Thursday, October 2, 2014

Egypt, day one

(Sunset on the plane)

The air in Zamalek smells like woodsmoke tonight. Flying in yesterday I could see multiple fires burning from above, trails of smoke bending whichever way the wind blew. I counted until I lost count. I'm not sure of their reason. The chill in the air? Or for the arrival of Eid Al-Adha?

This is a holiday I'm still learning about. I feel really lucky that both of my trips to Egypt have coincided with important Muslim holidays--the first being the Eid immediately following the fast of Ramadan. That one lasted for only a few days and is referred to as the little feast.

Eid Al-Adha, the big feast, marks the end of pilgrimage season of hajj and takes place this weekend. It is a ritual for sheep, cow, and goats to be slaughtered on the first day. The streets "will run with blood," and this is hardly an exaggeration. Farm animals are slaughtered in the street. The animals must meet a certain standard(age and quality-wise) to be chosen for slaughter. The meat is traditionally divided into three parts. The family keeps one third, another to friends/neighbors, and the last goes to the poor(I have read that this matter of division is optional). I highly recommend a Google image search of Eid Al-Adha photographs if you are curious.

I'm a little nervous about being in Cairo for such an important time. Nervous and excited. I'd like to think I have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to blood and gore, but then again I haven't experienced a grand scale of it in person like this. J suggests wearing old shoes. He was here for last year's holiday, so I know to take his advice. I want to be respectful but I also want to go out and witness everything that I can.

I am happy to be back in Cairo. In the airport I noticed an American couple looking all sorts of lost. At first I left them alone as I stood in line to have my passport stamped, but I found myself looking back often to check on them. The confused expression did not leave their faces, so I ducked out of line to ask if they needed help. The man had been there before, once for work, but it was his wife's first time, and she appeared overwhelmed(but at the same time curious). I introduced myself and pointed out the general of order things while her husband glanced at his phone or off into the distance. I was so excited about being here for Eid that I told her about that too. 

Later, telling J about this, I cackled at my own remembering--how excitedly I told her "blood will be running in the streets!" Better she knows it's coming, I suppose. I would want to know.

Our ride from the airport to the flat was a long one due to an impressive amount of traffic. After a quick snack and sleeping pill, I finally found some rest. Eleven glorious hours of it.

I woke up feeling pretty well all things considered. J and I went to Bubblicious for breakfast, this great little spot nearby that plays music we affectionately refer to as "space music." It is very likely I have mentioned this in previous entries. I get the same thing every time--the Mumbai omelette: eggs with chili, parsley, peppers, ginger and onion. This and bread and coffee--kareem!

J had to work the evening shift tonight so I've been busying myself with working out, ordering koshary, watching Poetic Justice via Netflix, and reading. I'm already over halfway through Lena Dunham's "Not That Kind of Girl" and I just started it this afternoon. I like it pretty darn well so far. 

I'm happy to be here and not on a plane. In the midst of traveling, one has to accept the truth and act of it to get through. Go through to get through--a little something I have taken to repeating in my head when the plane hits a patch of turbulence. Go through to get through.

I was also pretty darn excited to deliver some food to J while he was at work--a simple thing, but when you live in an entirely different country from your partner, these simple acts become tremendous.

More soon. I'm spending a month here, as well as taking a trip to Luxor and Dubai, so I sure I will have plenty to talk about. 

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