August 4th, 2007

Egyptian Culture

I'm going to talk about my experiences that give a window into the culture of Egypt.

On the plane in, I started chatting with the Egyptian next to me. She worked for an American company that bought Egyptian textiles. When the conversation drifted to literature, I asked what her favorite book was. Her response was to give it to me.

I love juice. Apparently, so do Egyptians. There were numerous juice markets, and most of them would provide you with sugar cane juice, date juice or mango juice. Often for as little as 10 cents per glass. Pleasantly enough, mangos are in season.

Eating, however, was not as exciting. Egyptians love fried meats. Liver is considered the best of the best. I ate at one restaurant/stall. They offered me a mystery dish based on liver and a mystery meat dish. I, of course, took the mystery meat option. Mystery meat was apparently liver, so I didn't luck out. They offered me soggy, salty falafels, stale pita, and salad. All told, it was really, really bad. They surprised me when they wanted 30 pounds for the meal. I escaped paying to go to an Egyptian that I trusted to ask if it was the right price. I was assured that it was. I eventually paid up and started sticking to the spicy pita hamburgers that only cost 1 pound each.

If I held a contest to try to find the worst possible name for a condom company, what name would you submit? I think that there's a business man in Egypt who would probably win because he created the company... “Simplex Condoms”. Maybe they could advertise with a slogan like, “When you feel that it's time to share everything with your partner, make sure to get a Simplex.” Or, “Herpes? No thanks. I've already got a Simplex.” I'm not making this up.

Bulgaria was really hot. Tromping around in the desert put that to shame. The web talked about the temperature being in the 90s. I heard someone say 48 C. One of the people I was traveling with did a spot check on his thermometer and came up with 115 F. That's not 48 C, but it's still toasty. Fortunately, it wasn't very humid. That meant that the sweat could evaporate. The one side effect is that I was forming salt crystals on my skin.

I read my new book while in Egypt and did what I felt was right with it. I wrote my name in the cover, gave it to someone else and told them to do the same thing with it.