Tag Archives: AUC

Follow These Rules and We’ll Get Along

all the ingredients for a weekend of fun

Some quick guidelines for my colleagues who are about to travel with me to Ain Sukhna:

1) As mentioned on this blog before, my mouth will gape open when I fall asleep, which will happen frequently and regardless of location. As soon as we enter the bus, I will be slain by the sandman. This will happen again in a much more literal fashion once my feet hit the sand of the beach. Feel free to mock me, because ultimately I know that through my slumber I am adding years to my life which I will use to make myself better than all of you.

2) I will drink coffee at five or six o’clock every day. If this does not happen, then I will become belligerent and refuse to speak. If a state of non-coffee continues to prevail, I will proceed to scream without stopping until coffee is brought and the coffee-hunger is assuaged.

3) On the beach, I will cover myself with a large scarf like a shroud. This is because I burn easily. It will look bizarre, but ultimately it’s a better option than making you stare at me with bubbly, oozy, burn skin.

4) My preferred breakfast partner of choice is my computer, which I will not have with me. Please do not interact with me unless you are first interacted with.

We can all have a more pleasant time together if these simple rules are followed, as well as the dozens that I didn’t have time to write down. Please make no mistakes. Thank you.


Your colleague, who will be back and blogging come Saturday

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Leave your thug life at home

avoid looking like this guy

If you’re heading to the Sadat Metro stop and/or planning to enter Tahrir square at all, you best leave your guns at home. While you’re at it, forget about bringing along any knives, clubs, maces, and vegetable peelers you might traditionally carry with you. Now is not the time to practice transporting your archery set or collection of poisonous darts. If you happen to usually don a thug-like appearance, you should consider trying something else for a change, like wearing a floor length tiered jean skirt and a long sleeve turtleneck shirt emblazoned with either sparkly cartoon characters or nonsensical English words. Not sure if you have a thug-like appearance? If you look in the mirror and seem to be male, you are most probably a thug. If you seem to be male AND are over 5’8 and have darker skin, you are a thug and are a persona non grata in the environs of Tahrir square, which is in full blown sit-in mode.

Tahrir square has sprouted white tents, stages, signs, and new graffiti, heralding a new level of the revolution, despite the fact many Egyptians have grown weary of the continual instability. The square is occupied by groups of people demanding their demands be met. Yes, there are specifics for the people in the square but no, they do not actually help clarify the situation. One of the many consequences of the sit in is that the Mogamma, the center of Egyptian bureaucracy, was forcibly closed both yesterday and today, preventing the completion of much government business including the bribery of countless officials. Another consequence is the “tafteesh,” or security checks, now found at every entry point to the square.

The nature of the security check experience varies wildly from one entry point to another as there appears to be no standard procedure. It’s almost like these people didn’t get their tafteesh badge at Sit-In Camp for Budding Revolutionaries. Everyone from teenagers to dentists to adolescent girl helps out with the tafteesh. You could be asked for anything from giving your name, a passport, or an identity card to allowing them to examine your bag and ask you riddles. Sometimes they just let you through so long as your appearance is free of thug-like traces i.e. you are female (see above note).

Today I stupidly forgot to bring any form of ID with me to school, so I was lucky that both times I approached security, the “guards” let me pass through with nothing more than a smile. Other CASA students, however, had their bags checked and/or were prohibited from entering the square at all (one student). Tomorrow there is supposed to be a million man march to/in Tahrir but I haven’t heard anything about our classes being cancelled so apparently some people (our administration) were not entirely convinced it was going to happen. We shall see.

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This day is our day

Yesterday was the 4th of July, America’s main national holiday and the date on which the Second Continental Congress unanimously adapted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. I happened to be out of the country, but I could still smell the patriotism roasting from across the pond.

In celebration of America, I partook of my first McDonald’s food since I’ve been here: a chocolate sundae that cost roughly 99 cents. I had no regrets and I have a feeling I’ll be frequenting the McDonald’s 100 yards from my house slightly more often now that I’ve tasted the simplicity and reliability of soft serve ice cream and chocolate syrup. In addition, I and some fellow students sang patriotic songs like Born in the U.S.A. and God Bless America before another failed lecture on security that did more to anger and confuse than assure anyone. Later on that evening I savored some non-local beverages as well as non-local pork ribs grilled to perfection while singing more songs, campfire style, without the campfire. The night ended appropriately with tribal dancing on a carpet wall from a bedouin tent in southern Iraq.

One of my favorite moments of the day, however, was when I and 2 other CASA students were sitting on the shaded lawn inside the campus of AUC Tahrir having a boy scout/hippie dippy moment while singing “Such Great Heights” by Iron and Wine. Less than 200 yards away from us, on the other side of the wall, lay Tahrir square, the locus of current unrest complete with sit-in tents, non stop traffic, and general pedestrian mayhem. The two worlds could not have been more different, though it might not be impossible to mix them.

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Christians in Cairo

This is where the pop music was playing

History can be interesting sometimes. I experienced that phenomenon today when I went on another tour with AUC to Coptic Cairo where we learned a little bit about Coptic history and art—we also saw a synagogue—not too many Jews left nowadays however, and most of the ones that are left reside in Alexandria, but the synagogue we saw was pretty sick.

Like last time, we rode in ultimate style to the old part of the city in our luxury bus, where we were then forced to get out and walk around, to our great disdain. Luckily, most of the time we were inside so I didn’t have to worry about wearing sunscreen. Unfortunately, I had remembered to bring sunscreen but forgotten my camera. On the bright side, no one else had a camera so I’ll forget the entire experience except for what I remember to put in this post.

Highlights from the trip:

1. Seeing two oldest churches in Egypt, going back to the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. (I think…that could be inaccurate). Maybe earlier. Old South Church in Boston has nothing on these guys.

2. Seeing where Mary, Jesus, and Joseph hung out while they were avoiding being killed in Nazareth (one of the rumored places)

3. Smelling frankincense when walking into the churches and imagining the people that have been smelling the frankincense for centuries.

4. The pop music playing in the courtyard of one of the churches.

Tidbits from the tour:

1. The tradition of monasticism was apparently started in Egypt, and so there’s a ton of Coptic art from monasteries that were built and then abandoned whenever the water resources ran out. I now desire to go hang out at a monastery and add my own modernist twist to Coptic art.

2. A story: in the time of the Fatimids, the ruler used to like to have discussions between the leaders of each religious community. At one such discussion, the ruler got into an argument with the Coptic pope and demanded a miracle from him in order to assuage his anger since Christianity was supposedly a religion of miracles. The specific miracle he demanded (I didn’t know you could be so picky) was that the pope move the Moqqatam hills in 3 days. So the pope asked all the Copts to pray and fast for three days and on the third day the Virgin appeared to the pope and said that he needed to walk outside the church and he would find a one eyed man who would perform the miracle. He exited the church indeed found a one eyed man. They took a taxi to Moqattam together and the one eyed man performed the miracle and the hills were lifted off the ground so that you could see the sky through the bottom of the hills. We know this actually happened because there is an authentic tile representation of the miracle, a medium widely known to be quite accurate.

3. St. Mark was the founder of Egyptian Christianity

4. Copts were known for their weaving skills.

5. In the 19th century, a tourist (read: British colonialist) was poking around in the synagogue and accidently stumbled upon a huge treasure trove of Jewish texts. When I’m chilling at the monastery I’m going to do a lot of digging in hopes of finding something equally impressive.

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It’s like a snow day

Tahrir without protestors

Late-ish last night bloody clashes between protesters and policemen began once again in Tahrir square, the focal point of the Revolution of Jan. 25 and also a place I pass through daily on my way to class. From what little I understand (and it is very little), some families were protesting and/or sitting outside some government building in rememberance of sons or daughters that had perished in the revolution. I think the police tried to dispel them by force and then the situation escalated from there.

All through the night the clashes continued, and over 1000 people were injured according to the most recent numbers I’ve seen, most of them from tear gas. Here’s an article about what happened. And here are pictures (not mine). Much of the action took place on the street that directly borders AUC and in some of the pictures you can see the building I usually attend classes in. Those classes were cancelled today of course due to the unrest and we’re still waiting to hear whether or not we have class tomorrow. Part of me hopes that we don’t since I’m not as prepared as I could be even though we had a snow day: there was a lot of facebooking, Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement watching, Moroccan food cooking, and Mohandiseen exploring to do today in addition to the homework I didn’t quite finish yesterday.

But the other part of me realizes I’m not fully comprehending the political situation here in Egypt. What else is new? It’s hard to appreciate the impact of the Egyptian Revolution on people who had been living under the Mubarak regime for 30 years and to feel the pain of people who suffered at the hand of the previous regime when I grew up in a society where most people have never been tortured, beaten, kidnapped, or killed for their political beliefs. And now, the slow pace of transition, the lack of clear change between the way the old regime dealt with people and the way the Supreme Council of Armed Forces is dealing with people, and the continuing economic crisis are all causing increasing levels of frustration especially among the original perpetrators of the revolution. Essentially the main causes of the revolution itself have not yet been addressed, and the clashes between the riot police and the demonstrators were just another example of the lack of change.

I’m no political scientist….just a mere college graduate with a penchant for 30 rock, but to me it seems that oftentimes a post-revolutionary community desires an unreasonable pace of change, leading to hastiness and unstable foundations for the future. Where is the balance between transition and meticulousness? How do you rebuild a society that has the same problems as it did 6 months ago or even worse because of the economic situation and security vacuum? Anyone with answers can  sent them to coolchieftantawi@hotmail.com.

How hard could it be to build a just society in Egypt?

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