Monday. We hit the French Cultural Centre for the first night of the week-long Latin American Film festival. The problem with most films that hit theaters in Egypt is that they arrive highly edited…so it was nice to watch a movie the way it was intended-sans any sort of censorship. The term director’s cut takes on a whole new meaning here. We saw Esas No Son Penas (Ecuador), a slow moving heavy drama of five female friends who are entering mid-life and all the issues that come with the territory. The best part of the film was the Arabic subtitles.
Tuesday. We were invited to the American Cultural Center for its’ 30th Anniversary celebration. The joint looked loaded full of important people, but I suppose if you dress anyone up in suit and tie or an evening dress commands some sort of attention. The finger foods were delicious; the best of the trays were the grilled chicken, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), and pastries. As an added bonus (thanks to the commissary in Cairo) California Cabernet was being served. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a speech detailing the history of the long friendship between the United States and Egypt. Gwen, the director of the center kindly made a point to take a moment out of her hectic schedule to introduce Ana and I to a couple of important people involved with the arts in Alexandria as well as the Ambassador.
The VIP of the American Center-he took good care of me!
Wednesday. It was double-hitter night at The Russian Cultural Center. The evening kicked off with an art opening of paintings turned digital wall hangings of “abstract depictions of horses in motion and other subjects” by Russian artist Gary Zukh. I would say Gary’s demeanor was low key and humble, on par with a couple of outsider artists I met while living in The South. The artist reception was followed by Youth of Siberia Russian Dance ensemble and friends. We had the opportunity to preview the dance group the previous week and declared it was a must see. The theatre was situated in the lush courtyard of the Center. Some audience members couldn’t break away from their smoking or jabbering habit long enough to sit through an hour plus performance. Towards the latter half of the evening during one of the dances, a sonic boom of electronic instruments (could it finally be rock music in Egypt?) clashed with the Russians. The hybrid of sounds infuriated about everyone present, a few curious people wandered off, never to return. We behaved and sat through the final remaining routines and bolted off across the narrow avenue in search of live rock. Leave it to the Germans to be the spoiler of the night. The music was indeed live and coming from the rooftop of the German Cultural Center. Ana and I climbed up the fire escape stairs to a full-on party of mostly college age Egyptian boys and the occasional female flirting with the notion of dancing. Of course the concert isn’t complete without a vendor selling grilled cheese sandwiches with cubes of meat and cups hot Lipton Tea. The music could be described as indie rock infused with Arabic melodies.
The art of Gary Zukh
One of the costumes
Thursday. In short, Ana went her way and I went mine. Ana along with a Huck Finn, Jill Milk, and Don’t Pollute dressed in costume and went to a Halloween party about 45 minutes on the other side of town. Ana was a calavera (skeleton) and spooked many people en route including cab drivers and children. I ventured off with Darth Seth and Lianne for the Hash House Harrier Taxi Grand Prix 2009. The best way to describe the event is to think of a small scale version of The Amazing Race done solely in taxi cabs racing from pub to pub. Our efforts got us second place and sofa bound the following day.
Don't Pollute, Ana, Huck Finn, and Jill Milk
Hash House Harriers Taxi Grand Prix 2009 Trophy
Inside the Spitfire Pub-they asked not to be photographed since they were important Americans
Friday. Surfs up! I woke up early to hit the end of a two day swell. I tried a new spot near the Bibliotheca (Shatby). I drew a huge crowd of supporters who watched me get crushed and tossed in series of powerful and fast closeouts. I made it home back in time to join Ana and Barb (teacher) for lunch and felt hunting. The three of us piled in a taxi and made our way down to Mansheya, home to the fabric shop district. We hit a couple of shops trying to locate the hard to find felt and got caught in a Bermuda Triangle of sorts. The shop keeper was very insistent in helping us. He took our sample material and the paper we had info on and ran off. Long story short; I figured he liked the ladies (the owner had a crush on Barb and referred to her as our "mom") and really wanted hard to please everybody, he found what we needed, provided us with tea, coffee, and Arabic lessons while we patiently waited…all of this in 90 minutes. Again, this is what I love about the Egyptians; they make things happen even if it means going to someone else’s shop and buying the goods to resell at a slightly higher price of course. Si se puede!
He wanted me to e-mail this pix to him
Saturday. Lobna (the French teacher) and her daughter properly introduced The Bibliotheca to us. The Bibliotheca is a resurrection, version 2.0, “a commemoration of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity” it also serves as a cultural hub housing facilities for the visual and performing arts in addition to a planetary science and conference center…you can call it the Swiss Army Knife of culture. We spent a couple of hours combing through artifacts of Alexandrian history from the Pharaohs to the Romans to the Christians ending with Islam. We also had a chance to view ancient manuscripts in an area what I would regard as “the cave” due to its’ lack of lighting. There wasn’t enough time in a day tour the entire facility; at least we have another adventure with Lobna to look forward to. Later in the evening Ana and I returned back to Mansheya to attend an acapella concert preformed by Malga Roma Alpine Choir at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. The somber performance paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Italian war memorial at El Alamein. On the way home our taxi driver said that there was going to be shitta (rain) this week as we drove past the fruit vendor selling kaka (persimmons).