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Sharia 26 July at Night

September 12, 2006

The windows from my room to the street are wide open, letting in even more of the noise but most importantly the breeze so my roommates clothes can dry on our makeshift clothesline.

It’s the first full week of classes and I’m already exhausted. A quick trip to Koshari Tahrir (a bucket of the most delicious Egyptian food you can find for about 35 cents American) filled me up for most of the night, but now I’ve ordered a milkshake from room service. Calcium: check.

So it’s become a bit routine here with classes, but every once and a while I’ll look down the street and go “oh! I’m in Cairo! In Egypt! In Africa!” I haven’t been to the pyramids yet (I really should fix this), but I have seen them from the highway to Alexandria. There’s no explanation except you’re on a normal highway, you look to the left and there’s huge stone triangles.

Other things: My Arab Media class is like being surrounded by one huge joke that I’m not in on. Our professor asks for examples and they are given, except I have no cultural reference and have no idea what the example is. In all classes, if there is a word or thought they can’t express in English, both students and teacher express it in Arabic. When this happens, a wave of relief, sometimes laughter washes over the classroom, and the few international students are left there, wondering exactly what happened. I thought about asking the professor to stop and explain, but I’m a visitor and everyone’s English is so good that I suspect its something that can only be expressed fully in Arabic.

There’s a flip side to this too. My Arab Lit in Translation class is somewhat of a disappointment so far, but for the first time in my life, my knowledge of the insanities of Arabic grammer helped me. When discussing meter, the professor differenciated between the short and long vowels in Arabic. To me, the difference couldn’t be more clear, to the Egyptians, its not something they’ve had to consider much, since they speak it natively. Much as if you asked me to differenciate between short and long vowels in English. I haven’t a clue.

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