Fresh-ish from my travels in Africah over the semester break (‘another blog?!’ I hear you groan), and filled with ideas about my experiences and the people I met, once again I return to the hallowed hall of Bantermarket blogs. Some readers of my Syrian exploits were a little offended. My jocular writing style can have that effect. So lap it up; suspend political correctness and come with me on a journey through time, space and culture, to the world of Fatimids, Pharaohs and fresh lager.
As I pointed out before leaving for Damascus, nobody goes to a new country of such a different historical, cultural and religious makeup than their own – in this case another new continent – armed and yet also disarmed by various presuppositions and preconceived notions. In modern times, we know Egypt as the cultural and political centre of the Arab world, and as one of the most ethnically and religiously cohesive Arab nations. And yet, looking closer than that, how do we reconcile regional variations in dialect and language, the culture of the Bedouin and the large Coptic Christian minority, not to mention racial differences between Arab, Copt and Nubian?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for one of the many issues of stereotyping and misconception surrounding this ancient, vast land. So I sat at Gatwick airport clutching an egg sandwich with a plethora of important questions on my mind: what is the nature of Egyptian civilisation, and moreover how has it mutated after the passing of the many Arab dynasties and Turkic influences which have dominated at different periods of our era? To what extent is this country ethnically and nationally cohesive, and how does the answer to that affect the political and culture structure of her constituent areas? What are Egyptians like, how do they define themselves, and how do they think? How many pints of lager can I buy for £5?
Of course, we turned up at the best time – revolution. But the point of this blog is to document my thoughts and experiences, not to spout baseless conjecture and bullshit about authoritarian republics. We get quite enough of that in the press as it is.