Living in the New Cairo campus of the American University in Cairo was
an atmosphere on which I had not necessarily been prepared for. Far away in the
desert, or “no man’s land,” you are practically removed from the hustle, bustle, and
caous of the downtown atmosphere. Of course there are the many projects of
development with shopping galaries, Applebees, and other restaurants. Upon arrival
to this campus (during the time of Ramadan, by the way), my mind was filled with
disappointments, and the aura of what the heck have I gotten myself into? question.
For me, the campus was a domain of imprisonment and isolation (as for other
students), as due to the holidays, we were stuck with the limited food choices.
How surprised and shocked to soon find out that there was not a meal plan provided
for students, and we were presented with the choices of spending money everyday
or buying groceries to prepare our own food. And with my limited funding at that
current time, I was more and more feeling the pressures of this new and slightly
different university experience.
The ongoing criticisms in regards to the living experience in the desert was starting to
weigh on me. However, as the semester continues to progress, and its closure
becomes near, an emotional attachment became present as to how I really wanted
fully emerge in the culture and beauties of living in this isolated environment. Granted
I have attended social, dormitory events, and have even made accompaniments with
dormmates and friends in enjoying the nearby restaurant cafe, and mall-like environment.
Earlier in the semester, I made it a point on certain days to get up early, and just enjoy
the awakening and presentation of the desert morning. However, it has occured to
me how much I have not fully engaged in this desert living experience, and how much
I truly want to emerge in it before the semester comes to a closure. The culture. The
people. The atmosphere. Seeing the morning sun as it is about to bed itself over
the horizon. And most importantly experiencing the feelings and auras of my
own unique beingness and spirit, in the desert.
Such has also led for me to become accustomed to the manner on which natural
landscapes have become devalued, in favor of the cityspace (and the context of
industrialization). The ongoing development of the desert in New Cairo, with
billboards advocating new corporate businesses, hotels, and modern sub-divisions
are indicative of this popular transition of becoming “civilized.” The persistent
denegrating comments of living on the New Cairo campus were distractions
which could have prevented me from enjoying this great beauty, if I was not
careful. The New Cairo campus often presents the aura of exclusion. Yet,
I came to view it as a large playground, and world where I could be creative
in my imagination. Lastly, I decided to place it as a residual site, where when
exiting, I could experience the beauty of the desert.
It’s wandering spirit intertwines with my own embodiment of fluidity and freedom,
and I want to ensure that I am able to celebrate a form of womanhood which
allows me to dilute, emerge, and reflect the feminine essence of Egypt. Her beauty
that I want to be sure that I am able to become enriched and emerged into while
I have this semester’s opportunity to reside in her womb.