Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends, and Happy Eid to our Muslim ones. On Wednesday we celebrated Thanksgiving with some American friends here, which was a little weird, since we really don’t interact with foreigners much, outside of my office, which is multicultural anyway. It may also have been that though I felt ok enough to go, I wasn’t in the best of spirits as I was coming down with a touch of the flu. It hit hard that evening, and most of actual Thanksgiving I was in bed or resting.
I haven’t been keeping up with swine flu news in America, but it is a bit of a scare over here. I have no fear that I am infected with that strain, but the paranoia is so strong in the middle of my worst fits I thought I should go and get tested, only if to assure fearful friends that they can be free to have a conversation with me.
Is this rumor circulating in America? I have heard here from multiple sources that the swine flu vaccine is being distributed by the US government around the world in order to bring about population control. Since the rest of the world won’t stop having babies, the US first created the swine flu virus to wipe out great swaths of world population, and then is marketing the vaccine which in actuality will be a contraceptive. The company producing the vaccine is the same one which manufactures the government’s chemical weapons stash, or, has been brought up on charges for fraud and malpractice. The rumors all stem from certain emails which are making the rounds in Egypt, and presumably elsewhere. Has anyone seen these in the States?
In any case, since I am still taking it easy today we are unlikely to have any valuable updates on the Eid, whereas otherwise we would be sure to visit our friends and experience their holiday with them. Maybe it is for the best; if I was well then surely I would have here a video allowing you to witness the sheep slaughter, skinning, and skewering with us.
For those who don’t know, Eid al-Adha means holiday of the sacrifice, and celebrates the obedience of Abraham in sacrificing his son, universally believed to be Ishmael, though the text is ambiguous, before God spared him in the end and substituted an animal in his stead. It is the chief ritual of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and of the two mandated Muslim holidays, it is alternately called ‘The Major Holiday’, in comparison to the end of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, known as Eid al-Fitr, which means the holiday of fastbreaking, or alternately, ‘The Minor Holiday’.
Several posts going backwards mention that I spent some time in a local monastery last week. I can state briefly that it went very well and was an enjoyable experience. I have not yet written about it, however, since my reflections will also be published in our newsletter, Arab West Report, which has not yet been finalized due to the holidays. There will be two reports in time. The first will be a summary of my conversation with one of the elderly monks of the monastery when he came to Cairo on business. I met him in order to introduce myself and seek permission to stay, and a very interesting discussion followed. The second will be the formal report of my time there, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.
One reason my boss encouraged me to keep a blog in the first place was to help promote knowledge of our newsletter, so while both of these reports will be published there, I will be sure to provide the link needed to read them. Whereas reading the full text of our reports and translated articles usually requires a paid subscription of something like $50 to $100 per year for individuals, I will make certain, with his permission, that anything I link you to, whether or not I am the author, is free of charge.
Of course, you are invited to look around. Simply by looking at our weekly issue you can browse the news we are covering for the past seven days, though you may not be able to gain too much just from the titles and short summaries. The ‘hot news’, however, can be accessed for free, and is located in the lower central section of the home page. These are updated regularly, though not quite daily. Free subscriptions of the weekly summary collection are also available; you can search for it online or contact me and I can sign you up.
This is sounding more and more like an advertisement, which is not my intention. Yet while you can generally follow along with most of our life here via the blog, the newsletter can give greater insight into religious Egypt in general, and our broader work of which I have only a part. As with all things, you are warmly invited to learn along with us. That you keep up with us at any level, however, is received as a gift.