free stats Carmen's Web: RIP Naguib Mahfouz
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
RIP Naguib Mahfouz
December 11, 1911 - August 30, 2006

I discovered Egypt when I discovered Naguib Mahfouz.

I was only four when I left Cairo and the only Egypt I knew while growing up was the one I remembered from my childhood. It consisted of my wonderful grandparents and sweet, albeit dysfunctional, aunts and uncles. As I grew up in the diaspora, Dalida was added, followed by Om Kolthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez, Farid El Atrache, Shadia, and all the honeyed black-and-white movies where men ruled and women struggled, but happy endings always prevailed. The nuances of Egyptian society were always kept from me because there were no nuances to talk about. Egypt was perfect and I was constantly reminded of this by my parents and extended family. Circumstances beyond our control forced us to leave Her, Om El Donya (Mother of the World). And while we were here, in the West, we were to take only the good (education, technological advances, medicine) and leave the bad (everything else).

I wasn't allowed to identity myself as an American or be a part of "America", whatever that entailed. Once, when I was 12, I won a trivia contest in Sharm. I was very proud of myself. When the quizmaster asked me where I was from, I said, "ana min Amrika" (I'm from America). My aunt immediately shot me a look. It was confusing; on the one hand, I was actually living in America, but NOT living in America. As a matter of fact, I didn't even become a citizen until I was 20. I was very happy with my green card and green Egyptian passport. It was only when I realized how much hell I'd have to go through when I traveled abroad that I decided that becoming an American citizen might actually be perk.

Sometime in high school, a copy of "Miramar" managed to find its way into my possessions. What a book! I couldn't stop reading it. It was the first time I had seen internal pain and the human struggle written with such elegance, yet was horrified to see a depiction of Egyptian society that I was told never existed.

Years later when I attended AUC I was supposed to meet him at a book reading of some sorts. It was the day he was stabbed by some bastard fundamentalists, and so I missed my chance. That he didn't allow the fundamentalists to break his spirit, though, served as probably one of the most important lessons of my life.

As Basil said, if ever a life was well lived...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:27 AM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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