UPDATE: the video is no longer available--the screen shot is the only remaining evidence.
Al Jazeera and Egypt On TV were also present but I have been unable to find their footage.
The purpose of this blog is to document my research, linguistic and professional experiences in the World!
|Pusan, South Korea||January 2002||35° 05' N|
|Los Angeles, CA, USA||March 2005||34° 03′ N|
|Gulfport, MS, USA||October 2008||30.36° N|
|Petra, Jordan||July 2007||30° 20' N|
|Tafraout, Morocco||May 2007||29° 43' N|
|Orlando, FL, USA||February 1995||28.51° N|
|Luxor, Egypt||July 2009||25° 40' N|
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Firstly my roommate Sharlina and I had the extreme pleasure of visiting the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights on Tuesday 21 July. Not only were the staff members we met incredibly welcoming and open, but they also sent us off with bags full of books in Arabic, including a great pamphlet called “Citizenship” that the organization itself published. I look forward to integrating the experience and the texts in my dissertation research. The visit was so profitable that I was can almost forget that I was spit on by a taxi driver AGAIN. Oh Egypt. The lovely day culminated in koshary, which like all things in Egypt, had a negotiable price. Savvy Sharlina had the good sense to get advice on how much it should cost and thus we arrived prepared to haggle. It was a delightful 90¢ meal accompanied by tap water which didn't phase my (now) iron constitution.
On Wednesday 22 July the CLS group flew to Luxor early in the morning and checked into the Winter Palace Hotel, which sounds far more luxurious than it is.. We visited the Luxor Museum, the Tombs of the Nobles, the Ramseum, the Luxor Temple, Hatshepsut's Temple, Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Dendara, Karnak, the Temple of Ramses III in Medinet Habu and the Colossus of Memnon. The Temple of Dendara and the Ramseum were my favorite sites, although the Temple of Ramses III had the most interesting wall art. Tomorrow Sharlina and I are attending the press conference hosted by the International Federation for Human Rights and World Organization Against Torture for the release of the report of the joint initiative, “The observatory for the protection of human rights defenders.” Speakers include the Special Rapporteur of the African Union on Human Rights Defenders (Reine Alapini Gansou), Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (Mr. Hafez Abu Seada Abu Se'da), a Board Member of World Organization against Torture (Georges Assaf) and Hugo Gabbero, Human Rights Defenders desk with the International Federation for Human Rights.
This is the first Egyptian movie I've seen that addresses abortion. In addition, the theme of injustice and violence against women is approached from more than the traditional 2-dimensional angle of women as victims of patriarchy. Each of the three stories approaches a different socio-economic level—working class, middle class and upper class. In addition, there are multiple layered thematic dyads—public and private oppression, intellectual and political oppression, and social and sexual oppression.
We experience the story of a woman who served a full 15 year sentence for murdering a man who betrayed her and her 2 sisters. Another story exposes a government minister's professional scheme to extort still fertile spinsters from wealthy families out of money by impregnating them during the engagement and insisting he is sterile, thus damaging their honor. Yet another story reveals a chic woman who clerks in a ritzy cosmetic store, but dons a head scarf and monochrome abaya before heading to her poor neighborhood on the metro.
I liked the film not because it was better than others, but because of the frankness of each story and the reduction in melodrama that too frequently accompanies many Egyptian films (especially comedies—so much shouting and crying!). A critique of the film in Arabic provided a fun new Arabic phrase that I will index for frequent future use: بصورة دعتنى إلى الملل—it was inviting me to be bored. In addition, an interview with both the lead actress, the writer ( وحيد حامد –Wahid Hamid) and the director ( يسرى نصر الله –Yousry Nasrallah).
Also, I would like to post a tribute to Dr. MTH for his insights about traveling and language learning. For his benefit and mine I will continue broadly extrapolating political/economic theories from small personal incidents like tripping on the sidewalk.
The failure of the Egyptian state manifests itself in mundane ways such as the lack of maintenance of city sidewalks.
The more I travel in MENA, the more I realize how different each state/city/community is both within and across borders. On the other hand, terrible, cracked, dangerous, craggy, pocked sidewalks, if one has been paved at all, are a constant from Morocco to Syria to Jordan to Egypt and likely beyond. In my rush to make it to Hardee's before the 3am closing time after Istiqlal (Independence) Day activities, I tripped and skinned my arm and hand in a way that looks more gruesome that it actually is. Thus, even though I enjoyed the taxi ride home from the movies tonight in large part because the driver verbally abused a man in a pink shirt for walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk, I found myself able to sympathize for the pink shirt man. And I learned the word for sidewalk ( رصيف ).
Other failures of the state are more heinous and detrimental. Trash disposal and collection across the developing world are problematic due to underfunding and lack of oversight and planning. In Egypt there are designated communities whose residence undertake the responsibility of removing residential trash. Once collected, it fills the narrow, winding streets and the crevices of vacant, abandoned street front spaces in the communities where the collectors live. It is the men of the garbage collector communities who gather the refuse and the women who separate it and in the case of The Association for the protection of the Environment (APE) are able to create products from some of the waste. APE's work is amazing, but a visit to the facility reveals the clichéd pattern of women working and men overseeing. APE's current director happens to be a woman, which is refreshing, but the pattern otherwise is woefully familiar in the few grassroots development schemes I have witnessed in Cairo, including Fathet Kheir.
Inequality between men and women is certainly not the only dyad of uneven relationships. Nonetheless, it is the official policy of the Mubarak government to ignore and deny violence against women in Egypt, including (and especially) harassment. I went to the Renaissance Nile City Cinema specifically to see Amr Saad's movie. Amr Saad is neither particularly famous nor particularly talented. His appeal lies in the fact that he played Khalid, a character from the series of Arabic language textbooks called Al-Kitaab. Unsubstantiated rumor has it that he denies this work, which has made him famous among Anglophone students of Arabic. In addition, Yallabina was unduly vague with the description of the plot. All told, the movie دكان شحاته (Shehata's Produce) was both remarkable and predictable. The opening credits featured a stunning flashback sequence of headlines and sound bites; however, the film itself failed to live up to the amazing opener. Typically overacted and featuring the requisite misplaced/inappropriate slapstick, the main character Shehata (played by Saad) is loathsome in his weakness and passivity. The more disturbing aspects of the film featured a rape scene in which the victim's brother, her lifelong, best friend (and almost sister-in-law) and another community member hold her down while her beloved's brother rapes her as an official challenge to her chastity. In sum, while not a fantastic production, دكان شحاته is provocative and worth seeing, if only for the kitsch of Amr Saad.
Finally, to conclude this pregnant, bloated post, I visited the first church ever erected for Saint Simon the cobbler (Cave Churches of Samaan el Kharraz) and did not receive a satisfying answer to my query as to the reason behind the pallor of Jesus' and Mary's skin in the iconography. I am apparently extra argumentative in the Arab world.
Since my last post I have traveled to the pyramids of Giza, visited 2 NGOs in Muqattam and seen St. Antony's Monastery
Otherwise the chaos and adventure of bed bugs has subsided
(for now إن شاء الله )
and my roommate and I have moved from the Hotel President to the Hotel Longchamps to the Horus House Hotel in Zamalek, with an interlude at the 5 star Mövenpick Resort El Sokhna. After visiting the pyramids of Giza (including Khufu's boat) we had class Sunday and Monday. Tuesday we visited 2 organizations in Muqattam. The first is called فتحة خير (I am working on a translation and more information). Women volunteer their services to produce lovely textiles including table settings, aprons, fabric baskets and clothing in order to raise money for development projects. The second organization, called ألوان واوتار (Alwan wa Awtar Organisation--colors and strings) provides art therapy to children affected by the 1992 earthquake. Afterward we convened to take in a typically over acted Egyptian film at ARCE (featuring Papa John's pizza) called سهر الليلي (named after a famous Fairouz song) and the 3rd room move in Cairo. Wednesday included class time and ARCE boiled my and my roommate's belongings and our suitcases are still currently baking in the sun on a balcony that includes a view of the US Embassy. In the process of isolating any potential bed bugs, I bought a new outfit and was wearing it as I walked from AUC to ARCE Wednesday to fetched my belongings. 2 Egyptian women stopped me and asked me directions in Arabic, which was thrilling. My Egyptian clothes coupled with the plastic bag standing in for my back pack and my pal's Cairo purchased sunglasses did the trick.