Sunday, October 28, 2012

Its Eid al-Adha and My Brain Hurts.

Its Eid al-Adha and My Brain Hurts.

It is the Eid al-Adha holiday in Cairo right now, which for me means a much-needed four-day vacation from school. Aside from providing an extended weekend, I knew nothing about the holiday, so I decided to do some research.
Eid al-Adha, the festival of the sacrifice, commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, as a way to demonstrate his obedience to God, who, just in the nick of time, stays Abraham’s hand and provides him a ram to sacrifice instead. To celebrate the occasion, wealthy families are expected to provide their best animals for slaughter to feed themselves and their community. The meat from these animals is divided into three portions, one third of which is kept by the family, one third is shared with relatives and neighbors, and the final third is given as charity to those in need. During this wholesale sacrifice more than 100 million animals are slaughtered in the span of two days.
In celebration of the holiday the streets of Zamalek are decorated with colorful banners and strings of lights that twinkle spastically with no discernable rhythm or pattern. Beneath the manically festive lights, the gruesome carcasses of freshly slaughtered cows, sheep, goats, and rams hang from meat hooks. Other animals awaiting a similar fate are tied to light posts and fence rungs, or held in makeshift pens, sometimes in the middle of the street.
In the evenings the atmosphere is electric with the anticipation of the coming celebrations. Fireworks punctuate the charged air, and group of youth laugh, dance and sing together on the street corners. I have enjoyed the spectacle of Eid from street side cafés, where I can watch the festivities and review flash cards at the same time. The people watching is wonderful, the flash cards are not.
The last couple of days have been pleasantly quiet. The usual din of traffic, and the incessant car horns are muted, and it is actually possible to hear and enjoy the birds. Except for the stray cats the side streets of Zamalek have been empty. These strays seem to be enjoying Eid as well. Now that there are no cars to dodge and no nagging taxies, I even found it in myself to go for a stroll. However, aside from a few short walks, and the relative quiet, I have not been able to take advantage of these lovely days because I preparing for the GRE.
While everyone that I know is taking advantage of this holiday by traveling, adventuring, and exploring, I am cooped up in my room studying my forth coming GRE examinations. It took every ounce of my will power and forward thinking to keep myself from exploring the wonders of Egypt and the rest of the Middle East during Eid, and while I know that I made the right choice, it sucks. Instead of sleeping on the beach in Dahab or hiking to Petra, I am getting up at a eight o clock each morning, eating a bland breakfast, drinking a filthy cup of Nescafe before I settle into six and a half hours of ridged study.
            Although my Eid has not been fun or exciting, it has not been too bad either. By imposing ridged structure for the day, I have been incredibly productive, and though I am a million miles away from have it in the bag, I feel much more prepared for the GRE. It is scary to think what I could accomplish if I would impose the same structure to other aspects of my life! I guess all I needed with the impending doom of rejection from graduate school to motivate me. The lack of distractions helps as well.

Pro Tip: Taking the GRE while studying abroad.
            Thankfully ETS, the company that produces the GRE, has testing centers all over the world. There is a complete list of testing centers out side of the US on their web site. Depending on the country and city, taking the GRE abroad might not be a possibility, in some cases the test is not offered in the desired country or city. If you have any inclination of taking the test while abroad, make sure it is offered in the desired location. In my case, there are two testing centers in Egypt, one in Alexandria and in Cairo, only a couple of miles from where I live.

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