Category Archives: College

Friends come and go

These are my friends! They are walking around "Islamic Cairo." We went to old mosques, and stuff.

I just finished having a long string of guests come visit me here in Egypt. It was great to see friends from Oberlin and catch up on gossip and talk about whatever. And I won’t even go into how happy I was to see Helen. I think she liked being here, too.

One of the other things that I’ve enjoyed about having friends come through Cairo has been the opportunity to be a tour guide. It’s made me realize how well I’ve gotten to know the city in my first five months here. At the same time, it reminded me how much more I want to do here. There are still tourist sites I haven’t seen, neighborhoods I don’t know that well, restaurants I want to eat at, etc., etc.

Naturally, I miss my girlfriend, my family, and my friends back home. But these days I’m feeling pretty damn good about living in Egypt. (But not the government, of course.)

Anyway, stay tuned.

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Filed under College, Egypt, Life Abroad

Egypt’s most overrated band

Last night I had the opportunity to see Wust el-Balad a band that, according to Wikipedia, “is considered to be the most successful rock act in Egypt, and the whole Arab world.” I’m not sure if that claim is true, but they’re certainly very popular and often talked about. But I have to say, at the risk of offending thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of nightclub-loving Egyptians, I thought they kind of sucked.

Wust el-Balad sucks? They’re like a Cairo institution!  Yeah, I guess. But really they sound like Phish. (Sorry Levi, habibi, you know I love you but even when we hang out I want to listen to anything but Phish.)

Rather than playing Arabic melodies in a modern-rock style, Wust el-Balad played pseudo-Latin rhythms that incidentally had Arabic lyrics. They used cheesy “jazz” breakdowns and gratuitous James-Brown-style-“Can-we-count-it-off?”-moments to prove that they are a “tight” band.  The effect, for me at least, was thoroughly unimpressive.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t have a good time.  I saw Wust el-Balad at After 8, a popular Cairo nightclub. And I love dancing on top of broken beer bottles in a smoke-filled room as much as any other Oberlin grad. (Which is not to say that the vibe at After 8 was exactly like 16.5 South Main…) But loving a good dance party didn’t make up for the fact that Wust el-Balad was a totally boring, slightly cringe-inducing band.

I’ll give them another try.  I probably won’t have a choice. They seem like they might be hard to avoid. But next time I go to see live music in this city I’m going to make sure it’s either Arabic folk music or something at least a little bit edgy. Because I don’t want to pay a hundred pound cover to listen to the Egyptian version of Phish.

If you’re skeptical about my assertion that Wust el-Balad sounds like Phish, I suggest that you watch the two YouTube videos below:

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Filed under College, Travelogue

Restored relations

The State Department announced today that the United States will be sending an ambassador to Syria for the first time in four years.  I, of course, welcome this news and want to congratulate Washington on its sound thinking.  When I wrote my thesis about the Syrian Crisis of 1957 last semester, I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of American-Syrian relations.  I wrote in the conclusion of my paper:

Today, Syria holds the same place in Middle Eastern politics that it did in the 1950s. It is a weak state, but a pivotal actor. Despite Syria’s small military, negligible economy and unimportance as a cultural center, the country still has the potential to alter the balance of power on a number of important regional issues, such as Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the perpetual political turmoil in Lebanon. If Washington wants to solve these problems, it will have to engage Damascus. A successful American foreign policy will reject the rigid thinking that dominated the Cold War years (and resurfaced during the Bush Administration) and appreciate the complexities of the Middle East.

This paper was written during the first one hundred days of the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama. It remains too early to see what course the new administration will take toward Syria, but there are indications that it will pursue engagement with the Assad regime. On March 3, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the State Department was sending to high-level envoys to Syria for negotiations about relations with Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. This act alone demonstrates a departure from the Bush Administration’s policy of isolating and undermining Syria.

Where Syrian-American relations will go next is unclear. Hopefully, President Obama, his successors, and the rest of the American foreign policy establishment can learn from history and resist the temptation to view Middle Eastern politics in stark dichotomies, avoid attempts at regime change that subvert democracy and arouse suspicion, and refrain from the use of covert action as a tool for foreign policy. These are the important lesson that Syrian Crisis of 1957 can teach us. They are lessons that we cannot afford to ignore.

Today’s news indicates a step in the right direction.  Obama seems unlikely to repeat Eisenhower’s–or Bush’s–fatal mistakes in Syria.

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Filed under College, Diplomacy, History

An unfortunate meme

Here’s a pretty ugly video that’s been circulating on many of the blogs that I read.  It shows a bunch of drunk, stupid American Jews in Israel incoherently trashing President Obama and his Muslim sympathies.

For someone like Phil Weiss or As’ad Abu Khalil this, can be pointed to and treated like a serious example of Zionist racism or Jewish chauvinism or whatever.  But let’s be honest here. Drunk assholes are drunk assholes and you can find them anywhere in the world saying equally stupid things. I remember seeing a lot of these types when I was in Jerusalem, nineteen year olds stumbling down Ben Yehuda Street trying to pick fights and hitting on other people’s girlfriends.  They are not worth making a point out of.

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Filed under American Politics, Beer, College, Israel-Palestine, Jews, Mistakes

The Graduate

That’s me!  I am a graduate.  Which means blogging resumes as soon as I can get Mrs. Robinson to leave me alone.

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I’m back.

Apologies for the long hiatus from the blogosphere but my thesis is now turned in (I’ll give a little taste of it on the blog sometime soon) and I am ready to devote more time to screwing around on the Internet.  Plus, today is the hundredth of President Obama’s first one hundred days and, coincidentally, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli independence day.  What better time to revive Next Year In?

So stay tuned.  I’ll be back.

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Filed under College

I’m back!

Apologies for the long hiatus from the blogosphere but my thesis is now turned in (I’ll give a little taste of it on the blog sometime soon) and I am ready to devote more time to screwing around on the Internet.  Plus, today is the hundredth of President Obama’s first one hundred days and, coincidentally, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli independence day.  What better time to revive Next Year In?

So stay tuned.  I’ll be back.

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Filed under College