I know that I've gone native, for a few reasons. The most convincing argument though, is Egyptian football. Yes, I mean soccer, Americans.
Egypt is battling to get the last spot for Africa in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Tonight the battle came to a head in Cairo, in a match against rival Algeria. Egypt had to win by at least 2 points to stay alive and have a tiebreaker match, or win by 3 points to be assured a spot in the World Cup.
Our tiny common room filled to the brim about an hour before the game even started. Face paint, Egyptian flags, and the national anthem were abundant. The tension had been building for days; the Algerian players were even stoned as they rode their bus into Cairo. I don't support that, but I sure do love passionate sports fans.
In the first two minutes of the match, Egypt scored an incredible goal. The common room was deafening. However, the next 88 minutes were all filled with disappointment. Algeria wasn't scoring, but we weren't either. After the regular play time expired, 6 extra minutes were added to the clock to account for play time which was consumed by injuries. That was all Egypt needed. With seconds to spare, we scored and secured a tiebreaker match which will take place on Wednesday in the Sudan.
Afterwards, footage of the streets of Cairo were shown: things were on fire, people were waving flags everywhere, everyone was screaming and singing and random explosions were going off. Now this is fanhood. I loved every second.
This is significant for a few reasons.
1. It was f*****g awesome. Close games are my absolute favorite things.
2. I hate soccer. And I was still jumping out of my seat screaming at the television.
3. I wish I was there. My parents would have had aneurisms if they knew I was around explosions in downtown Cairo, but MAN, do Egyptians know how to celebrate!
4. This is perhaps the most important: I felt a familiar swell of pride when time expired and the score was Egypt 2-0 Algeria, not unlike the feeling I get watching Alabama football. Granted, it was not quite as strong of overwhelming, but I felt it; that quiet stir in my heart signaling the beginning of a love affair. It felt similar to the feeling I had watching Morocco's olympians march in the opening ceremonies of the 08 games.

It's funny, because as I write this, I am lying in bed wearing a shirt that says "I am not a tourist, I live here" in Arabic and for the first time, it feels true. I do live here. Egypt is home now, and will be for the next few years. And I am so happy.

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