Wednesday, September 29, 2010
There is a caste system and its alive and well here in Cairo. There are some unspoken agreements about the roles people play and how they are to be treated. The system is not hard and fast, but it's there. The thing is that I trump the social order, which at times can be uncomfortable. I'm American, and this comes with certain social privileges. In Arabic class, my teacher and I discussed travel. He told me that an American passport is gold and that having one made traveling so much easier. I agreed, except of course it doesn't always help in the Middle East. Then my teacher told me here, Americans could do as they please. Do whatever you want, he said. You'd get away with it. This past week a few American teachers and I were escorted to the hospital downtown for a blood test. We walked through the waiting room where women held babies in their arms and looked, I'm sure, like they'd been there for hours. We however flashed our one way ticket to the front of the line and were in and out in about ten minutes. The crazy part though is that the Egyptians sat back and watched this happen and accepted this as the status quo. Now to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this. In one sense I just want to hide and be the fly on the wall, and have as we all hope to, an authentic experience. In another, it is hard to complain when you are ushered to the front of the line and allowed certain social luxuries. I guess the only close analogy I can draw is to compare my role to an undercover cop. You play the part the best you can until the time comes to flash your badge.