Arriving in Alexandria during Ramadan has added an interesting twist to culture shock. Many of the people I encounter (including the guy I sat next to on the plane from Frankfurt to Cairo) are fasting. They put the Catholics during Lent to shame...no food, no drink...not even water. Which, here in Egypt, is a feat in and of itself as the days are hot, sunny and dry. The students and many of the teachers are following the no food/drink policy and, while generally cheerful, are on low ebb. That is, until around 8pm when they start to party like rock stars..ok, without the alcohol, but with food, evening prayer chanting and sporting events that go well into the wee hours of the morning. My apartment is within megaphone distance of at least two, maybe three mosques with competing, reverberating prayers. And, I think that there must be a special place in heaven for those who die during Ramadan as the services are even louder than the nightly prayer call. It's louder and more enthusiastic than an Irish wake. It does make a rather surreal accompaniment to my nightly laps in the pool.
Contrast the fasting to the continual feasting of the new teachers here at Schutz. I am provided with three squares a day, with lots of chicken, beef, some seafood and vegetables (no pork products, however, although I am told that there is a pork butcher somewhere in town where you can furtively buy bacon, chops and ham!) And desserts.....a totally decadent batch of marble sized, Egyptian doughnuts glazed with dripping honey sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream is so far my favorite. I am swearing off the desserts, unless that one shows up again.
Yet, whether feasting or fasting, everyone here is getting along well and my first impressions of Egypt, Alexandria, and my new school are very favorable. Now, if I can only learn some Egyptian Arabic, I can ask the cooks for those doughnuts again!