Thursday, June 24, 2010

Watching USA beat Algeria, in Cairo

There are some Arabian cultural experiences that I'll just never get to have. I may get to party with the muhajibaat (veiled ladies) when they've let their hair down, literally, at a girls-only pre-wedding party, sure. But sitting in the front seat of a taxi? Chatting it up with the bowab? Not so much. Also not so much: watching the USA vs. Algeria soccer game in a ghetto street cafe with a bunch of Egyptian men.

But Jeremy gets to do that, and he did, yesterday. He was downtown for an Arabic class and when it was over, he found the nearest venue that was showing the game. It just happened to be a hole-in-the-wall cafe filled with Egyptian men. It was the kind of place that is so shabby that women don't go there, and Sprite is served, but only in those murky glass bottles.

Sprite is what Jeremy drank, and he mostly kept to himself, at least at first. But word eventually got out that he was American, and pretty soon everyone knew there was an authentic USA fan in the house. The good thing is that the Egyptians were cheering for USA, too. How can this be, you ask? Well, Egypt kind of hates Algeria right now, especially in a World Cup context, so it wasn't so much that they really wanted the US to win as they really wanted Algeria to lose.

Whatever, right? The enemy of my enemy is my friend, or something.

When Donovan scored that crucial goal, the crowd of Egyptian men jumped up from their seats and erupted into enthusiastic cheers. Jeremy was cheering, too, right along with them. There was back-slapping and clapping and arm-pumping all around. Some of the men made a point of making eye contact with Jeremy to acknowledge the resident American and include him in the festivities.

When the game was over, everyone cleared out of the cafe and everything was back to normal. Not that the US and Egypt are enemies or anything, but I can't imagine they'll be cheering for us in a soccer game again anytime soon. It was a singular experience for Jeremy and I'm kind of jealous that door is forever closed to me. At least I have my bridal parties, though I wish they could involve soccer somehow...


Susanne said...

Great story! How lucky of Jeremy to have this experience. Did you and the girls watch the game at home?

My Syrian friend said he'd cheer for the US for my sake, but I guessed he wouldn't have been disappointed if the Arab team had won. :)

His sister did congratulate me on Facebook although she admitted she was sad Algeria lost.

I think the only team Africa has left now is Ghana..our foes on Saturday.

Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

Bridget said...

Susanne, Egyptian TV only broadcasts one game a day and yesterday it was the Ghana/Germany match. So that's the one I got to watch. I'm sure they'll pick up a US game eventually, though.

Liz Johnson said...

AWESOME!!!! I am strangely jealous of Jeremy, too. I have had major "hang out in the bar with the boys" cravings during this World Cup. Something about being stuck at home with the kids (and not wanting to expose the fetus to 2nd-hand smoke) makes me feel trapped, especially during major sports events.

Is it bad that I kind of want Ghana to beat us on Saturday? I mean, we have fast food and the NFL and economic superpowers and general global dominance... can't Ghana have the World Cup?! For Africa?! I just think it means so much more to them.

Susanne said...

Liz, I was kind of rooting for Ghana yesterday against Germany. I have a "soft spot" for them somehow because we have family friends who live there as missionaries. So I can kind of understand your thoughts. I guess you could "win" either way if US wins, your country wins. If Ghana wins then....I think they are probably a more skilled team. But maybe the US has more "want to" in them. I guess we'll find out on Saturday.

Bridget, I do hope they will show the game so you can see it as well!

And I think hanging out with the guys watching the game sounds fun too! In Syria, we went to a café three times and I think I was the only female now that I come to think of it. One night in particular there were a lot of guys watching the football match and it was fun just to be in a neat situation like that 6000 miles from home! Thankfully it was better than the one you described for Jeremy's viewing yesterday although that one adds to the interesting flavor of your post. :)

Katie said...

Great story!

One of my favorite memories of Jordan was going to the gym. Seeing the veiled women come into the dressing room, strip down to spaghetti strapped tank tops and short shorts, then get down and dirty to "Pink" in the aerobics classes, then go back an put on all their veils and robes. That is definitely something the guys will never get to witness.


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