This weekend I had a very interesting dinner. All of the members of Kristin's journalist group were invited to eat dinner with families in a Cairo neighborhood called "Imbada." Kristin says this is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the entire city.
I wasn't so sure I wanted to have dinner with a family I didn't know. I would rather eat in the hotel's outdoor garden restaurant. But, Kristin said we had been invited to eat with this family so it was very important that I come with her for dinner.
The family we were eating with speak Arabic, the local language. So we had to bring someone with us who could "translate" any conversation. Our translator's name is Ismail. He works for VideoCairoSat, a local television company that has been helping Kristin's group in Egypt. Ismail is very nice.
Kristin's journalist friends Tina and Michael were also visiting the same family. We had to squeeze into a small taxi to get to the neighborhood. I was expecting to see a house but all of the families in this neighborhood live in tall apartment buildings. So, we had to climb up several flights of stairs (in a VERY dark hallway) to reach the apartment of our family.
The apartment wasn't very big but it was very clean. We had to take our shoes off at the door. I thought this was so we didn't get the floor dirty. Kristin says that is one reason but she also told me that in some countries, people are required to take off their shoes at the door as a sign of respect. So, I made sure to quickly take off my shoes!
The apartment didn't have very much furniture. But, they did have a TV and the children in the family were watching soccer when we arrived. Did you know that in Egypt soccer is called football? I had no idea! Kristin says in most countries around the world, if someone is talking about football they are really talking about soccer. How odd!
Anyway, our family was very nice. The father wore a long gray robe that Kristin says is a traditional kind of outfit. He works for Egypt's Agriculture Ministry and I don't think the mother works. She is expecting a baby next month. They already have four children...a boy (age 14) and three girls (ages 2, 8, and 10). The boy and the youngest girl wore regular clothes just like me (she even had a King Tut shirt on!). The mom and the oldest girls wore brightly colored long dresses.
Dinner itself was very different than dinner at my house. First, the mother insisted that I wash my hands (which I guess is a good thing). Then we were invited to sit on the floor. Guess what? They don't have a dining room table! So, we ate sitting on the floor. I think this is kind of cool!
Soon, the mother brought out a large tray of tube pasta and something called "kafta." Kristin told me it was ground lamb with spices. She also served us the same bread I have seen at nearly every meal during my trip in Egypt. Kristin calls it "flatbread." It is round and flat. The food was very good but I didn't eat much because I had a large lunch.
Our family didn't eat with us. The father told Ismail they had already eaten. Kristin says the family probably wanted us to have a special meal. I guess this makes sense.
I noticed while Kristin and her friends were talking with the father that the mother wasn't in the room. Kristin says in some cultures, women don't eat in the same room with men if there are guests in the house. Wow! I can't imagine having my Mom or Aunt Lynn eating in another room.
I must admit I couldn't understand anything the father was saying but he seemed very excited at times when talking with Kristin and her friends. Kristin later told me he was talking about politics. I decided to try to talk with the children. I also couldn't understand what they were saying but one of the girls showed me her school notebook. It was full of the lines and scribbles Kristin tells me is Arabic writing. I couldn't understand a single word! But I did notice she had THREE stars on one of her pages. She must be REALLY smart!
After dinner, the mother of the family came back to serve us cups of Coke and hot tea. We have had tea after many of our meals here. I think this must also be something that is common here in Egypt. It seems odd to drink hot tea when it is SO hot outside but I drank it anyway!
I know Kristin told me that this family lived in a very poor neighborhood ( it looked like the poor village we visited earlier on this trip). But, the apartment was nice and clean (cleaner than my room!). And, family seemed very happy.
Just before we left, we took some photos. Here are some photos of the family.
Special thanks to Kristin's friend Michael for taking my picture. I like Michael because his name is the same as mine!
Now I am glad that Kristin made me come with her to dinner. It was very interesting to see how a family in Egypt lives. Kristin also told me that American guests do not have dinner in people's houses very often in Imbada so this was an extra special visit. Very cool. I like it when I get to do special things with Kristin and her friends!
Until next time....