Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A few host family updates and randomness

Although I still do not yet have all the information I would like to have about my host family, I will go ahead and tell you what I know so far! :)
I know that I'll be living in an apartment, and it's in a neighborhood called Smouha. I've heard it's a nice neighborhood from my Cairene friend...And also from my Alexandrian friend Fatma. AND IT TURNS OUT THAT IT'S LIKE FIVE MINUTES FROM HER. DAY = MADE. :D
I have three host brothers, as I've said. The youngest, Gaser, is my age, and will be spending a year with AFS in Indiana while I'm in Egypt! My other two host brothers, Loay and Khaled, both appear to be studying at the University of Alexandria. They also both work, at an engineering company and with EgyptAir at the Alexandria Airport, respectively. I am not sure if they live at home or not.
And I also know that my host-grandparents live in Cairo, near the Islamic part of the Old City!
It also seems that part of the family originated in Aswan, a very beautiful city in the Sa'id, the south of Egypt.
So far, I know next to nothing about my parents. I know only that their names are Amal (host mom-I like that name; it's Arabic for "hope" ^^) and Ahmed (host dad). Oh, and their last name is Radwan. xD
I also haven't received any information about my host school. Or my travel itinerary. TT_TT
But, don't get me wrong! I'm very, very, very happy with what I have so far, and I find it extremely surreal and exiting to Facebook-chat my host brothers! xD
Even though more information needs to come in, I'm choosing to look on the bright side and be happy with what I have so far. =)
Another thing that I've been doing lately has been researching all of Egypt (and its history, customs, holidays, traditions, and so forth. No easy task, as we are, of course, talking about a country with a 3,000+ year history). And I've been researching Alexandria's history in particular. I don't know a lot about its more modern history (I will be sure to change that). But it's got a legendary ancient history. It's really quite a fascinating city; it was founded by (and named after) none other than Alexander the Great, and when his generals divided up his empire among themselves after his death, Egypt went to his childhood friend Ptolemy. From him stemmed the line of Greek rulers that ended with Cleopatra. Interestingly enough, most of the Ptolemies spoke only Greek, and Cleopatra was the first and only ruler of her dynasty to study and speak the native Egyptian language of the seven million people over which she ruled.
At the time, Alexandria was a huge, cosmopolitan center of knowledge because of its universities and its legendary library. It was the envy of the ancient world; having studied in Alexandria was then what studying at Harvard or Yale today would be, times ten. Also, because it was so important, Alexandria attracted immigrants from all over the Mediterranean region and all over the known world; a contract could involve people of up to seven different nationalities! For example there were more Jews there than in Jerusalem, and there was even a Buddhist community! Most people in Alexandria spoke Greek in ancient times, rather than the native Egyptian language spoken in the rest of the country. I've heard the following metaphor in a biography I'm reading about Cleopatra: "One journeyed between the two [Alexandria and Egypt] as today one journeys between Manhattan to America, though with a swap of languages in the ancient cases." I found this to be a useful analogy. :3
So yeah, that's basically ancient Alexandria in a nutshell. xD Unfortunately, much of the ancient quarters of the city were submerged due to earthquake damage. But archaeologists scuba dive to find artifacts from the submerged ancient parts of the city, which I personally think is really, really cool :D
Another interesting period of Alexandrian history happened after the city was rebuilt by the Egyptian reformist ruler Muhammad Ali. The city quickly turned into an important, cosmopolitan port because of its strategic location, and attracted a wide mix of people from around the Mediterranean, including Turkish-Egyptian traders, Jews, Italians, and Greeks, among others. However, after Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1952, the wave of anti-colonial, nationalistic sentiment that came about caused the vast majority of these foreigners to leave Alexandria, making it the mostly Egyptian city that it is today.
Another thing that I've been studying a lot has been Arabic. And let me tell you, I love it, but it is NOT easy. One of the hardest things about it is that I'm trying to learn Modern Standard Arabic (used in print, the media, politics, higher education, etc.) and the colloquial Egyptian dialect (spoken at home and on the street). Although they are for the most part similar, many times words will change completely. For example, "peace" is "سلام" (salam) in both of them. But "nose" is "أنف" (anf) in MSA and "مناخير" (menakheyr) in Egyptian! This large difference in many words is quite confusing. Although I'm getting a little better about it now, I used to mix them up and have a half-MSA-half-Egyptian sentence come out a lot when I'd try to speak in Arabic. But that's getting a little better. I'm kind of intimidated, because although I do know some things and my reading/writing skills aren't that bad, I am nowhere near fluent yet, and I'm curious to see how that will work out when I arrive....But until my departure, I will continue studying hard. :)
Well, that will be all for now. I'll leave you all with a picture of Smouha!
Saad Zaghloul Street, a popular gathering place in the 20th Century glory days. 

Additionally, this is a map of the ancient city from the Cleopatra biography I've been reading!
the Islamic part of the Old City in Cairo! 

Aswan! Isn't it pretty?! 

I will post upon receiving any further noteworthy updates. :3 
Sorry about the white highlight stuff. I can't get rid of it. AGAIN. >.<

 مع السلامة (ma' as-salema), 
Nico :)


  1. It would be great! You go to one of the most important cradle of the world. Best wishes on your exchange!

  2. thank you SOO much!!! I can't wait :D

  3. Wow! Good Luck!

  4. Thanks, you too!!
    Siccome sono mezzo americano e mezzo italiano, se hai domande durante il tuo intercambio negli USA sarei felice di aiutarti e rispondere!
    Buon avventura :D