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Sharing Food, Sharing Voices: Girls of the World Unite!

Today was a special day for the Odyssey World Trekkers. Since Kevin is recuperating from malaria in Tel Aviv, we are the women trekkers: Abeja, Jasmine, Kavitha and I. Seeing as our theme in Egypt is "Gender Roles and Representations," we had the fortunate opportunity to have a girls' day off luncheon in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo.

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Girls' day off! Introducing from right to left: Abeja, Sahar, Eman, Wafaa, Mona, and Sahar.
Remember Mona and Wafaa from our first day in Cairo? Abeja and I bumped into them in a juice shop: Mona is a 20-year-old Egyptian girl and Wafaa, also 20, is her best friend. They have been friends since they were babies. Mona and Wafaa took us on a mini boat trip down the Nile River, and then invited us to their house in Heliopolis for a meal. We went to their house on a Friday, the first day of the Muslim weekend. Instead of a school week of Monday-Friday, like most of you are used to, the Egyptian school week runs Sunday-Thursday. We had a huge feast of macaroni soup, salad, chicken, beef stew and bread. Wafaa joined us for after-lunch glasses of sweet, hot, black tea.

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Mona and Wafaa - best friends since babyhood!
Because Mona and her sisters speak Arabic and just a little shway-shway inglizi (English), we communicated in a broken mix of Arabic and English with the assistance of our little yellow guidebooks. The funniest thing that Mona said was "ana salata," literally "I salad." What she meant, of course, was that she was going to go prepare the salad-- she was saying it in a way I could understand.

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The World Trekkers enjoyed quality female bonding with our lovely Egyptian friends.
In the days since our arrival to Egypt we have learned shway-shway Arabic and a few words that come up repeatedly, yanni and kedda. Yanni does not refer to the keyboardist with the mustache and long hair. It is a "filler" word like "so" or "well" or "ummm." Sahar (pronounced like"Sahara" desert but without the last a at the end) told me kedda is used when something is okay, if it works, or if it fits. For instance, we acted out a mime: if she said, "Awiz kitaeb" (I want the phrasebook) and I asked "leh" (why), she would shrug her shoulders and say, "kedda" (just so). So I came up with our next funny phrase, which was, "yanni.....kedda." Sooooo......just because. Sahar cracked up and I couldn't help but laugh along with her.

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Wafaa praised the good old American spaghetti!
At lunch today the teammates and I prepared a big pot of lentils with potato and onion, and spaghetti with tomato-zucchini sauce. At first I thought that maybe the girls wouldn't like to have a vegetarian meal, because they had served us a lot of meat at their house, but they told us it was gamila (very beautiful), and that the spaghetti made people strong. (They mimed strong by flexing their biceps).

Afterwards, we shared the chocolates the girls brought (they knew it was near Halloween) and talked about the differences between girls in the US and girls in Egypt. Both Mona and her sister Eman, 18,
Vocabulary Box

Ramadan - An annual festival in the 9th month of the Islamic year observed as sacred with fasting practiced daily from dawn to sunset.
"Ana Salata" - "I salad."
lentil - flat, edible seed

were engaged, the same day last September, to different uncles. They plan to get married in 6 months. Sahar, 17, Mona's sister, as well as her best friend of the same name, who is 15, are both in school. The girls told us about the annual festival of Ramadan. During this holy month, people do not eat between sunrise and sunset; and then, when the sun goes down, they have a big meal and mini-parties until the wee hours of the morning. I thought people would be unhappy, as well as hungry during the day, but Mona told me, "No, I like Ramadan. It's a nice time for everybody!"

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Sahar and Mona share a smile.
I have more to learn about the state of women such as Mona, Wafaa, Eman, Sahar, and Sahar's best friend Sahar. Perhaps the differences are more drastic then we think, or perhaps the similarities are bigger than the differences. Check in with me next time to find out! Until then, Ismi Monica (My name is Monica.) Ismak eh? (What's yours?)


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


Jasmine - Valley of the Dead
Abeja - Egyptian Life, THEN and Now
Abeja - Egyptian Life, NOW and Then
Kavitha - Stay Tuned for More Egyptian Dynasty
Monica - I'm M.A.D. about the Acropolis
Making a Difference - Just Do It...or forever hold your peace!

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