Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Culture Quirks!: The Egyptian Week.

There are few things more exhilarating than experiencing life in a different culture. Being awe struck as the brain tries to comprehend the flood of new information is both powerful and transformative. It is the reason I travel. In order to share some aspects of Egyptian culture that have left me in awe, I have created a new segment that I am calling Culture Quirks!

Culture Quirks!: The Egyptian Week.

 In Egypt, and probably across the Muslim World, the week revolves around Friday, the holy day. Thus the week is structured to reflect Friday’s importance as a day of rest and prayer. In the past, Friday was the Egyptian week’s only day off. For sanity’s sake, the weekend was extended to include Saturday. Unfortunately, Sunday was cut from the week’s varsity team. Even though Friday is the weekend, it does not make up for the loss of Sunday.
At the best of times, waking up to start the week is less than ideal. In Egypt, the workweek starts on Sunday, which for me means the combined bummer of waking up at 5:45 am, with the crushing disappointment of not sleeping in on Sunday. I believe that this is one of those ‘valuable’ experiences that ‘build character.’ Once I am awake and coffee has transformed me back into a human being, the rest of Sunday feels just like a Monday.
Even though the Sunday is my new Monday, Monday is still a total bummer. My brain has not been able to process the Egyptian week, and as a result Monday still feels like first day of the week. As you can imagine, a week with two Mondays is worrisome.
Tuesday has become the weeks hump day. I just with that my brain could understand that.
By the time Wednesday arrives, I am thoroughly worn out from the confusion of the previous days. In my fatigued state my brain over corrects, and convinces me that at long last I have reached the end of the week and that tomorrow I can sleep in. This is no better than having two Mondays.
Thursday is mostly a blur. By this time I have accepted in Egypt the week lasts forever.
Friday in Egypt feels a lot like Sunday in America, it is a day of rest, and relaxation. It is an excellent day to spend preparing for the coming week. I clearly see the value of having a day a rest day, but having it come first totally throws off the natural rhythm of the weekend. The Egyptian weekend consists of two Sundays.
I consider Saturday to be the greatest casualty of the Egyptian week. I wish I could say that Saturday, the Apollo of the week, has remained unchanged in my mind, but I cant. Everybody knows that Saturday is superior to Sunday because when Sunday ends we are all condemned to Monday and made atone for the weekend’s hedonism. Making Saturday play this role has robbed it of its carefree curiosity, and burdened it with compulsory responsibility and consequences. Watching Saturday’s forced maturity has stirred up emotions that I have not experienced since I realized that Santa Clause and my mom had the same handwriting, and that Han Solo shot first.[1]
It is safe to say that I am frequently confused about the day of the week. I am, without fail, taken by surprise when I learn that it is only Monday morning but I have already had four classes this week. Only after I am reminded that Thursday is the new Friday am I rescued from the quickening clouds of depression that accompany “a long day.” For me, this cycle of confusion, depression, and surprise is habitual! And it is chaos! I am constantly baffled and I frequently find myself walking to a class or meeting or the bus stop only to be thunderstruck by the fact that it is Tuesday and not Wednesday as I though, and now I am late for something I didn’t realize was on my schedule. I am not mad; I am just confused, always.
It has been extraordinarily difficult for me to accommodate this shift in the week. I can state with one hundred percent confidence that nothing has caused me more confusion, and made the acclimating process more difficult than the Egyptian week. Over the past twenty-four years I have become pretty accustomed to the Western week, my body’s is conditioned to its rhythm of work and rest. I even created a saying about it, ‘all days that don’t begin with ‘S’ are, for the most part a total bummer, and those that do are pretty fantastic!’ If I can no longer hold this credo as truth… than what is? I am lost. I can only hope that in the not too distant future I will become inured to the Egyptian week, because constantly mixing up the days is exhausting.

Pro tip: adapting to Egypt's shifted week.
            I can offer no advice on this subject as it is far beyond my comprehension. 


  1. I liked your analysis and comments. Did you have a chance to read this week's Newsweek? It has an article on the same topic by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a courageous women from Somalia, which wrote the book "Infidel" and experiences a similar reaction from the Muslim world as Salman Rushdie. Her outlook for the Muslim world is not a pretty one and I hope you do not have to experience it.

  2. Having spent days reading Cairo expat blogs THIS ONE is the one that made me laugh out loud - ‘all days that don’t begin with ‘S’ are, for the most part a total bummer - I love it! :)