Saturday, December 16, 2006


Not sure what moved me to do this. Maybe it's the tri-faith holiday season creeping in, and that in our ugly, intolerant world, the commonalities and differences on the lists would be comforting. Maybe it's the end of the year, and that thinking about these things can only be good whether you've had a great year or an awful one. Maybe I'm just bored of writing my paper. In any case.

Things that make me happy (in no particular order):

  1. Skirts
  2. Open bars
  3. Switching from shoes to flip-flops in the spring
  4. Long distance phone calls from long-held friends
  5. Baking
  6. Sublime, especially when i haven't heard or thought about them in a long time
  7. My boyfriend
  8. The fact that he's soon to be my fiance
  9. Traveling
  10. Hearing my little sister master a piece of music that she's been struggling with for weeks.
  11. Dark chocolate
  12. My friends
  13. Midgets
  14. Waking up without a hangover when i thoroughly deserve to have one
  15. The middle bits of really, really good books
  16. Half-price movie showings
  17. Illustrations of the fact that, while awkward and embarrassing in all the ways in which only your family can be, my family is rather cool
  18. Good notebooks
  19. Feeling like I've finally gotten something, anything, right
  20. Realizing that nightmares were nightmares and so no, I did not really sell national secrets.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Every once in a while

Once a week, in the hours leading up to and until the completion of Friday prayers, the City breathes. Sidewalks are walkable, roads are drivable, and one's ears are not under assault. The idea of taking a walk does not seem so solidly insane and self-sacrificing. One can think about things they wish to get done, be it work or a change of life-strategy and it seems actually feasible. Possibility. Seems in such short supply these days.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Had a mini-freakout around 30 minutes before my first graduate class...the ineptness of the University when it comes to class scheduling is amazingly persistent. It's usually maneouverable as an undergraduate, when it always seems like you still have 45 semesters ahead of you to finish your requirements, and there are at least half a dozen classes you wouldn't mind taking in the meantime. But today it dawned on me that I will only have two more semesters in which to learn what I want to learn (at least within a guided classroom setting. Trust me, I am the biggest fan of self-education and exploration, in all ways anatomical or not). Anyway, things were sorted, and fears further dispelled by the sheer, unaffected awesomeness of the professor whose class I started today. I can't recall the last time I observed someone and so clearly thought: I wouldn't mind being more like you.

Class was followed by the inevitable consumption of alcohol at my favorite shitty but oh so cheap bar. Boyfriend and I got entagled in a screaming match over the academic credibility (or cite-ability) of wikepedia. I will not divulge the details, but let me say that at one point I screamed over the empty beer bottles littering the table between us : "ANYONE CAN WRITE THERE!! ANYONE!!!" Yes, the thrilling intellectual dimensions of my discussions...

Later I had the pleasure of consuming large amounts of much-craved sushi with four of my nearest and dearest. They all happen to be boys, and they usually treat me like I am one too. This for some reason brings me endless amounts of comfort. Night ended with me and W smoking sheesha at a cafe that also features Karaoke. I watched on the screen as someone scrolled through Pink attention was at this point diverted elsewhere. Next thing I know, the be-spectacled short Egyptian man at the table next to us was crooning into the mike :"Ooooh I need a dirty woman....ooooooooooh I need a dirty girl." The people who were sitting with him got up and moved to the next table. That may have been the best part of my day.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Went to a protest yesterday, the purpose of which I thought was to express solidarity with Lebanese and Palestinians under the current Israeli offensive. Mistake #1: the group of protestors, while it is hard to unify them as one entity, was on the whole more concerned with expressing solidarity with Lebanese and Palestinian resistance. This was not an anti-war protest. Pro-Nasrallah chants included prayers that he would hurt Tel Aviv. Making the value of human life conditional on the area in which it is located is, it seems, a world-wide phenomena.

I find this in itself to be interesting: Nasrallah's rising status as representative of Arab peoples. Hizb Allah's more localized, focused identity and role seems like it is being discarded for a more regionalized one. Its chances of success are probably much higher in the former; i.e. as a group concerned solely with Lebanon.

Mistake #2: I had forgotten that the protest was on this particular day, which resulted in my attire being completely unsuitable. Not only was I wearing flip flops, I was also in a skirt and carrying a laptop in my already heavy bag. This was bearable for the first 2 hours.

The worst part was realizing that the hundreds of riot police and state-sponsored thugs in civilian clothes had not only surrouned and sealed the protestors, but were incrementally narrowing in. At one point they charged forwards from both sides, so that they were squashing a number of us, pushing, shoving, people falling down, trying desparately to stay on one's feet as strange sweaty bodies pressed up against one, and other protestors who weren't doing so well were holding on and pleading for help...pretty unpleasant over all. I would have fared much better had I not had at least two of the so-called state thugs persistently grabbing and attempting to fondle me around the ass and crotch. This, had I not been consciously determined not to lose it, would have threatened to push me to outrage. The worst part was it being so crowded, so densely packed, that I only had a radius of at best a couple of feet within which to attempt to maneuver and bend my body so as to escape the one point they seemed to be confused as to whether or not to let out the females, and at a certain time a couple of the people next to me (who were starting to crack, the looks in the eyes had deteriorated from concern to alarm to panic) were actually let out through a narrow corridor created by the thugs. I momentarily considered leaving, although this was shot down first by uncetainty as to whether staying would be an exhibition of perseverence or merely stupidity, then the consideration was firmly tossed aside when a couple of the state thugs were attempting to pull me into the human corridor people were leaving from, copping many feels in the meantime. I also saw someone who was being led the same way involved in a struggle, and they were closing up the corridor...I managed to shake them and move a few feet away from them, back so that most of my bodily contact was not with depraved men but with people whose status as "civilians" was clear and unquestionable. Soon afterwards the pressure on the circle eased and the lines of security/thugs backed away to allow space for people to, oh, i don't know, stand.

All of this was made exponentially more difficult by mistake #2 (my attire). My feet obviously got fucked, and the weight of the laptop made attempting to balance myself in midst of the pushing and pressure quite a task. The thinness of my cotton skirt made the groping traumatic.

Anyway, pan out of my personal focus...About an hour later, the number of protestors had dropped sharply. They must have been letting people out gradually. They did launch another of their move-in-and-squeeze maneuvers...this time it wasn't as bad, nor nearly as prolonged, although a couple of times my hair was pulled painfully (someone later told me this wasn't by a deliberate hand, but that my ponytail had gotten caught in something/one...who knows, it was a bitch anyways). At this point confusion seemed to erupt amidst the riot soldiers and the command and the seemed those in command were attempting to facilitate exits for protestors, but this was getting stalled by angry arguments with protestors and the policemen not getting, or not responding to, orders. At one point they were advancing and their commanding officer yelled at them to move back. Question #1: Is it normal for those in command to momentarily, even for a split of a brief second, lose control over their inferiors? Is this an unavoidable occurence in such organizations, or is it a sign of institutional confusion?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Then take me disappearing, through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves, the haunted, frightened trees,
Out to the windy beach
Far past the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes to dance, beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus signs
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tommorrow.

- Bob Dylan

Recently listened to some Dylan after a long, long but unintentional abstention from real music listening...

I've always found music very evocative, or moving or whatever you want to call it...and I've recieved that from both the lyrics and the music itself. And when it comes to interesting, genuine, sharp and simply beautiful writing, dylan's has left permanent impressions on me. Listening to it the other day felt like getting a warm hug from an old, dear friend.

Friday, June 30, 2006


It's as if Cairo purges itself onto the steets once summer is here. Other places may get more relaxed, more touristy, less clothed...but Cairo remains the same, it just gets more intense.

People here don't alter their dress in proportionate reaction to temparature changes. It is almost july, and yet women are still dressed in skin-tight polyester, and I still occasionally catch sight of a light sweater.

There are some signs of the change of season...the earliest of these to manifest itself is always the sudden appearance of a line of cars parked on either side of both Kasr el Nil and 6th of October bridge. I always wonder (quite crabbily) why people don't just park their cars either downtown or in Zamalek, and just walk up to whichever bridge they have chosen. Really, it's not that incovenient. Why, why must they place inanimate objects in the way of the already insane bridge traffic?

And, of course, the sudden appearance of shabab everywhere. Whose sole purpose in life seems to be to ride in cars, or lean against them, and periodically scream "boobs!" at random women passing by. Yes, thank you, I had forgotten I had them.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Your building

I read the book, "The Yacoubian Building", a few months or maybe a year ago, and saw the movie last night. I had liked the book, although I found it hard to empathize with the characters; something which this review helped elucidate. I imagine it's difficult not to like it; after all, it presents us with the consequences of all the different forms of repression which have come to be the gaurdians/prison wards of Cairiene society...and the author allows us to see those consequences as they are borne by both rich and poor. Gay men reverting to paying for sex, poor virgins reverting to getting paid for providing a soft waist for some fat old man to jerk off against (but above the blouse! Must, after all, protect one's honor!), talent and passion in all of its youth reverting to armed Islamism because it is the only channel through which it can scream against a system which has denied it its equal rights to life, young widows - still seeking male affection and partnership - reverting to leading muted lives as secret second wives... We are reminded of all the different ways in which life can be brutal, and sad...

And that's the message that has stuck with me: people always "reverting" to doing things. Because the original plan, desire, dream, goal, or even right just never really works out...So we settle for the next best thing, if we are lucky. If we have the kind of unluck which most Egyptians have, we end up doing what we had never imagined we could revert to...

Am I making excuses for the population? Does the shitty hand dealt to us by life (or the government, or religion, or patriarchy, or whatever) grant us license to redefine the rules of the game, even if that process involves immorality, at the very least?

Sunday, June 18, 2006


A couple of days ago I was handed my undergraduate degree by the President of the university, whose face was frozen in a strained smile under a silly looking cap.

And so now my views on the world are supposed to change. Although I am going straight into a Master's program and therefore am not really straying outside the bounds of the academic safety zone (safety from what? life?), I have a suspicion that things on the other side are different. Graduate students actually manage to get administrators to make eye contact with them, and are not treated by professors as anonymous, transient customers but rather as actual human beings who are around for a reason. If that's what's about to get started, then cool.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Trail of morning thoughts

Most (well, all) of my education has encouraged me to distance myself from nationalism. I have always deconstructed it, taken it apart into the symbols and the language used to evoke emotion, to create and highlight feelings of belonging to a group of people far too large to ever be understood with any accuracy. Even at times when I was moved by a song or a speech, I was very consciously aware of it, and immediately began to separate my mind from it. I saw nationalism as some kind of drug, one which suspended clear thought...more importantly, it seemed to me like those under its sway had been fooled by some larger strategist, some institution which had perfected the art of propaganda and manipulation....

You would expect me to begin to write about how all this has changed, how I now see the importance of overwhelming passion for one's I still think that our feelings towards our communities are far too easily manipulated. We are social, we want to be social...and we know this. Every political party, opposition group, and revolutionary has known this, and has attempted to use it to their advantage. Look at Egypt. Opposition groups use chants which hearken "glorious" revolutions (revolutions which were instituted in the public mind as "glorious" by the same regime against which today's chants are hurled). Names of Egyptians, songs, references to places and to events which are all too symbolic, evocative of some distant dream which we keep being told we are heading towards. That dream is there in the social studies books used in the public education sysytem, in the posters propagating the NDP's attempt at a new image, in every piece of public policy engineered by or for Egypt. And when that dream is evoked in the context of opposition, when we are confronted by it while simultaneosly presenting the failures and brutalities of our government, the result is all the more violently emotional.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I want to graduate NOW.

Friday, April 28, 2006


I heard the blasts in Dahab, in fact I even felt the largest one, and refused to immediately acknowledge them for what they were. Even when we heard the sirens a few minutes later. No, not here, not now, not when I wouldn't know where to run to be safe, not when I have friends wandering around the town, not when the death and the blood and the shock would be here, now, and not on a TV screen. Not when I am not ready to be anything but a coward. Bombs go off evey day.

We dealt with Dahab, with the priority that was given to foreigners to exit the town, with a government which was more concerned with the peace of mind of foreign tourists than the safety of its citizens. With the next wave of attacks in Egypt, with the lack of clear information about exactly what happened and where, with the ridiculous blame being placed on the same group of bedouins, with the reality that the truth will likely never be unearthed. Ras shaytan, Taba, Sharm el-Sheikh, how many fucking resorts do you need to see blown up on national hoidays before you start giving a shit. Where is the money which is being funneled into the security apparatus going? Where is it going when you cannot protect your cities, your people, when you can't run a simple or effective check at a checkpoint?

And then my friend. In jail. Or maybe at still at the police station. No one seems to know. Arrested in the early hours of that same day as the Dahab attacks for demanding independence of the judiciary. For demanding what is a fundamental base for a functioning state. They raided the vigil, beat up a judge amongst other people, and arrested a group of 15. Twenty something years into a state of emergency and you can't yet counter the instability which you have identified as the reason for the lifting of all normal rules of government. Bombs are being planted in the sinai and you are busy beating up judges in the capital. Cells are being formed and you are busy torturing people for countries which pay you to do their dirty work. Kos ommokom.

And I am afraid for him. I'll admit it. I am pissed off, angry about a lot of things which caused his arrest; but I am also afraid for him.

And then I return to cairo. I go to class and there are some security people around. Four hours later there are around 10,000. They are still beating up protestors. Sometimes they do it themselves, sometimes they inject civilians whom they have paid what might buy them a pack of American cigarettes to become state-sponsored criminals, to beat and provoke and aggravate. I am trying to find out simple facts: where exactly were the second round of attacks located? Where exactly are the arrested protestors being held? And all I get is contradictory information. One of the few consisitent pieces of information I run into is a statement by the president to the press, explaining his respect for the judiciary and the ultimate sanctity of its independence, and asserting that the problem is an internal one amongst the judges themselves. Nothing to do with his executive wing and the influence it exerts through the ministry of interior, which has created a prosecutor's office which dances to the beat set by state security offices.

In my on-line hunt for information, I watch the video of that first round of arrests. I watch it again as I write this. It looks like early morning. People are screaming as they drag them away. My chest hurts as I try to spot my friend. They take them. Just like that. Then they tear down the enormous Egyptian flag in front of which the protestors had been standing. Don't touch that. It is not yours. You have never understood, will never understand, what a nation means. You only know your own world, of orders, of favors, of the weak clinging to power that is not theirs. You are disgusting and filthy and you should not touch that. It is a symbol. It's a symbol for something which has, so far, only been realized in the minds of people. And they know that. But they want it. They hope for it. Some work for it - in, around, and outside your tyranny. Leave it be. It is not yours.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Five random thoughts

On the attacks in the churches of Alexandria

1- I don't know what the "real picture" of discrimination against Copts in Egypt is. Although I've never seen it manifested beyond the everyday bigotry which is exemplified by comments dropped at the dinner table, or jokes cracked in coffee shops (on both sides), that's always been enough for me.

2- People say that claims of discrimination are "exaggerations" and foreign-inspired attempts at causing social strife. Where in the world has there ever been a minority which has not suffered discrimination? I could cite examples and give names of villages where wholesale massacres have occured, but I don't think I need to. Although I have every inclination to believe that Egypt is a place where rules and expectations are futile, I highly doubt we have managed to escape those most tenacious and dangerous human tendencies: to stereotype, and to hold firmly to a category of "others" against which we can reassure ourselves of our "sameness".

3- That (#2) really is all that is needed for ethnic or religious hatred to emerge. Just plant that seed: life will take care of the rest. Bad employment oppurtunities (those damn "whoevers" taking all our jobs), traffic (those "whoevers" can't drive), a child with a learning problem (those kinds of kids are just slower), etc etc.

4- If you really want to know whether a person or a society is truly tolerant, don't watch them during flammable times. Rather, observe how people behave when everything is fine and "everyone is getting along", when the issue is not in the spotlight.

5- I am actually quite upset by these events. Not only for the ugliness of the events themselves, but for the hideousness which they have brought to surface in people. I think every religion has the potential to be used for both good and evil; they are multi-vocal, with many trends to be drawn upon. And I am afraid that this happening will result in people drawing on dogma, self-righeousness, and exclusivity.

No means no?

Why do all sex scenes in Egyptian movies (particulary pre-2000) start out as rape scenes?

It always starts with what can only be described as an attack on the female, then there are a few minutes during which she is resisting (usually pretty pathetically) and then - get this - she begins to enjoy the activity. The message: women do not realize that they enjoy sexual activity. Do not be discouraged by rejection.

This is something I've wondered about for years. I mean since I was a kid and had only some vague understanding of what sex was - but I did understand it was supposed to be consensual.

What came to my mind the other day was this: it's a matter of ownership. Women in the Arab world (and yes, I am about to grossly generalize) do not own their sexuality. It is owned by the family (wrapped up in notions of honor), by society, and eventually by their husbands. It is only after marriage when they have a chance of taking control of it - if they are lucky, if they are able to establish a connection with themselves and if their husbands understand that sex can be fun for women too.

And so, not being in control of their sexual selves, the women in the rape/sex scenes can be portrayed as fumbling, naiive, unaware of what they like and don't like and easily duped by first-time physical contact. Characters which need to be shown, even if by force, what sexual contact is and why they like it.

I realize that I am only talking about movies - but movies are more than entertainment. They are supposed to tell us something about who we are, how our societies function. So I think about the messages in there, and I can be found arguing that people should think critically about movies, TV, and advertisements because more often than not they can tell you a lot about how myths are propagated and how the status quo is maintained in the face of changing tastes and quickening paces. They used to use folk stories for this kind of thing.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Change of weather

So I went ahead and got horribly sick over the exact week during which I could not afford to do so. Suffice to say the fever was high, my kidneys felt like they were either being stabbed or like someone was trying to rip them out of my back, and by the fourth day I was so bored of my walls that I started making up stories behind each of the pictures within my view.

One thing that surprised me was how nice a couple of my professors were about extending deadlines, etc. Especially this one dude who teaches my most challenging course and has a reputation that's enough to scare you away from ever thinking of enrolling in a class with him (Why am I taking the class with him and not with the other, much easier, much less-structured, and less good professor who teaches it? Some deluded part of me wanted to be challenged. Yes, I know, I'm an idiot) Anyway, he was really very nice, not just because he saved my ass by extending a deadline, but he also wrote to ask about me and shit. Surprising. The genius political economist who seems to be approaching giant academic stature actually has a heart.

Anyway, I'm mobile and of regular temperatures now, and I'm all happy to be alive and shit. Seriously. I think illness can put things into perspective -- I feel like I've been running on overload for several months. And I don't really want to do it anymore. I think I'll try to switch back to a less frenzied mode...we'll see.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

You knew it was coming

A friend of mine just wrote a post bashing MUN. The thing is, I completely agree with most of his reasons: I find the mutually reinforced aggrandizement rather disturbing, the hypocrisy nauseating, and the patterns of personal favoritism strange. The thing is, I'm not very good at social politics, nor do I pay them much attention. As I've gotten older (I feel like you have to be 55 before you can use those words, but I can't think of replacements right now) I've come to realize how ubiquitous such behavior is -- this has not made me any more willing to pay it heed or to attempt to participate. In my mind, people should get and give credit where it is due; I seem to be fine living with the knowledge that this is often a far cry from reality.

I joined MUN very late in my college career. Even after joining, those negative aspects of the organzation which my friend so loathingly described continued to push me away. The process of deciding to apply as a secretariat was frought with doubts for the same reasons. I didn't know if I would be able to deal.

Now that it's over, this is what I've come to: you have a choice. MUN does not automatically transform all those who enter it into pretentious, snobby, back-stabbing pricks who care little for what the organization can offer to the people who are involved. The personalities of the few who are as such are not that powerful, nor are the personalities of the rest that weak. More importantly: there are larger, more immediate things which MUN stands for and offers. Forgive the soap-box upon which I will stand for a couple of lines, but I truly believe that it is, at the end of the day, about learning and applying yourself, and enabling others to do the same -- whether it is by engaging them in your role as a delegate, presenting them with and guiding them through substance as a secretarait, publishing something, etc etc etc (and the list really is that long). My point is that while there are those who chose to shift their attention away from that, there are others who have refused to do so. I have seen it, and have had the pleasure of working with both types of people.

Yes, pleasure is the right word. Because prior to this, I would have, on principle, refused to work with people who displayed such distasteful character traits. I would have stayed away from the organization as a whole simply for that reason. But, the truth is that I have myself experienced and understood the change that MUN is capable of bringing to people's lives. And I think it would be weak, sad, and shameful to allow a few pricks to keep away people who are talented. (I realize I just grouped myself with the "talented" who will not be kept away; normally I would edit the sentence to restore a semblance of humility to this post, but I'm on a roll and this is the 4th time I've tried to finish writing this).

MUN still has the ablility to serve people, to teach them, and to make them think. And I am completely sure that every year there will be some who are too busy applauding themselves and each other for anyone's liking, or, more dangerously, for them to do their jobs properly. However, I am also sure that there will also be those who go in, learn, teach, work, give credit where it is due, and leave behind an example for the next wave of people to live up to and surpass.

Friday, February 10, 2006


The streets are soon as Egypt scored the winning goal I ran to my balcony to watch as people poured out of coffee shops and onto the streets, waving flags and dancing around each other in circles, and the lit living room of every apartment within sight displayed people jumping up and down. It's like the city has come together in one big CHEER...there are drums being played, car horns being used to make music and firecrackers constantly going off. How can you not love sports tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Whistle while you work

Oh dear. After not posting anything for 2 weeks (vacation weeks!) - not because I was busy with life's thrills, but rather because I have been reading obsessively and there is nothing like reading to cripple any desire to write - I finally decide to break the dry-spell at the precise moment when I actually have work that needs to get done. No big deal, just preparing presentations for tomorrow's MUN session. The poor souls will have to listen to me talk about regional arrangements for almost an hour. As it is, the topic is usually met with aggressive skepticism, perhaps stemming from the disillusioning ineptness of the Arab League***.

The house is empty as the family is traveling for a couple of weeks. (I am smoking a cigarette! Right now! In my living room!) Before their departure, the two spheres of my life which I have so cautiously polarized (i.e. my family and my friends) came face to face, in my house, for dinner. And the earth did not crack open, my mother did not shit a brick and throw it at any of my friends, and trouble-making interactions which trigger such fantastical scenarios were generally absent.

I don't know why I've been so reluctant (the use of that word is such an understatement that it makes me a liar) to introduce these two facets of my life to each other. I guess maybe while growing up our behavior around family is so drastically different from our behavior around friends that the thought of dealing with both simultaneously promises little besides nervous loss of assuredness and massive social awkwardness. (Our is being used to refer to myself and those who were as lucky as I to have had their childhoods and teenage years agitated by cultural dualism. You're really blessed if the mixed messages and clashing value systems are never discussed within the family.)

Anyhow, all went well, and the dinner which my mom whipped up (like magic, or art, I swear to god) was delectable as always. After everyone left, I picked her brain for her insight into these characters with whom I spend so much time, and her feedback was as terrifyingly accurate as only a mother's can be.

Back to work.

***Brief pause during which I considered launching into a political discussion. Quickly decided against that. Simply not in the mood, and I think 4 years of political science have diminished my eagerness to discuss politics. They have also convinced me that while everyone has opinions, very few of them are interesting or remotely original, least of all my own. While we all have the right to voice our opinions, I am not particularly keen on hearing most. As for sharing my own, I've come to realise that one of the skills most vigrously developed while trampling around the social sciences is how to disguise your mostly uninspired thoughts as coherent, thoughtful, and even elegant formulations. In conclusion, I will spare myself and this blog from anything which has become so...worn.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Alexandria is a city whose residents are almost all indigenous. At least that is what it feels like. It is not like Cairo, or Dubai, or New York - people do not move to Alexandria; rather, they return to it.

And so, every time I'm there, I think about what it might be like to have lived in the same place for most of one's life. To now and again pass by places where you used to play as a kid, or your old school, or the roads on which you first learned to drive. I think about what the town was like when my parents were growing up in it - my mother running around the beach, sneaking onto fishing boats and into elite yacht clubs, and my dad, mostly indoors, being educated in a language which he would never use as an adult. (Oh the remnants of colonialism.) How different, and how similar, childhood was then, in the fifties and sixties, when there were so few machines through which imagination was restricted, molded.

It's a pretty town. The corniche is long and the Mediterranean is moody. Leaving a coffee shop the other night, my cousin M and I spontaneously decided that, despite the freezing cold, we were going to take a horsedrawn carriage home. They mostly service tourists and unmarried couples desperate for privacy, but I had never ridden one and it seemed like the kind of thing you should do at least once. So we rode down the beach, taking occassional swigs of pineapple vodka from a flask which M has nonchalantly been carrying around. (I don't know if I should be concerned about this new habit of hers. I will think about that once I get past the satisfaction derived from the sheer cliche-ness of getting into the car after a stressful family dinner and asking her to pass the booze.)

I think a lot when I'm being transported. On the drive back to Cairo I thought about how demure Alexandria seems to be now, when thought about in the context of its mammoth history. I thought about how it used to be a place people moved to, how it was a center for Hellenism and I wondered how long it took for the town to feel so comfortably Egyptian. I thought about how it was once the greatest Jewish city in the world, and I wondered what relics remained, physical or not, of that culture, besides the creepy cemetary which can be seen from my late grandmother's balcony.

I particularly enjoyed listening to Madonna's Music album in the late afternoon during the drive back; the desert stretched out on both sides of the road, with an impressive frequency of farms and compounds, layed out in such a way that the greenery seems (is) contrived, defiant. The car was quiet for most of the ride, but it was a nice kind of quiet, the kind which you can only enjoy with certain people. I thought about that too, how sometimes it seems like everyone's life is transitioning all around me, how they're waiting for a change that they know is right around the corner.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Marriage and Politics

Just finished Suad Amiry's Sharon and My Mother-in-law. It's a memoir about life in Occupied Palestine; the way it is shaped, interrupted, and frozen for weeks or months on end by curfews, checkpoints, and other weapons of military occupation.

While I'm not particularly moved by the writing style or the author's voice, the information in and of itself is interesting, albeit completely tragically. It's hard enough to get educated, find a job, maintain a relationship or a marriage, care for your family, and be happy without having to worry about not being able to leave your house for days or having your door blown open or a tank parked in your garden.

The mother-in-law moved in with the couple due to the harshness of the circumstances. As one can imagine, this added numerous dimensions of stress to the long periods of house arrest.

I hate titles

I really do. I can never title papers or anything I ever write for that matter.

When I sat down to do this, I was resigned to the fact that I would end up using the title of a song or a book...I guess I should be glad that I didn't end up using a movie title. As uninspired as I feel using other people's titles as my own, somehow referring to a book seems less awful (intellectual snobbery at its best).