Friday, July 1, 2011

An Egyptian internship and an Iraqi politician

I've enjoyed a variety of internships, from lobbying for international road safety to working in my congressman's district office, but none were like the "internship" I experienced last week.

Early last week, Mike went to the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a preeminent Egyptian think tank, to inquire about volunteering there. They encouraged him to come back on Thursday evenings, when "youth" have a "discussion group" about politics. They even asked him to prepare a 15 minute presentation, in Arabic, about the role of religion in American politics.

A few of us went along with him last Thursday. After arriving 20 minutes late -- oops -- we walked into a room where about eight or nine surprisingly old "youths" in their late 20s and early 30s were chilling in a conference room. Mike learned that his religion presentation had grown in size to 30 minutes. Ma'aleish -- whatever.

But then, a couple minutes later, an Egyptian professor walked in, sat down, and proceeded to lecture for over an hour about the political rhetoric of Anwar Sadat compared to that of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Or at least that's what my friend told me it was about afterward -- all I understood were some main ideas and lots of random vocab words. The whole experience was super Egyptian -- tea and coffee were served, people were answering cell phones throughout, and everyone was smoking. It was kind of like Good Night, and Good Luck.

The professor finished up a little early -- ilhamdullillah! -- but, just as I was ready to leave, the door flew open and in walked a few intense-looking Iraqi men. Handshakes, greetings, smiles, etc. filled the room. So did one of the Iraqi's full-on traditional garb: robes, gold vest, headdress, etc.

It turned out one of them was an Iraqi member of parliament visiting Cairo and the Al-Ahram Center. Sweet. Of course, more tea and coffee magically appeared before us. Somehow, the headdress man got away with refusing a drink. Not sure how he pulled that off.

The "youths" asked the Iraqi MP to say a few words about politics. He started to speak, and an hour later, he was still going strong. Some of us decided to excuse ourselves and peace out, but Mike stayed -- apparently it went on another hour!

Naturally, there wasn't enough time for Mike to give his presentation on religion. Next time, inshallah.

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