Tales from the Oasis

One night as we sat around a camp fire drinking tea which had to be smuggled in from Libya because it was illegal in Egypt, the English speaking guide regaled us with stories of Bedouin life.

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Update from Cairo

First of all, I have to say that living in Cairo is an entirely different experience from living in a smaller town/village in Upper Egypt. So far the move has been extremely interesting, and has opened my eyes to the diversity of cultures and opinions and ideologies of Egyptians. It has also made me realize how limited my perspective on Egypt and Egyptian culture was while living where I was. Don’t get me wrong, I think my initial experience was a very accurate one, and gave me an inroad into the lives of the majority of Egyptians. It was an experience which most foreigners living in Egypt don’t get to experience, which is unfortunate especially if they are working in the development world. Obviously it’s important to have a good understanding of the people you are working with, and that understanding isn’t fully possible simply from reading books or reports or from hearing people talk about it. Not to say that I now have a good understanding of the people I’m working with from living in Egypt for one year, but I think it was an excellent foundation. Anyway, back to my point, Egypt truly does not have a monoculture, which is also a good lesson to learn while living and working in a country.

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On To Cairo

It has been another month or so since I last wrote, and since I promised to try and be better about sending out more regular updates I thought it was probably about time to fill you in on all the exciting things happening this past month.

The first thing which happened was that I went to a peace-building conference here in Egypt. Anyway, it turns out this Canadian (Brice Balmer) was one of the original people working on developing restorative justice as a viable alternative to the current criminal justice system. It was quite interesting hearing him talk about his experiences and his insights, and it was also great to watch the Egyptians attending the conference begin to think about possible ways to contextualize the things he was saying.

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Eucharistic Justice Liturgy

A beautiful liturgy of justice and welcome which can be found in The Eucharist: Bodies, Bread, & Resurrection by Andrea Bieler. Sunshine sent this in around Christmas last year and I (hellaD) am just getting around to sharing it with you all now. The ritual of speaking from the elements is very powerful and the call to a table set and waiting resonates deeply in all of us. The community and communion of breaking bread together is very important to all of humanity. Even if you are not a Christian, or even religious, this liturgy will demonstrate the power of a long awaited meal, shared together with deep respect for the bread and the mystery of soil and elements which come together to provide the bread in the first place.

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Unexpected Incidents in Egypt

My life in here in Beba has been similar to the previous posts I have written. I am still living here at the church and teaching English in two different towns. I have a couple more stories about Egyptians that I find telling about the culture as a whole.

Both of them actually happened as I was travelling between one of the towns where I teach and the one where I live. As you may recall I have been taking microbuses between these two towns which they pack completely full of people and then go careening off down the road to try and make as many trips as possible in the day so they can make enough money to pay rent. They aren’t the wealthiest people, these microbus drivers, but they do seem to normally make enough to at least feed their families.

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Trip to Jordan and Palestine

The other piece of interesting news was that I took a vacation to Jordan and Israel/Palestine. It was a fascinating journey, especially because this time in Egypt has really been my first experience in the Middle East. My time in both Jordan and Palestine made me realize how truly unalike different parts of the Middle East are. I had a…

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Egyptian Generosity

Ancient DoorwayI have had quite the exciting, travel-filled, and busy month which I will regal you all with presently. However, I have been thinking for the past few months that I need to talk about the generosity of the culture here. It really is quite remarkable the extent to which this generosity is a part of the everyday life of the people.

I wanted to make sure that I knew a little bit more about the culture before I talked about it, because I wasn’t sure how different my experience as a foreigner would be from the average Egyptian. Although my experience is certainly different as a foreigner, I don’t think that this takes away from the culture as a whole.

In Cairo, and probably some of the more touristy places where they are used to foreigners it is common for people to try and take advantage of the foreigner. So for the first month this was mostly my experience in Egypt. I had to make sure I knew how much things should cost so that I wasn’t charged extra for being a foreigner. And there are some touristy places, like the pyramids, or the Egyptian Museum where foreigners actually have a separate entrance price than Egyptians. I understand that these places take up-keep and that foreigners in general have much more money that Egyptians, so I understand why they have this policy, but it still meant that I had to be aware.

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Coptic Orthodox in Egypt

church3I figured since I have been living at a Coptic Orthodox center in the church compound I should probably write about what the Coptic Church is exactly. Although what I know of the Coptic Church is mostly from my observations and conversations I have had with people, I have only read one book on the subject so this is mostly my opinion.

Although I consider myself to be fairly educated, especially about Christianity as a whole, I did not realize until much too recently that the Middle East contained an indigenous Christian population which traces its routes to the first disciples. The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of those Christian populations and traces its roots to the apostle Mark. It currently makes up about 10% of the population in Egypt.

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Sports, Weddings and Language Experiences

pyramidsLast weekend I had a trip scheduled to go back to Cairo because one of my friends was getting engaged to an Egyptian woman. Another development also came up which for me was a wonderful opportunity. Egypt was the host nation of the under-20 year old World Cup Football tournament. It just so happened that the championship game and the third and fourth place game were going to be held at the Cairo stadium the day before the engagement party, and one of my friends could get fairly cheap tickets. So I decided to make the trek up to Cairo a day early to watch the game. Neither of the games were very exciting at all, which was disappointing. But it was a great experience being a part of the crowd. The stadium was packed, obviously, and when we had gone 75 minutes into the game (Brazil was playing Ghana in the finals) and neither team had really even had any good chances at scoring, much less actually scored a goal, the entire stadium decided to start cheering for Egypt. So that was probably the most exciting part of the game was 65,000 people doing their standard Egypt cheers. It made me wish that Egypt was actually in the finals. Ghana ended up winning in penalty kicks by the way … after 120 minutes with nothing remarkable happening in the game.

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