This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad. During May and June of 2012, I had a 6-week long internship in Cairo, Egypt through a international student organization called AIESEC. I taught English at the Awladi Orphanage in Cairo, home to several hundred children. I lived in an apartment in Nasr City before moving to Maadi (each is a distinct area of Cairo). I experienced President Mursi's election, camped in the western desert, rode camels by the pyramids, and had countless other experiences. I have since moved past this blog, on towards new endeavors, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 38, 39

Today, again, was pretty uneventful. I took the large bubble wand to work today and blew bubbles for all of the kids. They absolutely loved them!
Sherin spent some time talking to Mrs. Wedad, the teacher we like, again today. She asked about where the kids live/how long they live in the orphanage. All the kids we teach live together in one of the dorm buildings. There is a second Awladi building a few blocks away in Maadi where the boys over the age of 12 live. They can stay there until they finish school/get jobs (around age 18-20). The girls stay on the main Awladi campus until they get married. Mrs. Wedad said that most of them (the kids in our class) would end up married to each other eventually. This makes sense when you look at the way orphans are treated in Egyptian society. However, it is a bit weird for them, because, before puberty, they are raised together like siblings, and they continue having school together until they are of marrying age. (If you haven’t done so, you can go read the article I have listed under the “About Awladi” tab for more information about how the orphanage system works in Egypt).
After the bubbles, we were back in the classroom and Mrs. Wedad was playing a game with the kids. She had them all lay down, and she would say “shams!” (sun!), raising her arms, and the kids would all sit up. Then, she’d say “amar!” (moon!), lowering her arms, and they would lay back down. It was really funny, because they were getting so into it. Mrs. Wedad always teases with the kids; it’s really cute, and we can tell that she really likes them. It’s nice to see that they have such a good teacher.
She’s a really intelligent woman, and she likes to ask Sherin and I to define words in English or to tell her how to say things. We’ve taught her “eyebrow,” “election,” and “beyond,” among other things.
After we went to Dahab, she wanted to know how it was and how we liked it. We ended up talking about how different the clothing standards are on the beaches in Egypt. She told us that last time she was there, she saw women sunbathing nude and that it made her blush. We told her we hadn’t seen anyone without suits (except the babies), but that everyone could walk around in bikinis just fine. It seems as though the beaches were more liberal back in the 70s when she used to go. The really interesting thing about that conversation was the fact that Mrs. Wedad, a woman who wears hijab and swims in long-sleeves and pants, was so open to talk to us about modesty and standards of dress.
Women here definitely judge each other for wearing/not wearing a hijab. Even technically unreligious women will wear them, because it’s a cultural standard. It’s considered immodest to go without covering your hair, which is why men here consider loose hair to be such a sexually attractive thing. If I lived here for a long period of time, I would definitely consider covering my hair, at least loosely, on a regular basis. For now, I stay respectful by pulling my hair back into a ponytail or a braid. You would be amazed at how much of a difference this makes in how both men and women act.
Anyways, sorry for the rambling.
I’ve been planning our trip to Alexandria. Victor just went and bought the tickets, and we’ll leave tomorrow morning. It is only a three hour ride to Alexandria, so we’ll get there with enough time still to see a couple of things before they close (all tourist attractions close at 4 p.m. in Egypt). Then, we’ll stay in a cheap hotel for the night. On Friday morning, we’ll wake up and go out to see the rest of the things we miss. We plan to get the train back after 4 on Friday, so we’ll be back by the evening. There are only four of us going: Shubhum, Victor, Sherin, and I. Faria is still there for work, so she’ll meet up with us tomorrow for a few hours. With so few people, we’ll be able to get around really easily and see things quickly. I’m excited to go! There isn’t all that much to see, but Alexandria is supposed to be so nice.


  1. You'll have to fill me in on how Alexandria is! Have fun! Also, the Egyptian orphan system sounds very interesting!

  2. Have a great trip!