The Farangi’s first visit to the fellahin
27 August 2012 § Leave a comment
Another Ramadan month has flown by without any of the spiritual awakening/cleansing I had hoped for. I am not the most religious of Muslims, but I do enjoy me a good Ramadan as a time to reflect and try and do better. The most recent Ramadans have been much better. Egged on by PG’s attempts to familiarize himself further with the religion (and a beautifully bound English version of the Quran which was a gift from his brother) I’ve found myself Ramadaning with more gusto than I’ve had since I was a borderline fundy pre-teen. Not so this year.
So it is that Eid rolled around and I was not surprised or bothered by the speed with which it did. I was happy it was Eid already, especially since this year we’d finally be taking PG to my father’s small village in the Nile Delta where we traditionally spend the first day of every Eid with my elderly aunts and their children.
My father was very nervous about my insistence that we take PG along. Babagyptian has come a long way from his humble upbringing and he is very protective of the village of his youth. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, in the entire family there is only one uncle who went down the path of miscegenation, and despite their 20 year marriage, his European wife still marvels about the fact that he “came from this”. This being a village which has only one paved road and where the majority of houses are built with mudbrick and where the women still wash their clothes, dishes and discard of poultry entrails in the tir3a, the village canal. My father bristles at her verbalization of her fascination with my uncle’s and father’s origin story, not accepting that it comes from a good place, not one of condescension. I’ve tried to explain to my father numerous times that the reaction would be the same, if not worse, had he married an upper class Egyptian. This is no 3izba, this is the balad.
But PG is very different from my uncle’s wife in that he has actually lived in Egypt for a number of years, and he knows the score. In addition, his culinary tastes are much more baladi than mine, and really all you need to get along with my extended family is a love of all things batt, wiz and hamam.
So it was that we set off on the first day of Eid in two cars in order to give my brother, PG and I the flexibility to leave earlier than my parents, who spend a little more time visiting with my dad’s extensive extended family. Our first stop was my 3mitu’s house — the second eldest sibling in my father’s family. (The eldest sister passed away in 2010.) There we were greeted by several of my female cousins, and plates of koshari — a meal that has become a tradition for my family on the first day of Eid. Knowing that PG was going to be there, my cousin had also prepared creme caramel for dessert. They all waited for PG to give his comment on the food. “You’re going to get me in trouble with my mother-in-law,” he finally proclaimed. “Your creme caramel is as good as hers!” (PG would later tell me this was not true, but he wanted to be kind.)
In short, everyone was tickled pink by his presence, his proclamation and his seeming comfort in the environment. We proceeded to visit my other cousins and be plied with even more food and drink (mahalabiya, termos, endless cups of tea). Finally, as we were leaving my dad’s cousin insisted that we visit her field and take some corn back with us to Cairo. So she piled into the car with her three children and took us into her field dressed in our Eid finest. (Note: black suede flats not the ideal footwear for tromping through just watered fields.) She picked about a dozen ears of corn for us, and then started cutting molokhia and peppers and I had to practically physically restrain her from picking not-yet-ripe figs from her tree. She was very insistent that we not leave empty-handed or with an empty car boot. She also cut off an aloe leaf for me when I expressed an interest in pure aloe to use in the “no ‘poo” regimen” I’ve been following for several months now. (Btw, aloe smells horrible.)
All in all, it was a nice day that went a long way to endearing the Farangi to the family. After, I was told that my dad asked my sister (who wasn’t even there) what PG had thought of the village. (Babagyptian is way too proud to ask anything directly.) When my sister told Babagyptian he had a nice time, I think he was relieved and pleased.