What’s an Alevi?

By Leigh Nusbaum

A few days ago, my work assignment was to interview Metin Tarhan, the President of the Erliklibaba Association, which represents the Alevis if not only in Istanbul, than for the whole of Turkey. I believe the interview went well, but I don’t speak Turkish. So I guess I will know when I see the translated interview transcript.

Here’s a photo from the interview:

From left to right: the Vice President of the Erliklibaba Association, Metin Tarhan, myself, and Tarik one of the other interns and one of my translators.

The Association has a lovely complex and we had a tour of the building including the cemevi, which is their equivalent to a (insert one) mosque, church or synagogue. Here is a photo of that as well:

(the really big photos are of Ali, the cousin of the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad and the 4th caliph in the Rashidun)

At this point, the people of the association graciously invited me to see their “Cem” or weekly service. I was touched and realized that now was a good time to find out more about the Alevis. Continue reading “What’s an Alevi?”

My “Meeting” with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

By Leigh Nusbaum

Some of you have already read that I have gone to a “meeting” that featured the current/recently re-elected Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced Reh-jep Tai-yip Air-do-wan) right in my home district of Üsküdar in İstanbul. Allow me if you will, to give a play by play of the strange events that transpired on June 11th.

c.11 AM- I left my flat to go to work for a brief errand.

c. 11:15- Pass by the AK party headquarters. I turn on the old Nusbaum charm, hoping maybe I could get another AK Parti pen to give one of my friends. At this point just by walking by I’ve been given, baseball caps, flags, tee-shırts, posters, even bouncy balls that flash blue and orange (AK’s colors)

c. 11:20- the fellow outside has been  trying to invite me in for weeks now. Eh, Why not? I have the time today.

c. 11:23- There are three people in the office. No one speaks English, but wait there is a fellow who asks, “Parlez-vous français?”…Oui, Monsieur, bien sur!

c. 11:30- we talk about each others backgrounds: He lived in Lyon for many years. I studied French in high school and it surprises me that I still remember it, particularly since I’ve been studying Arabic and Hebrew and I am now relying on my minimal Turkish skills. Continue reading “My “Meeting” with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan”

Postcard from Post-Revolutionary? Cairo

By Leigh Nusbaum

While reading this post, listen to this song in the background. It’s called Helwa Ya Balady (or Beautiful, O Country of Mine) by the Egyptian singer, Dalida. It’s one of my faves.

No words can describe how happy I am, but I will try to describe my love for watani al-thani (my second homeland…for those of you who are Middle East Studies people, you know I’m serious about this country when I use the word WATAN). I went home. Well, sort of…

(Taken near my old flat) Huh, that wasn’t there last year…

I don’t know why but it feels like home. Maybe it’s because I lived in Al-Qahira for 4 months or maybe it’s because it’s a familiar place where I don’t have to constantly struggle with the language. I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t want to leave…a long weekend would never be enough to satisfy.

I didn’t even visit the Pyramids, but that wasn’t the point of coming back.
Comparing the Cairo I left behind in early June of 2010 to the Cairo I returned to late last Thursday conjures up the old French saying of, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The drivers still honk the same amount of times they blink or breathe. There is still the little old lady that lives by my old flat who sells tissues and greets me with a raspy “Sabah el-ful”. There is still a cacophony of adhans throughout the day and I still wonder if I am playing a human version of the video game, Frogger each time I cross the street. Speaking of which, here is an actual video of how you cross the street in Cairo.

At the same time, things have changed…sans aucun doubte, as the French would say. On Friday of last week, there was yet another protest in front of the main television building. The “state run” newspaper went from not mentioning anything about the protests of January and February to printing “The Tyrant is Gone” on it’s front page after Mubarak stepped down. People now camp out in front of Tahrir Square (mere steps from my hotel) and the burned out NDP (Mubarak’s party) building is still visible. Multiple former ministers are tried and sentenced in absentia. Let’s not forget how strange it is not to see Mubarak’s face on almost every corner. Another 3000+ person protest erupted in Tahrir Square only a day or two after I left. And today (July 3) I just heard that Tahrir Square is in flames. Armed men have attacked the protesters and set fire to the tents there. Continue reading “Postcard from Post-Revolutionary? Cairo”