has been described as the equator’s little brother. And when I say spirits were low, we were looking at dams.

The day took a positive turn though when we were ferried out to Philae temple. It was here that it first hit me how awesome ancient Egypt is. These guys were dragging and decorating stones thousands of years ago, and here I am sitting on it today, still being able to make out what they drew. I can’t read my handwriting five minutes after writing it. It also became apparent I was not going to be able to understand our tour guide, so all historical information in this post is pure speculation.

After seeing the temple we checked into the ship, Princess Sarah. We grabbed some grub and then were ferried out to a Nubian village. The Nubians are the native people living below the Egypt you normally think of, though there seems to be a fare bit of overlap. The ride out there was probably the most entertaining part. Within a minute of leaving the dock our boat brushed another boat, sending the bumpers flying into my classmates sitting on that side of the boat. Then we passed a boat of what I took to be aspiring Somali pirates, who apparently have no fear of crocodiles or disease and were having the times of their lives splashing around the Nile. Then we were attacked by these submarine children, who more or less popped out of the water and foam boards and attached themselves to our boat. They sang such classics as Row, row ,row your boat and the Wheels on the bus. Then they asked for money and it was awkward so we shooed them away and on to the next boat. I didn’t come to Egypt to make friends, damn it.

Finally, after some very scenic landscapes, we arrived in the Nubian village. Here camels were much more prevalent than cars and it seemed like we were more in Africa than the Middle East. We were told we were going to be taught the Nubian alphabet, which I immediately tried to drop and pick up Nubian Prose, but that class was already full. So we learned the Nubian alphabet in the form of a song and then went to sit in this common area to drink tea. While sipping tea, we were informed that there were crocodiles in our midst! And sure enough, in this covered pit, there were crocodiles. And they even offered us a chance to poke them with long sticks! Holding half-dead lions one week, poking caged crocodiles the next. I’ve turned into quite the wilderness man. Next weekend I’m hoping to sit on a dead hippo.

We returned to the ship, had dinner, then went to see what the night life in Aswan looked like. We went to a market, suspiciously labeled “Tourist Market”, and checked the place out. Everyone is trying to sell you everything, and one guy shouted “How can I take your money!” I think he was going for how can I help you, but I think his broken English was much more clear. What was most shocking was how much mariwuana we were offered. It is forbidden in Egypt and the drug laws are extremely harsh, decades in jail for any kind of possession. This kind of strict drug policy probably explains Call of Duty and Halo’s lack of popularity over here. But I guess Aswan parties hard and the crew I was rolling with admittedly do look like stoners. It was funny though cuz whenever we said no they always acted so confused, like they had no idea they had even asked a question. We ended up hanging out at this boys only café, which I know sounds similar to most parties held at Connecticut Heights, but in this case girls weren’t allowed much less invited. It was pretty bro.

The next morning we woke up at 8 for bfast and then spent the rest of the morning poolside. If I spent half my weekend eating, I spent the other half getting my tan on. A lot of people in the know peg it as the missing piece of the puzzle for me cracking into People’s 100 Most Beautiful list. Around ten or so we hoisted sail, lifted anchor, and most importantly, turned on the engine. It was a pretty surreal experience to be floating around in a pool with a sprawling backdrop of desert, grassland, and small towns all blending into each other. We passed enough mosques to make Ground Zero appear like a non-secular city square in contrast to the Muslimist stronghold we all know it has become. Soon we took another ferry to Kom Ombo, which was legit. It was one of the first cities with a hospital, has tunnels that go under the river, and a giant well like structure used for measuring the height of the river, called the Nilometer. I didn’t really capture the point of the Nilometer, as the actual Nile itself surrounded the island and it would be pretty apparent when there was a flood. Also the tour guide made the absurd claim that this one stone pit that was connected to the Nilometer was a hot tub. A hot tub in the middle of a desert. Okay “tour guide”, I’ve seen this stunt before in Slum Dog Millionaire. But it was pretty cool, they had ancient depictions of surgery and the like. On the other hand, they also had ancient depictions of child birth, which I didn’t care for. But my mind was elsewhere, for that night there was going to be a costume party!

For the low price of $15, I bought a two piece gallibaya with a scarf included! Talk about a deal. Naturally I got blue to bring out my eyes. Mitch got black, Richie white, and Ryan wore a t-shirt but saved it by wearing a scarf and sun glasses, claiming to be the son of an oil tycoon. The costume party was pretty hyped up so we were all pretty excited. Naturally, we got there first. After a half hour, it was pretty apparent my suitemates and I were some of the few who chose to participate in the costume party that evening. But then the dancing started, and I just let myself go and forgot all my problems, like I do. The night ended pretty disastrously, with Ryan challenging me to a juice drinking contest through straws. I still haven’t felt well since. But I won. Needless to say, since I’m including my juice-drinking feats in this paragraph, the costume party was a letdown. And we had an early morning the next day.

Wake up call at FIVE IN THE MORNING. After a weekend of little sleep, this displeased most of us. After Kom Ombo we cruised to the Edfu temple, which was striking in its sheer size. It was completed by Cleopatra, but that’s all I can tell you about it. We went back aboard and passed through one of the locks they have on the Nile. The locks are used to make the ride smoother to change elevations, but after immediately crashing into the left hand side of the canal I doubted their efficiency. In the end it was pretty boring, but it gave me a good excuse to get a good calf-tan on. Not long after we set off for the Valley of the Kings, where no cameras were allowed, adding to the mystique. It was awesome, but so hot. I don’t know why the ancient Egyptians chose to ride out to the middle of the desert to dig so far down in the earth. Seems to me we passed a lot of real estate on the way there that would have sufficed. Just another way I could have built the world better. But yeah it was very cool, a lot of the tombs had the original paint still on them. And the hieroglyphics were amazing. Probably a hundred yards of them detailing Ramses’ life. Either he led quite the life or it takes forever to spell anything using birds and eyes. I like to believe the latter, if only to convince myself it would take 100 yards to sum up my life in birds and eyes. Then again FIFA is only four letters. I’ll never get tired of FIFA jokes, so don’t ask.

All that was left on the cruise was Luxor Temple, but what a way to finish. It was dark by that point, but they do a nice job of illuminating it. The obelisk was pretty intense. I know we have the Washington monument, but I think the absence of goose crap on the obelisk added something to it. The other cool thing here was the Sphinx Avenue, which has scores of little sphinxes all lined up. After viewing the temple, we went back to the cruise to enjoy the last supper. By eleven, we were on the way to the airport and by four Monday morning we were back on campus. And so ended one of the greatest weekends of my life. To console myself, I ate three falafels.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Day my Arabic Minor Died; alternatively titled Death by Falafel

Subtitled: A Two-Page Expose on the Reasons I dropped Arabic and the Deliciousness of Falafels

When I say the highlight of my first day at school was a falafel, I’m not saying I had a bad day, I’m saying I had a heck of a falafel. My first day was actually pretty good; I had an insightful epiphany, I cut loose the anchor that has been dragging me down for two years, Arabic, and we got our janitor fired! Ham d’Allah!

My day got off to a nervey start when I showed up at my first class and there was only one other girl there. No teacher, no other students. It was hear I first heard of Ramadan schedule. Apparently, during the holy month of Ramadan, the normal schedule goes out the window and classes start at different times than advertized. But still, my arrival time would have only put me fifteen minutes late, and there should’ve been class. That’s when I first heard of Ramadan week. Apparently, some teachers find it pointless to teach during a week when students are unlikely to show up and the adding/dropping of courses is happening at such an absurd rate. So it was a decent introduction to school in Egypt.

The real turning point in my day/life is when I got to colloquial Arabic class. See, I had signed up for both Egyptian Arabic and standard Arabic, and later found out both meet every single day of the week. I was looking forward to colloquial Arabic class because it was a 100 level course so I couldn’t be behind. The panic set in while sitting there for a half hour before class started (thanks again to Ramadan scheduling) socializing with my “peers”. The girl to the left of me was reading Harry Potter in Arabic. I have friends stateside who can’t finish Harry Potter books in English. But that’s what I get for hanging out with second-graders. The guy next to me was biting his fingernails, worrying he wouldn’t be ready. I’m like bro, it’s an introductory course, there is no such thing as ready. Then he told me a year’s studying of standard Arabic was still required. No big deal, I had studied it for two. Then this guy goes on to say how at the University of Chicago (never heard of it) they have Arabic class five days a week, and in addition to that have two hours of conversation with their professor a week. This surprised me, because if I said all the Arabic words I know three times in a row it wouldn’t take up five minutes. The same kid went on to say how he has forty hours of math homework a week. Class began before I could ask him when he finds the time to Facebook and play FIFA and do other things necessary to sustain life. Class was pretty much exclusively in Arabic, and I couldn’t follow so I had a lot of time to think. And it occurred to me right then and there, crystal clear, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Arabic.

Travel blog pioneer Mark Twain once advised, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” And that’s exactly what Arabic was in danger of doing. I came to Egypt to get an unforgettable experience, and studying Arabic every night for five hours would be an experience e I would want to forget. Life is too short to be spent learning Arabic. A lot of respect for people who are sticking through the hard times and learning the language, I’m sure it will eventually pay dividends. But it is not like I have any plans to use Arabic in my career plans. So I think in addition to my Public Communication major I’ll pick up a Lit minor, to show future employers not only can I speak and write, but read too. Triple threat! The add/drop room was an imitation of the New York Stock exchange. People we’re just shouting classes they were dropping, and other kids would shout back they’re adding those classes and then shout what they’re dropping. After writing that I realize that’s nothing like the New York Stock exchange, my bad. To replace my Arabic classes I ended up with this International Development course (should be easy after I ran Chemonics for the summer) and this Romanticism Literature course, so expect to see a heavy Edgar Allen Poe influence of future blog posts.

In the midst of my epiphanizing, I discovered the local Egyptian place on campus. And love was born. Three pound falafel sandwiches! As in sixty cent falafels, they weigh about what you would expect, significantly less than three pounds. The falafel was wrapped in pita and covered in sauce and was one of the most delicious things I have ever enjoyed. And at sixty cents, it looks like it’ll be falafels for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Alternatively, there is the Magnum Falafel, and it lives up to the name. Coming in at six pounds (about a dollar), this is the falafel sandwich with a fried egg, beans, and french-fries packed into it. As Magnum enthusiast Phil Hopkins noted, “It’s an explosion of protein!”

A less successful food venture of mine was the ice cream soda I ordered. After embarrassing our nation in basketball (this Egyptian and Thai kid ran train over us), my friends and I went to the café for some ice cream as a pick me up of sorts. The ice cream soda caught my eye, and I got pretty pumped for it. When I ordered it, however, the guy behind the counter gave a look like I was speaking my version of Arabic or something equally impossible to understand. He went back to the kitchen and consulted for a few minutes, came out, cracked open a non-alcoholic beer, threw a few cubes of ice in there, a scoop of chocolate ice cream and stuck a straw in it. The worst thing I ever tasted. I ate it though because I have an eating problem.

On kind of a sad/happy/mixed-feeling note, our beloved, thieving janitor Mohammad was asked to hand in his mop today. At AUC, the janitors come right into your apartment and clean the common area, and will clean your room if you leave the door open. I didn’t see it, but I imagine the head janitor took the mop and snapped it over his knee, signally the end of Mohammad’s reign of terror. About a week ago Ryan’s camera had been taken, and Mohammad was the only one who could have possibly been in Ryan’s room when it went missing. Typical to Ryan’s laid-back attitude on life, he didn’t pursue it but we made sure to always leave our rooms locked after that. Ryan’s the same kid who when informed there was no food left in our apartment, just about everything was closed down on campus, and starvation was imminent, shrugged, looked at me and said, “Dude, I’m over it.” Anyways, we treated Mohammad as a suspect but continued to let him take out our garbage. Then, this morning as Richie and Mitch were in the shower (we have two showers), Mohammad went into their rooms and took two hundred pounds each. Richie walked in while he was closing the drawer Richie kept his money in, and when Richie counted it he was short. They logged a complaint, and an hour later he was fired. Swift justice! But we never got the camera or money back, leading me to assume they took us at our word that he was stealing, and fired him without any real evidence. But in all honesty there is no doubt in mind he was stealing.

I would have liked to have said goodbye and thanks, but both terms would’ve really stretched my knowledge of Arabic.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You's a Sexy Bitch

Ignore the picture for now. It is beyond my technological capabilities to put it where I want to.

Tonight was best summed up by Richie's initial observation after getting off the bus: "Hmmm, I expected more campfires and less Christmas lights."

We had just had an hour and a half ride out to the Bedouin Night Sohour, which had been advertised as an authentic look at the Bedouin culture. For those of you who aren't familiar with Bedouins, look them up on Wikipedia. Basically, they're desert folk. The fliers at school promised a real Bedouin meal, dancing horses, and even a chance to ride a horse or a camel. Of course, I had no plans to ride any camels tonight.

Fear of camels aside, I was pumped and ready to get my desert on tonight. I was a little surprised when we pulled off the highway across from what appeared to be the Egyptian version of a night club. And when we got off the bus, there was a dazzling display of Xmas lights with what sounded like nineties arabic pop blaring in the back ground. But what appeared to be a tacky tourist trap on the outside turned out to be a wild, no-rules, prostitute-dancing, David Guetta-loving haven on the inside. There were two women dancing on the stage, which immediately strikes you because no where else in Egypt have women sought attention like that. Then a local came up and told us that they were prostitutes, and that was "the best way to try Egyptian women." Having had some harrowing taxi rides due to local advice in the past few days, we decided there was little credibility in what Egyptians say and passed on the opportunity.

We hadn't been there ten minutes before "Sexy Bitch" came on, and then I knew I was in the right place. Who knew the Bedouins, a culture famous for their nomadic, centuries old life style, shared the same sense of music as American teenage girls (and me)? But then came the crowd pleaser. A real live lion! I use the term "live" loosely, as this poor creature had no teeth, no claws, and was pretty obviously heavily drugged. In the end it amounted to little more than a sack of bones with a lions face on it. Still worked for pictures though and you could get one in any pose you wanted for 35 pounds, or seven dollars. Heck of a deal.

Attempting to even further soak in the culture, we played AU quad enthusiasts and indulged in some shisha. We had to wait for the second bus to get there before we could eat the meal. And apparently that was the same measure being used to prepare the chicken, because as soon as the bus got there, the chicken was on our plates, clearly undercooked. I thought, well, I spent a summer in DC cooking chicken that wasn't much better done than this, I think my systems ready for this, inshallah (Allah willing). Had I been right, I wouldn't be up at three in the morning typing this.

Then came the dance show, and some actual Bedouin music. The most impressive, I thought, were the nimble stilts guys. They were all over the place. Some of the other dancers with sticks looked about as enthused as the lion. The twirly dancers, which isn't the technical name, but I forget it, were supposed to be the headliners, but people in the know tell me these twirly dancers were subpar. They're main grab factor is I suppose the length of time they twirl. I guess it's an acquired taste, like that for raw chicken. When two men came out dressed as a horse, I was pretty outraged. I was promised a dancing horse, and this farce had gone on long enough and I wasn't going to stand for it. Luckily, while looking up "farce" in my Arabic Dictionary, a real horse came out and started to dance. He actually danced much like I do, shuffling his feet with no upper body movement. Whatever works.

Lest you think I'm just a tough customer who can't be impressed, here's a feel-good story. Two nights ago we went down to the famous Egyptian market, Khan el-Khalili. It was awesome. The streets were more like alley ways, way too small for cars with little shops everywhere, and people coming up and trying to sell you everything. We wandered it for about two hours, and had the feeling that right there, right then was as Egypt as it gets. Also, we happened upon a kind of outdoor lounge, only to find some youths playing the World's Game, FIFA. I was tempted to throw down some pounds and challenge 'em to a game, but it was on Play Station. I can cross cultural boundaries, but not console boundaries. On the way back, in order to catch a cab, Richie decided it best to walk upstream through traffic, in traffic. That's all well and good for him, who apparently holds life cheaply, but I have a fruitful career as an Arabic translator ahead of me so I watched from the sidewalk.

The picture at the top is courtesy of Richard Roy's photo-journal of impoverished cats and kittens. Sorry, link only works for those exclusive few who are FBF's with Richie, but if you've seen one impoverished cat or kitten you've seen them all.

SPECIAL UPDATE: Richie's photos, some of which feature me, most of which feature cats, are now available to ALL!