The Arab Spring

Wow things have been messy these past few weeks. In Egypt, the democratically elected Mohammad Morsi was overthrown by the military. In Syria, Bashar Al-Assad has started gaining momentum as the rebels begin to fight one another. And in Turkey, if you want to consider it part of this movement, we haven’t really seen much news lately. Lack of interest? Either way, these past few weeks have been relatively eventful, and perhaps will go a long way in impacting the future of the Middle East.

First, let’s talk about Egypt. I remember very clearly the night of the coup in Egypt. I first read about it on facebook. I turned on the news (in Arabic) and there was the army giving the announcement. Then I noticed the din of car horns, louder and more annoying than usual (which is pretty loud and annoying), so I gathered that these people might be excited about the overthrow of Morsi. I talked with my language partner later, and found out that, according to him, many Jordanians actually supported Morsi. My Saudi Arabian friend had a more condescending approach to the situation in Egypt, noting that it seemed like Egypt really didn’t know what it wanted. Arabs of stable countries view the situation in Egypt, one in which a dictator was overthrown in favor of a democratically elected Islamist…who was overthrown because of his incompetent government, as one in which as less-educated people suffer from their own mistakes.

Ramadan is frustrating.

It’s been a week and a half of Ramadan already. I’ve already suffered from the inability to shop on Fridays, and now today is a Friday during Ramadan. Luckily I only needed water today, and as that’s such a basic commodity of course a few shops would be selling that. I was really proud of myself today though because I got revenge (sort of) on this guy that ripped me off weeks ago. I bought a candy bar that was clearly marked half a dinar, and the guy charged me like 2 dinar back then. And I only bought it to get change! Well today that was one of the few shops open near me, so I went in, and asked how much a bottle of water is using the correct, appropriate vocabulary. It was only .35 dinar, so I paid and left, successfully.

Anyway, I’d like to talk about Ramadan in general. I’ve noticed some very interesting things here. I think the fasting hours are between about five in the morning until eight at night. This means you cannot eat, drink (including water), or do many other things, including smoking, sex, or maybe even swearing. Considering that pretty much everyone smokes here, I think it’s crazy that they go so many hours without it when they’re likely very deeply addicted to cigarettes. I’ve heard that it is illegal to eat in public during Ramadan, and it’s generally rude as well.

I got hungry one time and went to the mall next to my school. The only food place open was McDonald’s. I bought a McFlurry and quietly ate it in a corner, and only after talking with a Jordanian friend did I start fearing that I may get arrested. Luckily, there were few people around to offend other than the workers at McDonald’s, and I think eating inside places like that is acceptable.

It may seem like Ramadan is a very strenuous time for Muslims, and theoretically it should be, except for the fact that they basically become nocturnal during this month. Things are quieter during the day, but activity quickly picks up during the night. So of those fifteen hours of fasting, perhaps as much as eight or ten of them by the cheatiest of cheaters could be spent on sleeping. But naps definitely help mitigate the cruel fifteen hours of no sustenance. I think many people also don’t brush their teeth during that time, as the chance that they might swallow toothpaste or water could jeopardize their fast.

I’ve also noticed an increase in beggars over the past week. I generally don’t respond well to beggars because I live outside of Chicago, so it’s a well-known fact that many people living on the street just use whatever money they receive to buy drugs. Here I’m sure things are different, but I’ve grown so used to refusing to even look at beggars that I just don’t respond well. Well, I’ve been twice faced with a beggar in my face. One girl knocked on our apartment door and started begging for money. Another girl tried to sell me something, and I kept telling her no until her sister came up to me and started grabbing my arm. I brushed them off me and quickly got out of there because I’m not gonna get mobbed by a bunch of little Arab girls on the street. But this increase in beggars matches an increase in charity during the month of Ramadan. People believe that charity and good deeds in general during this month have their effects multiplied due to the fast. So if you’d receive recognition by God for giving to the poor, this recognition becomes exponentially greater when fasting.

I apologize for the lack of updates over the past few weeks, as I have been busy with my class lately. I’ll be sure to post updates about the last few weeks though, as my classes have dealt with incredibly interesting issues–in Arabic–like the Arab spring and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.