As I sat in my beach chair watching hordes of non-local people infest the beaches of my hometown, the Jersey Shore, for Memorial Day weekend, I could only think about the holidays ahead of me that would deviate far from what is usual.
Imagining my plans for the 4th of July, it didn’t register until yesterday that I would be in a country that doesn’t celebrate this holiday. And why would it? It’s American Independence Day.
Last year, I spent my 4th of July on a beach watching fireworks with friends and family, and the year before that watching fireworks burst over the National Mall in Washington D.C. while sitting literally across the street from the Pentagon.
As for what I imagine myself doing in Cairo on the 4th of July? Probably desperately scouring the streets for some semblance of a cheeseburger and fries (probably looking like this) after being deprived of “American” food and forced to live on hummus and pita. I don’t think I will be shooting off Roman Candles and firecrackers, considering that would most likely land me in an Egyptian prison where I am certainly not getting the luxury of hummus. However, despite the extreme cultural differences, experiencing American Independence Day in Cairo, Egypt might be the most “American” thing one could do. I will literally live in the middle of the most modern example of the ideals that defined the American Revolution: democracy, freedom, and the right to abolish and overthrow any government that does not serve the needs of its people. I will witness the first free elections in the history of the country, the first time that the will of the people determines the path of their homeland.
I can’t help but recognize that even though I have no idea what to expect when I arrive in Cairo in 24 hours, there are already similarities between us. The revolutionaries and those who support a new, free government have shed blood to fight for their beliefs, beliefs that are the foundation of the United States. In identifying these similarities, I find a small pocket of comfort that no matter who or what I come in contact with, even if they speak way too rapidly for my elementary Arabic skills or eat different foods or dress differently than I, there always exists a bright opportunity for connecting and sharing.