Friday, September 21, 2007

I sit, and I think, and I listen

Today is Friday, and in a Muslim country like Egypt, that means it’s the first day of the weekend. It is late morning, and most of my peers are traveling around Luxor or sleeping in. I woke up early this morning despite going to bed at 3:30 last night after attending an Egyptian student’s birthday party at an outdoor café with live music. I’m sitting on the 17th floor of the Marwa Palace Hotel scanning downtown Cairo: the Nile, the American hotel chains lining the river, and a nice blanket of hazy smog, not too heavy, but just enough to blur the outer edges of the city like a cerulean pastel. On clear days, I can see the pyramids from here, three giant triangles dominating the southwest skyline despite their distance from downtown and their ages, measured not in years but in millenniums. Today is not one of those days.

I sip recently-purchased Nescafe from a maize and blue mug in an effort to satisfy my coffee cravings and continue to subtly support my home institution. I feel embarrassed about my football team, but I am a true fan, a true patriot of history and tradition. Hell, I even had a class with Bo Schembechler.

It’s noon. That means Friday sermons are projected from the many mosques around the city, and my position in front of an open window on the 17th floor of the hotel is a perfect spot to listen to the sounds of prayer and sermon. I do not understand what is being said except for the occasional Takhbeer (“Allahu akbar,” “God is the greatest”). But I don’t have to understand the language to enjoy these sounds. I agree with John Cage’s philosophy that oftentimes all we must do to hear music is close our eyes and open our ears.

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