Saturday, September 4, 2010

laundry, old cairo, and a ramadan rant

Honestly, just the process of doing laundry here is enough to make me want to pack it all in and go home. I first tried to put my laundry in the washer five hours ago (when all the machines on all 6 floors were full), and currently I'm still waiting for the dryer to finish.
emily and i in front of Amr ibn al-As mosque
But, that's not important, or interesting. What is interesting is Old Cairo, which I visited for the first time today. I hope I make it back there, not only to shop, (although there were some interesting stores!) but to visit the mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the oldest mosque in all of Africa. Because we visited during the last days of Ramadan, we weren't allowed to go inside, but I've been told that they welcome tourists at any other time of year.
(Okay, I just heard "man on floor" shouted for the first time since I moved in a week ago. I really hope that it's not my roommate moving in - I've been really messy today.)
Although we couldn't visit the mosque properly, we could and did visit many Christian churches, and also the Ben Ezra synagogue, where I accidentally took pictures, because I totally missed the giant sign that said not to. I feel really guilty about that, but I didn't use the flash, so I guess I didn't hurt anything.
our group at a church, pic taken by creeper tour guide
Our guide on our journey through New Cairo was our old friend from the pyramids. He seemed inordinately happy to see Emily and me, and immediately took to calling her Nefertiti/Cleopatra again. He was a little bit too friendly today, and even though we were almost certain he was joking, the flirting was uncomfortable.
the lady herself

My favorite church that we visited today was the church of Saint Bapara, or as you might know her better, Santa Barbara. It was a little bit surreal to be visiting a church built hundreds and hundreds of years ago, dedicated to the same woman that my part-time hometown is named for.
Her relics are actually in the church, and there was a nice little alcove where people could go to touch them (all wrapped up of course) and light candles and pray.

we found dumbledore in old cairo!

an actual roman fort!

the well where moses' mother put him into the nile

saint george, or gerges as he's known here
Now onto Ramadan, and my guilty conscience. Oh, Ramadan. When I complain about you, I feel like such an ignorant disrespectful American, but I just can't seem to stop myself. You shut down the city, Ramadan, and then open it back up to giant crowds that flood the streets in buses and taxis, and make traveling anywhere extremely difficult, if not completely unfeasible.
Ramadan, you take away the delicious Egyptian food that was promised to me. You hold it captive until 7 o'clock, and the hold it captive some more, as the city closes its doors and windows to foreigners as its inhabitants eat.
I respect you for what you are, I promise. I think you are a powerful manifestation of the faith of millions of people around the world, and I don't think you do anyone any harm.
I know I chose to move here, and I know that I made that choice in full (or at least adequate) knowledge of where I was coming and what that entailed. But why? Why do you make me feel guilty, Ramadan? Why is taking a drink of water in public during the day so different that not wearing a scarf to cover my hair? How can one violation of a public religious code that I don't follow make me feel so guilty, and the other not affect me at all? Why do you make me angry and frustrate me to the point that I would rather eat at McDonald's again than face the traffic jams you cause.
I don't know. Maybe I'll never understand Ramadan properly. Maybe, if I'm lucky, someday I will. Until then, I'll practice my patience and covert water drinking skills, and concentrate on this: five more days.

1 comment:

  1. You could always choose to partake in Ramadan yourself and see what it's like for them! But think how exciting it will be for you to see the feasting and celebrating at the end.

    I am very impressed with your vlog in the last post! I would have no idea how to make that. And that you rode a horse across sand dunes. That just makes me think of Hidalgo. Haha.