Monday, April 27, 2009

Ala’s engagement reception

Last week, my student Ala invited me to his engagement reception at his fiancee’s house. So, I went with my next roommate Joseph. First, I bought a basket of flowers with a card. After we left the metro station, we walked 15 minutes. Along the way, I bought some apples and melons as housewarming gifts. We arrived at Koosharee Abu Rabia, or Father Spring’s koosharee shop. I called Ala, but no answer. We waited for another 10 or 15 minutes. Joseph and I decided to enter the koossharee shop and get something to eat while waiting. A few minutes after we began eating, Ala called back and said a 12 year old relative would meet us in a few minutes to lead us to the house.

Imagine about 40-50 people stuffed into a small living space, with loudspeakers the size of a small closet at either side, blasting obnoxious Arabic music, and everyone bumping and grinding to the music.

This is the first time I’ve been to a party when a man comes up to me and says, “Andy, come with me. I want to dance with you!” Well, when in Rome…

Ala’s cousin Fady, who speaks good English, plays in a band and asks if I am Japanese.

“Sorry, Chinese.”

I notice more than a few attractive ladies in the room and ask him who they are.
“Oh…are you looking for a one-night stand?” he asks me matter-of-factly. “Because if you are, then this is not the right place--too close. Everyone knows everyone else.”

“Fady—in your future dealings with foreigners, especially Westerners from the US or Canada or Western Europe, you shouldn’t assume they they are all looking for a one-night stand. Only about half of them are loose. The other half are VERY loose,” I explain.

He laughs.

“Where do you go to look for a nice Christian girl?” I inquire.

“Church, of course! I’ll take you,” he responds.

After more than an hour or so of dancing, the side room opens up for food. Most people rush into the dining room and take a position next to the table to fill their plates. However, they don’t move. They stand there to eat piece-meal from the plates.

I see turkey, chicken, beef, and pork passing around. Dolma, or grape leaves stuffed with rice and sausages. MaHshe, or cucumber stuffed with rice and meat. Lettuce, tomatoes on the side. And lots of Stella beer.

After some food, Joseph is dragged back onto the dance floor. As he and I are the only non-Egyptians at the gathering, we are dragged into the concentric circle of dancing fools for a few minutes of flailing arm movements.

Shortly before midnight, we leave the party and amble slowly back to the metro station, our ears still ringing from the loudspeakers.

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