Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I was doing an Arabic exercise that requires you to listen to a character (Khaled Mahmoud Abu Layla, in this case) tell you a story. You have the paragraph of what he's saying written in the textbook, which most of the important words blanked out; your task is to fill them in.

As is usually the case, this chapter has been structured such that we've had to listen to and answer questions about this same passage before; it's not uncommon to understand things more clearly or more perfectly this time around, since you're required to know what every single word is.

So my general understanding, it turns out, was correct--Khaled hangs out with his cousins once a week, they tell each other news and update each other on their love lives; Khaled feels shy around them because he's not as experienced in the romantic department; he knew this girl once when he was a 3rd-year student but then they couldn't see each other anymore.

I had thought the reason they couldn't see each other anymore was because she moved to Saudi Arabia to be an engineer (Khaled is in Cairo). Turns out, it was because she got engaged to an engineer who worked in Saudi.

That whole situation raises a whole slew of questions for me, but mostly I just think it's telling that I heard "cut off" "engineer," and "Saudi" and assumed she was the professional, not that she was marrying one. Oops. (I did consider it surprising given that even Egypt, with some of the best gender politics in the region, is still, well, fairly conservatively Arab and Muslim, but I wasn't going to argue. Alas.)

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