Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My First Full Day

Jet lag is kicking my butt. After taking a very relaxing morning walk around Heliopolis (the suburb of Cairo in which gramma lives), I fell back asleep. When I finally woke up, my uncle and I decided to head to Khan El Khalili, the old bazaar of Cairo where some nutjob blew himself up a month or so ago. It really is my favorite place in Cairo. It's nuts. It's crowded, it's right next door to the Azhar University, the oldest Islamic university in the world, where rich and poor gather to go pray and shop. No signs of damage from the bomb, but there definitely weren't the hordes of tourists I am accustomed to seeing in those parts of town.

Although cars are a sign of wealth in snooty Egyptian society, my uncle Assem refuses to get one because he doesn't want the hassle (driving here is an extreme sport, not for the faint of heart). Instead, he takes taxis and, on days like this, when we are running around, knows a cab driver who will dedicate himself to us for the day. Yehya (Arabic for John), our driver, is super cool and will be spending the rest of the trip taking us around town. Since he doesn't speak English, I am mastering all the corniest phrases in Arabic and amusing the hell out of my family.

Yehya picked us up and then we picked up Noura, my drop dead gorgeous cousin (she's actually the daughter of my mother's cousin - not sure what that makes us), who it turns out is a tour guide. I got the guided tour of Cairo and a hookup on silver. She's going to put together the December trip for the crew and show us around. We walked around Khan El Khalili, batting off all the men who couldn't help but drool over her. Didn't do much shopping though.

Then off to hang with more friends and people. Interesting people. Another one of my mom's cousin's daughters (my mom has about 1,000,000 cousins), is a covered chick. I am always fascinated by them and invariably feel the need to ask why they chose to wear the head scarf. Nihal, who is a champion fencer, covers because of religion. Someone died years back and it got her thinking about the afterlife and matters of God and she decided from there. I met another girl tonight who covers - she showed me an ad she did for Loreal in Spain when she was partying it up. She's stunningly beautiful and has gorgeous hair. I had to tell her I thought it was disappointing that she was hiding her beauty from the world, but she was cool with it. She's very comfortable with her decision. It is quite the contrast to the Western notion that such women are oppressed. Perhaps some are, but it is socioeconomic status. Poor people are oppressed and rich people have greater freedom. Muslim women are no different and many freely choose to cover their hair.

Bought some baklava from the absolute best bakery in Cairo and proceeded to indulge myself. Then loaded some up for Fatima and her family so they could join the indulgence party. Let them eat baklava! :-)

No idea what's in store for tomorrow. I am just hoping for a good night's sleep. If the cats calm their hormones for the evening, I should be pretty well adjusted to the 10-hour time difference.

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