A French Institute and a Feline Institute

Trip Start Sep 29, 2012
Trip End Jul 01, 2013

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Sunday, October 14, 2012

7/10 -

Sunday is the new monday here, as holy day friday followed by saturday make the weekend, so we get our first experience of rush hour on the metro as we head over to the french institute for an 8.30 start to our first day. It's a very different image to the black and grey of a monday morning on central line tube: a multitude of coloured head scarves, and men who don't really do suits. The women's carriage is packed fuller and fuller at every stop with school girls babbling away, in their uniform white higab and floor length pleated skirts, clutching 'Speak English!' text books. Later in the day, merchants will totter their way up and down the carriages selling anything from hair clips to strong adhesive, but at this time of day nobody can move an inch. Luckily I'm quite tall here so I can raise my head above the mass of squished commuters to breathe, but the heat of the day is already rising outside and the tempremental fans are no match. It's a genuine worry every day that we'll miss our stop simply from being unable to force our way through the crowd to spill out of the door onto the platform.

At the institute we sit with a crowd of about 100 students, mainly french, at varying stages of under grad and post grad study for a briefing on our course, living and conduct in Cairo (although just the journey to be there was a master class in this), and the political situation.
Linguistically, we have laid out a programme of 2 weeks' intensive lessons in the egyptian dialect, the arabic spoken in day to day life here in egypt and of all the dialects, one of the most widely understood among arab nations (though each country has its own dialect, of varying difference from standard arabic and from other dialects). For the next 2 weeks they'll be equipping us with the tools to deal with the stuff of daily life and to start getting to know people, which we'll then develop through living here. After that we'll be continuing studying Modern Standard Arabic, the written and read form of arabic that spans all arab nations, from which all the countries' dialects come, and which we're doing a degree in.

Socially, guys are instructed to take responsibility for chaperoning girls and initiating chances for us to rub shoulders with egyptians, as otherwise girls are pretty limited in options for social interaction. Politically, we're told it's a great time to be here. There are still high chances of things kicking off anytime, and Mounira being a disctrict full of public buildings, if stuff happens it's often here. But we're encouraged to get all we can out of being in the country right after a great overturn and at a time of great change. :) The institute are very pastoral, very insistant on being informed of our whereabouts from week to week and if we're travelling outside of Cairo, and give the sound advice to let the Cairenes get on with their political activity and stay out of their way when they're on the move.  

Lessons start tomorrow, so we head in the direction of downtown to get lunch and get a brilliant view of the area around Tahrir Square from the rooftop hostel which is still home to 2 flat-hunting classmates. The hostel, on the 9th floor of a vast, crumbling belle epoque town house is a kind of hippy oasis, open air except for some straw roofing for the 'bedrooms', mats and low tables for tea-drinking, and taking the city's feline population to an extreme, CATS everywhere! Cute, until you look again and see matted fur, limps of varying degrees, and not one with two eyes pointing quite in the same direction. After another day's unsuccessful flat-hunting, Jack fears the cats may be the people that have never left Dahab Hostel.
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