Tag Archive: Egypt

I was in Egypt for Eid ul-Adha one of the two most important holidays. It is a yearly commemoration of Abraham’s willing to sacrifice his beloved son Ishmael (in the Islamic tradition, of course it was Isaac who was to be sacrificed according to Judaeo-Christian tradition).

Eid ul-Adha (btw, it’s Arabic for the Holiday of the Sacrifice) is a time where hundreds and thousands of cows, and sheep are slaughtered.  It’s an interesting site to see because of the different dimensions of it.

Many object to this holiday, considering it barbaric to kill animals en masse like that.  I personally, don’t see the difference between slaughtering them this way or the horrendous ways in which cattle are butchered in Western societies.  At the end of the day, killing a living thing is not a pretty process.

What Eid al-Adha makes me do is be aware of the fact that meat does not grow on trees.  That steak, that nicely wrapped packet of chicken breasts, was once a living, breathing entity.  When I see how many men it takes to hold down a poor cow or bull before the deed is done, I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that I do not have to catch my own food:  Otherwise I would never eat meat as it is just too cumbersome a process.  More than this though, there is a sort of poetic symbolism that I see in the act of sacrificing an animal.

In Islam meat must be slaughtered a particular way, slashing the animals throat with a sharp knife so that all of the blood runs out (which is pretty similar to what is done in the Jewish tradition to make Kosher meat). The end of life is fast and slow all at once:  There is a gush of blood and then the animal’s movements and breaths get slower and slower.  In this way it’s a metaphor for life in general.  Or perhaps, I am going to deep with this.

The other aspect of Eid al-Adha which perhaps I did not like so much is the spectacle aspect of it.  People on my street literally brought folding chairs out so they could sit and watch, as cow after cow, sheep after sheep were slaughtered and reduced to nothing more than chunks of beef and steak for kabobs and soups.  Then again, I also contributed to this, as I snapped photos from my balcony and other places.   The smell of blood that filled the city was also nothing to be happy about, it’s almost sickening to think of how overpowering it was.  Thankfully, a day or two later and it was gone.

These things aside, much of the meat is given to the poor, people who otherwise would not get meat at all, as it is extremely expensive and beyond the reach of many here.  Charity is something I never scoff at.

Overall I am happy to have had the opportunity to observe how people celebrate such an important holiday in a Muslim-majority country.

The following is a slide show of what I saw.

NOTE: pictures may not be suitable for all audiences, watch with caution and at  your own risk.

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Anonymous: Egypt, Fall 2011

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Anonymous- Egypt, Sept-Oct 2011

I made the move from Downtown Cairo to the suburbs of Maadi at the beginning of the summer. The degree of harrasment downtown finally reached a level that I couldn’t excuse any longer. During my time living there, downtown Cairo felt like an amalgamation of all the worst aspects of human kind were being unsuccessfully suppressed there.

Maadi can sometimes seem like a different world. The area is populated by many expats and foreign families. I stumbled upon Cairo’s version of Chinatown here where many Chinese food restaurants, Japanese sushi bars, and Korean BBQ restaurants were sprinkled around the neighborhood of Asian families! Like Zamalek island on the Nile, Maadi is an area meant to cater to foreigners taste as best as Egypt can provide. Metro Market, a completely Western supermarket, sits right off the El Maadi metro stop filled with splurge imports from Fruit Loops to Earl Grey tea. English is widely spoken and understood by those providing service in the stores and shops. Traditional Egyptian stores and markets are also available and well stocked all over Maadi.


McD's drive thru in Maadi

on Rd. 9, One of the many Chinese food restaurants in Maadi

When one first steps foot into Maadi, you assume that the Egyptians who live here are accustomed to foreigners and more open-minded. In reality, you soon realize it’s the other way around; it’s the foreigners in Maadi who are accustomed to the Egyptians and no longer feel obligated to abide by their social norms. Many foreign families here have private drivers, nannies and maids,and send their children to private school which limit their contact with the locals. They send the maid to do the shopping and have the driver take them to the latest restaurant and pick them up so that hey don’t have to bother with taxis or public transportation. Their children are in private school in their national language and don’t need to speak Arabic. Their homes here are elaborate fortresses and the dusty old apartment buildings carefully hide the modern lofts inside. Many of the nice villas also come with their own security detail.My current apartment beautifully blends ostentatious crystal chandeliers, hard wood floors,and old world charm. Foreign restaurants shops,and posh cafe’s line the streets. It’s one of the few parts of town where you will find foreign women, or their Filipino maids, pushing children in strollers and wearing short sleeve shirts with their knees bare. Maadi  is comparatively lush compared to other parts of Cairo. Tree lined streets and grassy lots, both a rarity in Cairo, are haphazardly displayed around Maadi with some semblance of urban planning.  Maadi is also relatively quiet compared to the rest of the city in which the honking of cars all day and night blocks out the any other sound.


One of the many walled off villas in Maadi

Maadi has been a welcomed relief from the rest of Cairo but it is not without it’s share of nuisances. Many Sudanese woman live in Maadi and the local boys have cultivated ways and means to harass them and anyone they mistake for Sudanese. Thus, I’ve been known to fire off a barrage of insults on perverts that have gotten to close as they try to proposition me and even had to dump a bottle of water on one teenage boy who wouldn’t leave me alone as I waited for the AUC bus. In another incident, My roommate’s behind was groped by a passing car as she walked down Road 9 on her way to a restaurant. However, the harrasment here is less frequent than it was downtown, which isn’t saying much. At times, the service at local restaurants leaves much to be desired and one can suddenly find that the price of products change drastically when the “foreigner price” is applied. For example, a tailor tried to charge me 140 LE to tailor 2 dresses and a coat when the “Egyptian price” was only 50 LE. I ended up taking it to another tailor who only charged 70LE. Another trade-off to living in Maadi is that it quickly becomes a “bubble”. Living downtown, I was forced to speak Arabic almost all the time because so few people could communicate well in English. I’ve noticed that I practice speaking Arabic a lot less in Maadi which is definitely a downside. Overall, however, Maadi is one of the more pleasant areas in Cairo. The setting is more tranquil and pretty, there are fewer people and less traffic, and one can enjoy some semblance of home as well as the best Egypt has to offer!


Frenchie- Cairo, Egypt July 2010

Originally posted at:  http://blackincairo.blogspot.com/2010/07/maadi-suburbs-of-cairo.html

For more information on Frenchie and her Cairo experiences, please visit:    http://blackincairo.blogspot.com/

Yes, you read that correctly! I let a non-black woman do my hair! For those of you who haven’t heard, hair is a big deal to black woman. Because our hair texture is so unique, it’s difficult to find non-black people that can properly maintain it. Even shampooing black hair can turn terribly wrong and end up in tangles  if you don’t know what you’re doing! I’ve been observing the texture of Egyptian womens’ hair and the technique they use to straighten it. Like black women, the textures range from tightly coiled, coarse curls to loose waves. Most of the women go to the salon weekly to get their hair flat-ironed straight. A few black female expats have recommended that I try the Egyptian salons instead of my futile battle with the creamy-crack (permanent relaxers). Because all the women I’ve known who regular visit Egyptian salons have natural, non-chemically processed hair, I was hesitant to take their advice. Relaxed hair is more fragile than hair in its natural state.

This week, my new roommates and I threw a birthday/house-warming party. I am currently 2 months post-relaxer and I’ve been tying my hair into an ever-lasting ponytail so that I can avoid combing through my thick new growth.Nonetheless, I really wanted to look nice for the party and actually dress up so I spent the entire week whining to my roommates that I didn’t know what to do with my hair. My Somalian roommate suggested that I just go to the Egyptians and let them flat iron it. I considered this a last resort for some time until she went to the salon by our apartment and got her hair done. She returned with her naturally curly hair sleek and shiny. Ok, I thought, it worked for her but we don’t have the same hair texture. They could still totally screw my hair up…

Finally, the day of our party came and I had no desire to battle my tresses myself so I took a deep breath, said a couple Hail Mary’s, and trudged over to the salon nearby. Fatma, the beautician, greeted me with a smile and took me over to the sink to wash and condition my hair. I’d brought my Wave Nouveau moisturizer and I asked her to put it in my hair to serve as  heat-protection. She then sat me in front of a mirror and pulled out a rounder brush and a blow dryer. Oh gosh, this is going to be painful, I thought. I’d like to see her get through these thick roots with just that! I braced myself for what I was certain would be an agonizing experience.

To my surprise, it didn’t hurt at all! Fatma parted my hair into fours and rolled the rounder brush through each sections as she held the blow dryer to my hair. The technique was what I’ve come to know as the Dominican Blowout except that the Dominican salons usually precede this process with a rollerset under the hairdryer. After the blow out,  she flat ironed my hair to get any remaining curl out. She worked so quickly and efficiently, that I was surprised when we were done. I looked in the mirror and admired the weightless and bouncy feel of my newly straightened hair. I finally exhaled a sigh of relief and smiled! I loved the end-results*!

All Egyptian salons use similar techniques to straighten hair. The cost is about 20-30 LE (approximately $4-6). Although I wouldn’t recommend the technique on a regular basis b/c of the harsh effects of direct heat being applied to your hair, it’s nice for a special occasion.

*the crimp in my hair is my fault b/c I tried to wrap it to shower later on

Frenchie- Egypt June, 2010

Originally posted at:  http://blackincairo.blogspot.com/2010/06/i-got-my-herr-did-at-egyptian-salon.html

*For more information on Frenchie and her experiences in Cairo please visit:  http://blackincairo.blogspot.com/

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