Monday, July 13, 2009
I'm back from another trip yet again! This time Kara and I headed to the Red Sea again, but on the opposite coast of last time (check out the super-gorgeous-non-ghetto map).
Hurghada was a lot of fun, and definitely a refreshing change in some ways from Cairo. Still on my first night I was going, "what a tourist trap, I miss Cairo!" However, I chilled out and had fun in a resort town that seems like something more out of Hawaii or California than Egypt--except with ridiculous amounts of rather rude Russian tourists.
Hurghada is (theoretically) 5-6 hrs by bus from Cairo, but if you add in Egyptian time and the bus breaking down, it's more like 8. Yeah, you have to factor in the bus breaking down, but just pray that it's only in a minor, fixable way. On the way we got relatively lucky--the bus broke down twice, but we got back on our way fairly quickly. We said "maalesh" and started taking pictures in front of the broken down bus. Back on our way Mina and I cranked up the Lady Gaga on his mp3 player as we sped through the desert night. On the way back we got totally screwed as our bus broke down completely an hour and a half from Cairo and we had to hitch a ride (with all the luggage!) on the next bus from the company to come along!
The days were mostly spent at the beach or the pool, doing beach or pool kind of stuff. I got thrown off a dock too at some point because I refused to take the plunge! At night we got the Egyptian boys in trouble playing a drinking game when it was revealed us American and Aussie girls can hold our liquor like champs in comparison.
We went out clubbing at a place called "Buddha Ramooza" on the second night which completely reminded me of Hawaii or California, down to the thatched grass ceilings, jets of fire for show above the open air dance floor, latest American pop hits, and cabanas straight on the beach. Yes, the American hits included, "Poker Face!" It was great to be able to chill on the beach with a drink and then go straight onto the dance floor! Kara finally got into smoking shisha too, which led to some hilarious pictures which I will only include a few of for both of our dignities sakes.
The next day we woke up at the crack of 7:30am after an ungodly late bed time to catch a breakfast buffet in horrible shape before heading off to an all-day snorkling trip! I groaned to Kara, "I'm so tiiiiired...the last thing I want to do is get on a booooat," but we had paid up 200LE the previous day so I was committed. I staggered along onto first a bus, then the diving center, then the boat, and we warned the boys to leave us be as we were in an incredibly impatient, grumpy mood after the early wake-up call. Kara and I staked out a bench inside out of the sun and she promptly slept while I dozed behind my sunglasses.
We got into it though after a couple hours as the boat headed out to "Paradise" island off the coast of Hurghada. It was a bit crowded, but the staff (whom we called "the pirates of Hurghada") were all friendly and helped us to get into the swing of things. "Paradise" is a pretty island, but all the day cruises go there so it was a slog getting on and off the island via small feluccas chock full of people. The food on the cruise was quite tasty too, which I was nervous about after several days of so-so hotel buffets.
Snorkling was great, and I realized that I haven't snorkled since before I can remember...if I have it was in Hawaii during one of our multiple childhood trips that I only half recall. This was fun though, the boat was in a perfect spot for us to remain close by and near the surface but still observe some beautiful fish and coral. That was good, as I didn't feel exactly adventurous! We swam around near the boat for awhile too, which was when our intrepid captain decided to come dunk me!
Afterwards Kara and I dozed on the front of the boat with a couple from Holland, just enjoying the sun. Let's just say we weren't enjoying things so much when we arrived home exhausted and suburnt! Both of us promptly showered and collapsed into bed for a couple hours before most of us trooped out to the club again to discuss the mating fest or to the cinema. I have to say that after being in Cairo for almost a month, the dance floor scene at Hurghada made me almost nauseous for how sex-drenched everything seemed and how slutty the behavior was--and this is coming from a California girl not exactly famed for prudishness! Cairo has changed me already more than I first thought it seems.
Cultural Homogenization (the boring part of this post)
I have a couple things to say on this topic as it's something my courses at my home college have beat me over the head about. This has been a topic that has very much rung true to me in my studies. I'm feeling frustrated at what I want to call exchanging cultural generalizations. Cairo is a very international town, with plenty of foreigners coming through, so there has so be some sort of language to exchange ideas from different cultures and different lifestyles of living. However, if there is something my Women's Studies education has warned me of it's dealing in generalizations and homogenizing groups of people.
When we assume a group of people all share the same exact thinking and will behave in the same manner we remove them from the freedom of having individual personalities in our minds. Personally, this seems dangerous to me as it becomes an easy way to presuppose things about individuals, and prevent ourselves from getting to know other people/cultures on their own terms. This can even lead to otherizing groups of people and dehumanizing them, which is how prejudices and harassment become condoned. One of things I am trying to do in Cairo is not tell people back home about Egyptian "culture" so much as people I know, or personal things I have seen or experienced. Lila Abu-Lughod, an author I quite enjoy, has written about this topic in the introduction to her book "Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories" where she warns of "the danger of cultures." I highly recommend the book to anyone visiting a foreign country, especially Egypt. It's also simply a fascinating read!
To put it on the most straightforward, street-level terms: I'm tired of speaking for all of America or all of the Western world even. I feel like I have to preface everything with "Well, my experience is..." and end everything with, "but it really depends on the person."