Friday, February 29, 2008

Zalamak on Zamalek

On my way home the other day from downtown Cairo to Zamalek, I was in heavy traffic. Nothing new. There’s traffic every day in this city. The microbus driver slows down, but taps the car in front. Upset, the other driver gets out, and yells at our driver, “zalamak!” which translates roughly into “you pick on someone smaller than you.” Generally, this phrase is used to insult other drivers. Another way to look at it is, “You got your driver’s license because you fooled the driving examiner.”

The angry driver opens his car’s front hood to check it for damage. Seeing no visible or major damage, our driver decides to leave the scene. He backs up a foot or so and tries to turn right, but in the process, taps the other car again. The other driver yells again. I don’t catch the insult this time…

Islam’s prohibition of dancing

There is no dancing in Islam, so says Dr. Moustafa. You can dance at home with children, your family, your spouse, but a man should not, and cannot, dance with a woman who is not his wife. He asked me to stand. He grabbed my left hand and swung me around and around in the room. “A man can dance with a man. That’s acceptable. However, it is not right to dance with a woman.” In the same lesson, the good doctor again emphasized how important it is to find a religion. In time, “you will become a Muslim!” he declared with a big smile, as he does in nearly every lesson. Hmmm…a religion without dancing? Is that one of the benefits that he’s touting to make Islam appeal to me? I told Dr. Moustafa that I took many months of Salsa and Tango lessons in the U.S. dancing, no alcohol, no music except for Qur'anic chants. At least in Judaism and Christianity, you can drink alcohol. In the many Shabbat dinners that I attended at the Synagogue in Washington, DC, the Rabbi would usually come around with a bottle of Jack Daniels and offer it to us. At this point, Judaism seems much more attractive.

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