A Merry Masr Christmas!

That moment when you’re in Arabic class learning the names for different meats, and you’re vegetarian. And one of your Muslim Egyptian friends is back at your place creating the design of a Christmas tree on the wall with a strand of lights. And you keep thinking of your mother with pneumonia and of the children in the hospitals across the world fighting their cancers this holiday season.

Starting this post in a very different place than the holiday spirit. But the jingle bells are soon approaching. I promise.

Installing a mall Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

Last Friday, I  received a comment on this site…

“Your narcissism has never failed to amaze me throughout the duration of your time in Cairo. Actually, what’s most surprising is none of your other readers seem to notice.”

Ouch. Deep ouch. I want to live an altruistic and artful life. That’s it. Narcissism is a hurtful accusation. Been difficult for me to let it roll off.

In honestly, I am feeling a bit guilty right now because it is not financially possible to go back to my family both for Christmas and for my mom’s surgery in February/March. So I am staying here in Cairo this holiday. First time ever to have Christmas apart from them. Then I am traveling next month to volunteer and see friends doing good works in Palestine, Kenya and Uganda.

I am blessed to be here learning from new friends and amazing experiences. Heading back to my family in February but wishing I could somehow also be there for my mom this entire year as she battles against the breast cancer beast and the current pneumonia. She’s homebound this holiday season, on doctor’s orders. Narcissism may not be the right word, but yes, I feel pangs of selfishness.

My gracious, loving, hilarious parents and I.

My parents are gracious, loving and hilarious. I’m their only kid. We Skype every week. And they encourage me to continue saying yes to life’s opportunities and I will definitely continue to write from my personal perspective, an honest place.

And soon is Christmas! The birth of Jesus. In the Qur’an, he is Prophet Esa. This is a most beautiful religious/cultural holiday. As is Diwali, Eid, and so many other beautiful days in the year.

Christmas for Egyptian Coptics will be on January 7th. But I wish to celebrate on December 25.

On Tuesday morning, I plan to go to 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt in order to dance with the patients and families. I will also be handing out the cards and gifts made by children in Michigan and shipped by my friend Elizabeth. Such heart and generosity.

One of the cards reads… “Hello. It’s winter here. We’ve had snow. I hope you’re feeling better.”

Gifts from children in Michigan, USA to the children at 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital, Egypt.

And I threw a dinner party Tuesday evening.

Most invitees are Muslim. Some are Non-religious. A few Jewish. A few Christian. Most are Egyptian. A pediatric oncologist. A famous actor. Musicians and artists. My Arabic teacher. Three invitees are the other Fulbrighters staying here without family on Christmas.

I asked the kind Egyptian fella I’ve been seeing to co-host and here is our invitation:

Bring a dish to share. And a beverage of your choice.

Bring a wrapped, white elephant gift (costing no more than 8 LE).

Bring your holiday cheer and be prepared for some Motown carols.

Bring a friend. Bring family. 😉 All friends of any religious or faith background invited.

“Sleighbells ring… Are you listening?”


***We would like to ask that sometime during the evening we hold a short candlelit vigil for the victims of gun crime in Chicago, Connecticut and around the world. Is that cool with everyone? Just a moment of silence with candles. Then we will eat and be merry.

كل واحد يجيب طبق اكل من اي نوع معاه والدرنك بتاعو وماتنسوش هدية ب ١٠ جنيه عشان في لعبة حنعملها


We were allowed the use of an empty apartment on the 14th floor of my building with three great balcony views of the Nile and city. We cooked and ate a bounty of mashed potatoes, kebab, chicken, Egyptian salads, homemade apple pie, and ice cream with pomegranate topping. We listened to Pandora holiday stations.

And as people celebrated, I left my laptop open on the table and asked guests to write their own messages and greetings to the readers of this blog. Here they go:

dans cette ville ou  le moindre mouvement devient  le parcours d’un combatant, tu nous a fait passer un Noel merveilleux. on ne peut que te remercier de ton chaleureux acceuil et de la  vue magnifique de ton balcon.

chaleureusement A. Mounib


(Translation by Google Translate)

In the city where the slightest movement is the story of a fighter, you helped us spend a wonderful Christmas.

we can only thank you for your warm welcome and the beautiful view from your balcony.

Warmly, A. Mounib


Thanks so much Shawn for making Christmas in Cairo not suck! Much appreciated you putting on the party and especially the apple pie!!! View from your apartment is amazing by the way!

Be in touch



Nothing can quite make up for Christmas at home, but this was definitely a spirited attempt. The view, the food, and the people are great. Thanks for putting this on!


Everybody stole my gifts

Which made me open almost all of them … !

Felt like a kid with a tree full of gifts 🙂

And I even got an extra gift in the end abandoned by someone …

If only every theft could lead to this … -0


first time i saw you in the camp with the children, i said to myself this person is different. you showed up like a big smile full of joy and hope to all people around you. i’m really glad that i’ve met you and i wish if you could live with us in Egypt for ever 🙂 thanks for the gathering and thanks for everything

Moatasem (the doctor in the tie and dye shirt;) 


I came with a candle holder. I left with a monkey. I also met some great people! What a wonderful Xmas!! Kul aam wa intum bikhair!!! As a newcomer, I hope it is a sign of more great times for me here in Egypt.


شوون  الحفله كانت حلو ه جدا ووانتي طالبه هايله اتمني تكملي دراسه 

اشوفك علي خير


(Translation by Google Translate)

Shawn. The party was very sweet. You are a great student. I hope you continue with your studies. See you soon. All the best.


tusen takk for invitasjonen til juleselskapet deres! maten var nydelig, og nå kommer vi aldri mer til å mangle isbiter. utsikten fra leiligheten deres er fantastisk, og vi kunne gjerne spist den eplepaien til frokost, brunsh, lunsh, middag, dessert, kveldsmat og nattmat. god jul!

 Ramy & Antonia


thank you for inviting us to the Christmas party! the food was lovely, and now we will never be missing ice. the view from your apartment is amazing, and we could have happily eaten the apple pie for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, supper and midnight snack. happy holidays!


Yo Shawn! Danke fuer die spitzen Party und die tolle Aussicht! 🙂 Naechstes mal sind wir auf jeden Fall wieder am Start. Viele Gruesse, machet jut!


Yo Shawn! Thanks for the great party and the great view! 🙂 Next time we will definitely be crashing the party again. Many greetings, Enjoy!


Shawn great party <3 Merry Christmas and have a joyful new year


Well I don’t know how to start but let me say that I like that the guys like my food that I made. Thanx to you Shawn for this nice party, for my gift. I am happy that everyone had a good time. Yeah I did have a great time too, cooking and organizing, and yea it was a nice party with a very nice guys.


A Merry Masr Christmas to you all and to your families! I cannot thank you enough for your openness and support. Enjoy time together.

As Egypt braces for the passing of a controversial constitution, please wish the amazing people here much hope.

And if you are reading this, I ask you to please send out prayers and positive thoughts for my momma. She is one wonderful and strong lady. Shukran.


  1. beautiful words as always Shawn, glad you know about your mom’s pneumonia, hoping they’d tell you. She does sound better, talked to her last night, hope to see her tomorrow and send them some mexican christmas eve dinner tomorrow

  2. Shawn – your words and actions are beautiful. Please don’t take the comment about narcissism to heart. Perhaps it can be seen that the act of keeping a blog is inherently a bit “showy” to use a nice word. Asking for attention, like an open diary – hoping people will take notice. That said, the opposite can be true. You are sharing of yourself, and you are keeping a fundamentally important record of your experiences, which are indeed unique and generous in this world. I keep a blog that is much more narcissistic than yours, and I don’t feel bad about doing so. Some of us need to express ourselves. It is the choice of others whether or not to read.

    Have a marvelous party! I will be thinking of you. It must be difficult being away from home, but it looks like you’ve built a strong family of friends in such a short time. I look forward to seeing you soon. Much love from Israel.

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