Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Brown Countries


I am brown. Skin color wise. A native of Pakistan my skin has always been olive brown and is now turning to a crisp mocha (I've tried most sunblocks in town. Nothing seems to work).

My skin gets me places in Egypt. It saves me from harassment that other foreign girls go through. People tend to assume I'm one of them and in this part of the world, thats a blessing.

But once they find out I'm Pakistani the love for my color, heritage, religion seems to dig deeper.
"Pakistan? Osama?" *big grin*

Yes, yes apparently the lord king of the infamous new age hasheeshis is no longer Saudi. He is now an urdu speaking, bhangra dancing, indian head bobbing Pakistani.

Yes, being from Pakistan gives everyone around me a good laugh.

But in this blog I rant not about my association with a psycho crazy guy, or rave about the fact that, "you are Pakistani? For you egyptian price!" but talk about the Middle East and Pakistan.

No, we are not part of the Middle East.

But lately, if birds of a feather want to flock together, we might as well start doing the Dabke too.

The Lal Masjid or Red Mosque crisis in Islamabad shocked the world, astounded Pakistanis and in the Egypt, my arabic professor joked about how he studied in a school near the Red Mosque. Joking, of course (he has a warped sense of humor).

My point is: The more crazier or shocking Pakistani politics become, the more some Middle Easterners tend to relate to us.

I might be completely wrong. It might just be because the Arab world can finally point at someone else and say, "Ha, Wala, you are worse of than us," or "Join the psycho Islamists club." Or it might be that most Arabs are just really interested in world politics. Mumkin. (Possible)

My view on the Red Mosque crisis is intricate, delicate and extremely complex. To completely understand it, or for me to even begin talking about it, one must understand three points: who and where these "Islamists" came from, the fact that a man can be desperate enough to wear a bhurka and heels to escape from police and the need of a dictator to "win" the upcoming "elections".

Its a touchy subject.

But in Cairo, as I look into the rearview mirror of a cab, driving 100 km an hour, staring into the eyes of a taxi cab driver as he asks me about the situation in Pakistan, there is a connection and there is an understanding.
It is the "real Ahlan wa Sahlan (Hello and Welcome)," one that states, "hey I understand your problems and I know where you're coming from."
And as I reply to his question about mosques being blown up with women and children inside, presidents vying for affection from world leaders and tragedy over religion, gender and oppression, he tsks with sympathy and I think:

We aren't so different. And it has nothing to do with my skin.

Its when we sit and discuss how the Muslim Brotherhood isn't very different from the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan that I feel "accepted" in this culture that isn't very different from mine.

And hey, if the mutual unstability of two countries gets me the Egyptian price and Egyptian love, I'm willing to be Pakistani and stay Pakistani. Otherwise it seems to be a sinking nation, one that won't gain fame for its awesome food and amazing people, but with its association with the people next door.

Not the world's biggest democracy. The other neighbours.

Pakistan gains notoriety due to its infamous connection with crazy "madrassahs", dictators, poverty, oppression of women and bombings of mosques. And it doesnt seem like we are going to be off the axis of evil list, part two, anytime soon.

It makes me sad. And it makes me worry about its future. But in Cairo, it makes me more Egyptian and it makes me more Arab.

And I plan to learn the Dabke as soon as I can. Although Egyptians don't really Dabke. Oh well.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

what an interesting card you get to play. you've caught on to something here about race relations and solidarity in a huge way that few other people could grasp, for want of such a nice complexion. seriously though... you could uncover a totally unique perspective if you keep pushing this a little farther.

and awesome on the dabka. i totally want to come to egypt and get a lesson.