Thursday, March 12, 2009


Tonight’s English class at the Haram street center proved interesting. Alah, or Alan-his English name-is an advanced speaker of English. As he should be, considering his 6 months spent in Australia as a 17 year old. That was 10 years ago. Tonight, he served as the class interpreter, explaining terms that were unknown to the rest of the students, including the four girls from Djibouti, who seemed hopelessly lost.

After class, Alah offered me a ride home, practicing the idea of “doing a favor” that we covered in class. His car, a four door from Korea, still has that new-car smell. He is on his way to his Fiancee’s house, but said he could drop me off. Despite my protests, he insisted on giving me a lift.

A Coptic Christian, Alah is extremely outgoing and speaks with the enthusiasm of an American or Aussie. He stops momentarily at a coffee shop for some Egyptian coffee, which is really repackaged Turkish coffee. He gives me a bag. He tells me of his fiancée, whom he met 20 days ago at Khan AlKhalili, the infamous bazaar and tourist trap. He thought about the appropriate word for a moment to describe his initial meeting with his current fiancée, then uttered “serendipity.” When he first saw her, he said, “she stole my heart.” He told his father, standing next to him, that he wanted to talk to her.

He recalled, “I asked her if she had a boyfriend. Then, I asked to talk to her father later.” I remarked how this one question saved him a lot of time in his search. Soon afterwards, he made an official visit to the father, who gave him the customary grilling about his education, background, future goals and ambitions. He passed. He has spent each night with his beloved, learning about her as a person and future wife. She currently is training to be a tour guide for German tourists.

Alah pulls out a photo of her from his wallet. She looks to be in her early 20s. I comment to him, “if she were a Muslim girl, I’d put her in a niqab (black veil covering her entire body except the eyes).” He laughs, agreeing with my sentiment.
Alah says he hopes that I will be able to attend his wedding in 3 months time.

“Insha’ Allah” or God Willing I say.

After 10 minutes of weaving through alleyways and turnabouts, we make it into lighter traffic. Alah plans to immigrate to Melbourne, Australia within the year after he takes the IELTS exam, similar to the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). After a year or so, he will then send for his wife. Expressing both angst and hope, Alah remarked, “Sometimes, I wonder if I know what I’m doing.”

When we arrive at my building, we trade phone numbers. I wish him a good night. After watching his smooth handling of a large four door car in Cairo traffic, I have no doubt that Alah will be able to handle Australia.

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