Sunday, February 25, 2007

Parties, Ballets, and Journalists...Oh My!

Obviously, the most notable event of the weekend was my adventure to Saqqara. However, there were some other interesting things that went down.

Thursday night was the Gallabiya party, which was really a lot of fun. Everybody purchased a gallabiya - essentially a long cotton robe - which is the traditional garb of the Egyptian working class. We sat around, drank beers and a mojito punch, smoked various substances, and had a good time. It was a little awkward when some of the Egyptian students started arriving - some of us thought they might see it as exploiting their culture - but they seemed to enjoy it and joined in the spirit of the thing.

After the party had wound down a bit, I changed back into Western clothes and headed out to Latex, a western-style disco under the Nile Hilton, with Hanna and a bunch of Egyptians. It was pretty interesting, because inside it was just like any club anywhere in the world -dark, smoky black-box bar, scantily dressed women flirting with men, a dance floor and pounding bass beats. But the Egyptian girls entering at the door were all wearing jackets and overcoats that, as soon as they entered the club, came off to reveal halter-tops, backless shirts and all manner of short skirts and high-heeled boots. It was a pretty fascinating and compelling cross-cultural bridge.

I got home at 4am and had to get up at 8 to go riding. That was...well, I survived. Although I did get hit with a spot of hangover around Saqqara. It kind of shows in the photos.

After the ride, Joe, Claire, Jacob, Jay, Thalia and I all went to the Cairo Opera House to see "Thousand and One Nights." It was a ballet, but not the Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade as I had thought. Rather, it was an Egyptian production. Not the most polished or professional ballet, with the exception of the Russian woman who danced Scheherazade, but a fun cultural experience.

Finally, I saw the journalist Seymour Hersh speak this evening. He's the real deal - he was the guy who broke the story of the My Lai massacres in Vietnam and ran some of the exposes about Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He spoke mostly on the war and its effects on both the Arab and American worlds, as well as the threat of further destabilizing the region via conflict with Iran.

He also has just published a story which basically alleges, with a good deal of proof, that the US is repeating some of the techniques of Iran-Contra, funding Sunni jihadist groups - with ties to Al Qaeda - against Hizbollah and Shi'a groups in the region. It's all very iffy stuff, but damning if true. I don't doubt that the US is involved in some very shady dealings in the region.

Anyways, his life as a reporter sounds really fascinating. The more time I spend here, the more I want to come back and do this kind of thing - get these stories and these scoops and so forth. But I'm not sure if it is a life that I am cut out for.

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