A Very Hungry Day

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Dec 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
AUC Dorms

Flag of Egypt  , Al Qāhirah,
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One question that runs through my mind constantly while I am in Cairo is, "How are Egyptian people constantly happy and nice?"  Like I explained before, the Muslim population is currently celebrating the holy month of Ramadan which prevents them from eating or drinking water from 4am until about 6:30pm.  Yet, even through their hunger, Egyptian people are always willing to help annoying English students which cannot grasp the wonderful language of Arabic--aka me.  In order to appreciate the fasting Muslims in Egypt are experiencing I decided to join them for a day.  Most of the time Muslims will wake up to eat a meal at 3:30am in order to get them through the day, this meal is referred to as Sohour.  I did not wake up for the early morning meal, but I did continue through the day without any food or water.  Let me put this in perspective another way:  during the fasting nothing can be swallowed, which means during daylight hours there is no brushing of teeth or accidentally drinking water in a swimming pool.  By Iftar, the breaking of the fast, I had a slight headache from the lack of water and food, but I appreciated each bite and drink more than I usually ever would.  For Iftar we went to a Lebanese restaurant which was the first time I tried Lebanese food. 

Let me just rant for a little about food in Egypt.  Since I have been to Egypt I have only eaten real Egyptian food about 3 times.  Sadly, a testament to the United States in Egypt is all of the American restaurants in and outside of Cairo; to put it simply, Egyptians are obsessed with American(ized) food-- so far I've been to Chile's and South of the Border as well as Subway and McDonalds.  The reason why I state this fact is sad is because real Egyptian food is so good!  The other night one of our wonderful RAs, Joe from Bahrain, took us to a fantastic place which featured original Egyptian food.  We ordered so much food that even before the main course came we were all stuffed!  Here I will list some of the amazing food we tried (I do not think I can remember everything) with a short description from Lonely Planet.  Baba ghanoog-- dip of roasted eggplant and tahini (sesame paste).  Fool-- fava beans served with bread.  Kushari-- a carbohydrate extravaganza of rice, macaroni, and lentils topped with fried onions and a spicy tomato sauce (ours was also served with a meatball).  Ta'miya-- mashed, deep fried fava beans also known as falafel (we also tried one mixed with egg).  Kafta-- grilled meats served over a bed of greens.   I am pretty sure I cannot explain with words how amazing all of the food tasted and at the end of the meal we were given Umm Ali, a wonderful pastry like dessert with honey, nuts, and warm milk.  We also ended the meal with a wonderful mint tea before we headed to the local sheesha place.  Tonight, I was lucky enough to try Kofta (grilled meat on a pita like bread) served at Khan al Kahlili, one of the oldest markets in the world. 

While at Khan al Kahlili today we were able to explore the market during iftar, or, while everyone was eating.  It was a fantastic time to take pictures because there were hardly any people around to get in the way.  The market was packed, but it is amazing for people watching, especially when the call for iftar came and you could hear the prayer from all of the mosques in the area.  Hearing the call to prayer--or iftar-- is amazing because it is such a beautiful sound sang out all across the streets of the city (a video will be posted, so make sure to look through the pics).  At the market I was amazed by the amount of Western people who blatantly disregard the conservative customs of Egypt.  By no means must you be fully covered by a burka (long black robe that covers everything but the eyes) in Egypt, but if you do not keep covered here--covered being your knees and shoulders-- you are asking to have higher prices and to be whistled at if you are a woman.  I find it mind blowing that people come to another culture without researching or finding out what is appropriate and what is not; even worse are the people who blatantly disregard Egypt's culture because they think their own culture is better.  After visiting the market, my roommate and two Egyptians wandered around the streets of Cairo before heading back to the bus to come back to campus.  While out, we also managed to stop by a supermarket where I bought some basic food staples in order to save some hard earned mu-lah while here in Egypt

Another fun fact about Cairo:  it is honestly the city that never sleeps.  Especially during Ramadan, where everything is closed during the day, the city thrives at night.  My sleep schedule is going to be completely out-of-whack come Sunday when classes start and I have to be awake for my 8:30 class.  And yes, you read correctly, my classes do not start on Monday, they start on Sunday.  In Egypt the weekend is Friday and Saturday; therefore, we have class on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  No classes take place on Tuesday either, but that rule just goes for AUC so that we can have activities and time to do our work.  I think I am going to like this new 4 day schedule it will give me more time to go out explore the city and other places around Cairo-- maybe I will actually do some work then too!  I am very ready for classes to start, mainly because I want to understand Arabic.  Hopefully, I will be able to pick up on the language a bit only being here for a semester; I wish I could stay next semester too, but due prior commitments at PC I will have to wait until a later time to return (planning ahead I know).

Thanks again to everyone for your supportive comments, hearing from people at home always makes my day. 

(It has been called to my attention that my lowercase LF has been taken as "if", so from now on I will include my middle initial to avoid confusion.  :)
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Karen (Cousin) on

Glad to see you've discovered the wonders of Middle-eastern/Mediterranean food. Not sure what the subtle differences are between Egyptian and Turkish
baba ghanoush -- but if you could figure it out, I'd love to know.

Brian says to stay away from the camel and donkey.

lacynoel on

hmmm. I'm not sure of the difference between the two but I might be able to find out! I'll let you know how different they taste when I try it in Istanbul (hopefully).

Christine on

so again the pictures are so pretty. I don't think I could have done the fasting
though, so props to you for that. I can't wait to hear how your classes are and
everything. =)

Mom on

Love the pictures! Glad you are having fun but now time to hit the books! I love reading your blog. Keep it up and talk to you on facebook. Stay safe! I love you!

Sis Brawn on

Hi Lacy, your Mom linked me into your blog. It is so interesting and I know you are learning so much. Would love to be in your shoes right now. Enjoy this wonderful opportunity.

Gina on

Lacy- I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I know you are having a wonderful time. Study hard but have fun too! Take care :)

Caroline on

It sounds a wonderful old place full of different traditions and customs to what we are used to . Love how you focus on the food...just like Alice :)

bender on

don't forget all the wonderful APUSH disscussions I initiated, I don't think Egygpt is ready for all that yet so make sure if you use any of my points or discussion topics to be easy on them at first

just a side note, I don't know how you are losing weight because all of your blogs involve food 99% of the time haha. But you look good in all your pictures! oh and i've had stuffed grape leaves and they were disgusting! but i take your word for the rest of the cuisine. have you tried pickled ginger yet?

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