Center for Arabic Study In Cairo (CASIC)

Cairo, Egypt

Today was our first day back to classes, in our new program: Center for Arabic Study In Cairo (CASIC). We’re not back on the old Tahrir campus, as there are still demonstrations of varying sizes on Tahrir Square every day. Instead, we are having our classes in the AUC dorms in the ritzy, super-secure neighborhood of Zamalek.

Thanks To AUC…
Zeinab Taha is our hero! We thanked her often and effusively yesterday at our orientation, but I don’t think we can thank her enough. When the University of Texas canceled CASA for the rest of the academic year, we felt stranded and abandoned, academically and financially. Thanks to the Zeinab, and AUC’s new president and CASA alumna Lisa Anderson, we now have an academic home again, and much-needed financial support.

We’re also very happy that our teachers will have the work that was promised to them. So are they, it seems, since several professors report having asked AUC to let them teach us without compensation during the revolution! With CASA canceled and all but 20 of AUC’s 350 Arabic students having fled the country, if they didn’t have CASIC, they’d have nothing!

We’re Back To Business…
It was great to be in class again. I haven’t forgotten quite as much Arabic as I thought I had over our 10 very long weeks of break. In fact, it’s pretty amazing how much I’ve learned since June, and I’m excited to see how much I’ll learn by the coming June!

It was also great to hear our professors talk a little about the revolution and their experience of it. We’d been asking ourselves all through the revolution if they were on Tahrir Square, and they certainly were.

Wael was out almost every day, playing bodyguard to his friend the Chief Supreme Court Justice, as one of the volunteers protecting the Egyptian Museum, and even being shot at by pro-Mubarak thugs. His friend the amazing interpreter was also there, leading the Muslim Brotherhood’s defense of Tahrir Square from those pro-Mubarak thugs on horses and camels. And of course we saw his friend from the leadership of the Lawyers Syndicate on TV to announce that the lawyers were taking the side of the people against Mubarak.

Sayyed was also very excited about the revolution. For a decade, he explained, he’s been arguing that the only way Egypt would change is from within the NDP. Some prominent party voice would have to publicly declare their disgust with the NDP and break away to form a new party. He’d never imagined that the people would effect change from beyond the party, and he’s delighted to be wrong. I’m excited to take this class with him on Islamic political movements, especially in light of the current curiosity about the Muslim Brotherhood’s next move here in Egypt.

But Not Quite As Usual!
Things are not yet back to normal in Cairo, whatever normal is going to be. There are still dozens of tanks blocking the streets around the Radio and TV Building, the heart and soul of the Egyptian propaganda machine. The only public transportation between my apartment in Tahrir and our classes in Zamalek should go down those streets. Consequently, there is no public transportation to class, and I refuse and can’t afford to pay 30 pounds ($6) a day in taxi fare to get to class on my stipend. That’s a whole week worth of koshary lunches!

This means that I practically ran to class this morning, for lack of public transportation, which took me an hour and left me with half a dozen blisters and all my clothes soaked in sweat. I don’t mean to whine. I’m grateful that we have classes to go to! But I chose my apartment for its proximity to class and public transportation, and it’s so frustrating to be stranded there now!

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