On Father's Day, Gary and Dad sat down over some baklava to discuss the change in culture of Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries over the course of the 20th century through modern day. What was once a relatively relaxed liberal atmosphere in Dad's home country has become socially oppressive as religiously conservative values have spread out from Saudi Arabia and taken hold in many surrounding countries. We try to explore why.
Dad discovers the enchanted American paradise of Staten Island. He uses a little bit of money and a whole lot of rope to MacGuyver a king size bed to try to be a Casanova with the ladies. And he happily gets his first car, rejecting all dealer suggested upgrades except one. You'll never guess why.
Dad shares some of his college year lessons including: Halva is best eaten alone, a new wristwatch isn't as exciting as it seems, there's no wrong way to have cake and tea, and "case" girls are shameless. Gary and Dad also spend a good 7 minutes trying to figure out if it's "albumin" or "albumen." Gary still doesn't know what either word means.
Dad takes his first business trip to Japan in 1981 and has a surprise reunion with his family in Egypt on the way back. In between, he learns that you don't drain the tub, toilet seats are for tourists, and the Japanese government will pay you to literally push people.
In 1985, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tells dad he can't understand his accent. Not much has changed since as his daily battles to phone in his prescription drugs demonstrate. Dad talks about a couple of vacations with Gary including his first trip to Disney when Uncle Rafaat had a brilliant plan to figure out where they parked the car. And nothing says warm memories like former U.S. President Richard Nixon.
After watching the Oscar nominated movie "Bridge of Spies," Gary asks dad about his memories of the Cold War - touching both on the history of the events and his perspective as an Egyptian. Dad recalls the two times the American military went on high nuclear alert - the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961 and the Yom Kippur War 12 years later. Dad also teaches Gary how to pronounce "baklava."
We celebrate dad's 80th birthday as he recalls some of his domestic and international travels, a little French history, and some of his problems with language, including on one occasion, demanding his "Jewish holidays."
Dad recalls living through World War II, Egyptian "medicine," a brief detour in the army, and making sure to hide the knives before his first drink.
Dad recalls Egyptian “democracy,” his trip to Germany to hang out on the Berlin Wall and “eat Christmas” and how he ultimately worked his way out of Egypt to come to America.