Friday, January 19, 2007

Back In The Motherland

We arrived in Cairo on Tuesday and have been running around among the relatives for the past three days. This is hubby's first time meeting the tribe and two friends joined us for the adventure last night.


For light reading for the trip, I picked up "The Hidden Face of Eve", by Nawal El Saadawi. She is the Arab world's most vocal and passionate feminist who has been fighting the patriarchal system for the past 50 years. For her efforts, she was stripped of her position as Minister of Health, was jailed for years, but she has persevered. She even ran against Hosni Mubarak in the last election.

Each time I return, I go through the mental gymnastics of who I would be if I was born and raised here. I can only assume that, like my father, I would have been a fish out of water from birth. It would be impossible to stay true to myself in this culture, but maybe I would have been a different self. In any event, I would like to think that I would have been like Nawal.


In Arab culture, children are given their father's first name as their middle name. That way, you know what clan, tribe, etc. you come from. When my parents moved to the states and I was kicking around in the womb, my parents' American friends convinced my parents that a young girl with a male middle name would be a freakish alien. So when I was born, my parents gave me my mother's name as my middle name instead of my father's. Each time I come to Egypt, the officers at customs never fail to mock my name because my father's name is not there. I explain to them what my proper Egyptian/Arab name is and eventually they stop.

Talking to my aunt the other night, she explained to me why they mock me. Apparently, taking your mother's name as your middle name is the mark of an illegitimate child. Considering I truly am my father's daughter, this did not cause me much concern, but she looked at me sideways for a moment. Here in Egypt, and I assume in other Arab countries, if a woman has a baby out of wedlock and the man does not claim the child, the child cannot get his name. This matters because Islamic inheritance laws are tied to paternity. The child with the mother's name is marked for life, a scarlet letter so to speak.

I trust that my mother was not running around.


Headed to the pyramids on Sunday and the museum and Mohamed Ali Castle on Monday. Then off to the south for temples and tombs, then to the Sinai for SCUBA diving.


At 3:02 PM, January 19, 2007 , Blogger mrsleep said...

First dibs.

You haven't yet commented on how your hubby is handling the culture shock so to speak :)

How would II have turned out if born and raised in Egypt. Well we now know you would have had your Fathers name as your middle name.

This also goes back a bit to a long interchange you had with FAR as well. To what degree are you formed by your upbringing/environment, and to what degree are your born with a certain character/personality?

I'm more from the "born with it" crowd.

We'll hold the fort back here while you galavant around the Globe, although I climb on a plane for Barcelona, Spain Sunday morning for a week long business trip. Just tapa's and Tempranillo for me.

At 7:52 PM, January 19, 2007 , Blogger skip sievert said...

Great. I bet you are having a ball with all these wonderful sites.
I hope you go to the National Museum twice , or at least have hours to spend there.

If you have a chance to visit Saqqara area south of the Great Pyramid , I hope you look at that area also.

Pepto Bismol, that pink stuff is very efficient if you are not feeling well. Lots of different things you will be eating. Pepto is very effective and gentle.

Luxor, Thebes , and Karnak are pretty mind boggling. Wait till you see the original painted colors on the underside of the ruins at Karnak. Check out the sacred lake there in that proximity. It is one of one remaining from antiquity of that type I think. It was built there in the New Kingdom time. I know they are having some problems with some aspect of the water level currently.

Queen Hatshepsut's mortuary temple is another mind blower. It looks very modern. You must walk around , and up to it.

Be careful and on your toes I hope in Sinai. That area can be dangerous, for the usual reasons.

Have fun.

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