Resuming normalcy – such as it is

Well, we (really I) survived my first Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr without seeing one live slaughter. I consider that a success. Maybe the guidebooks were overstating it, but I really don’t feel like trying to prove or disprove their validity. I shall take them at their warning-words.

The Eid (pr. Ade) is the final three days of Ramadan and is essentially the Muslim “Christmas,” in terms of religious significance, family, feasting and presents. Businesses shut down, and for three days there are throngs of people everywhere. In terms of automobile traffic, it was quite light, but instead of dodging weaving cabs and crazy shuttle buses, we had to snake through and around pedestrians on all major roads and especially bridges. (Bridges here seem to serve several functions, first to cross water or roads, second for young courting couples to hang out on – Ron refers to these at “Bridge dates” and admires the frugalness, and third it’s a place to see and be seen – especially true on holidays.)

Ron pointed out that everywhere you looked, there were new jeans, new sneakers, new sparkling hijabs and gallibayas, and all the little boys were running around with toy guns and all the little girls had gold or silver purses to match their new hijabs. It really was like Christmas, with everyone wanting to show off their new duds. Even the ancient sun-baked men perched on plastic chairs on the street were donning new white turbans. The evenings were filled with the sound of fireworks (which at times sounded unnervingly like cannons) and people laughing and talking well into the night. It was all very joyful and merry, and if possible, there were even more colorful light displays throughout the city.

As lovely and festive as it was, I’m definitely ready to resume life as I knew it, or was getting to know it. The Eid technically ended Friday, but Saturday was a weekend, and Monday, October 6th is Egyptian Armed Forces Day, where they celebrate “winning” the war against Israel in 1973. (There’s even a bridge here called “Six October” – a lot of the bridges are named after dates. The main one crossing Zamalek is “26 July” – this is the date in 1952 when the Egyptian military ousted King Farouk and Egypt has remained a police state ever since.)

Part of resuming normalcy for me (because it’s all about me), in addition to shops actually being open, will be starting up Arabic classes again on Tuesday. Technically I continued to take classes through the summer, but with a delayed start, because I couldn’t get any information as to when and where they were being held, plus my travels to Wales, and compounded by the instructor’s lack of any structure, I pretty much just learned how to tell time. Or rather, how to say time. At one point he was teaching us how to conjugate future tense, and he gave us “I,” “you” masculine and “you” feminine, and then stopped. I asked if we could get the rest, for those rare occasions we might need to use “we,” “he,” “she,” “you” plural or “they,” and he replied, “Oh, you want all of them?” I guess he had low expectations for our sentence complexity. But I’m looking forward to resuming classes with my previous teacher from Spring session as I felt I learned a lot from her. Feeling a bit embarrassed at my lack of progress since she last saw me has spurred me to do some massive cramming these last few days. So there are flashcards, notebooks and papers piled up everywhere, and I’m happily making verb conjugation charts on Excel. (Okay, I can hear the guffahs from here. I may be able to fight some aspects of being a “Type A” (or rather, Egypt may fight it), but if I can employ organizational methods where possible, I will do so. This was never more apparent when Ron recently went to use some spices and asked where the curry was and I told him they were all alphabetical. He actually stopped, dropped his jaw and stared at me as if he’d never seen me, or worse, had suddenly realized whom he had married. I think in terms of our differences, our organizational needs and methods are our biggest disparity, in that I have them, he doesn’t.)

I’ve also signed up for two trips/tours in the coming weeks, “Medieval Walls of Cairo” and “Mashrabiya Institute” (Ron asked if I’d be getting an honorary degree from the institute, so depending on my mood I may inquire).

We got our brakes replaced on the Jeep, our kitchen trash can that we ordered online has arrived, and I’m starting to look into flights back home so I can retrieve Clifford and Max who have been having way too much fun taking over Mom’s house in Ohio. So life progresses and hopefully this will be true outside our apartment as well, and I can finally get some photos framed that I’ve been carrying around for four weeks trying to, unsuccessfully, catch the moment when the framers is open.