Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Soft Spot

Not too long ago, you may recall, I was on a cruise in the Mediterranean. One of our stops was in Egypt, and we spent the night in Cairo (the ship docked in Alexandria). We had a wonderful tour guide, a young woman named Rasha, seen above. Despite never having left Egypt, her English was impeccable. It was hard to believe she had never been in an English-speaking country. From my own experience, I know there were significant gaps between what I was taught in school in language classes and the language spoken when I traveled to those countries. She was delighted to tell us how different things are for women there now than they used to be, even her mother worked (and was getting ready to retire), which was a point of pride.

She explained to us the different ways in which women dress in Egypt. How Rasha dresses is typical for women where she lives, though women in the south often wear black (HOT), and while I cannot recall the name now, their clothing is similar to burkas, though their faces aren't covered. But, that style isn't unique to the south. We saw many women in Cairo dressed like that.

Rasha took us to some amazing places, including the national museum, which houses an unbelievable collection of antiquities - one could easily spend an entire month in there, though we had but a few hours. We did get to see ALL of King Tut's burial chamber, though, so that was pretty cool. And Rasha, a thoroughly knowledgeable guide, took us to the Great Pyramids (as well as other places). And it was in National Museum that we saw women dressed in full burkas - it was startling, to tell you the truth. Wow.

And so it was, that when I saw the following video, I wanted to share it with you since I developed a soft spot for Rasha, and her country. Secretary Clinton is hosting a group of young people from Egypt. Their goal is to improve the lives of people in their country, including the area of human rights:

What an amazing trip this must be for these young people, many of whom have never left Egypt, either. And how fortunate that they get to spend some of that time with this remarkable woman, the one capable of listening to a multi-part question, and answering it in full (without notes or a teleprompter). How wonderful that she is the one with whom they get to meet as they work on the issue of human rights, an issue near and dear to Secretary Clinton's heart. What a great start they are getting, and no doubt, it will help them when they return to their country to work to implement those changes (and hopefully, this will extend to the treatment of animals in Egypt - that's a story for another day). How fortunate are we to have a Secretary of State who is so gracious, generous of time, spirit, and knowledge. One can only imagine what she would do as president ...

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