Monday, December 20, 2010

Are you balady?

One of the most thorough analyses of Egyptian society that I have come across lately, from an old post by Sarah Carr:
I gradually learnt that the factors determining balady status include language, wealth, education and appearance. Thus someone who only speaks Arabic may be balady, but not if this person is my grandmother, because we are an excellent family, Amnesiac. If however he only speaks Arabic and he is a plumber, he is almost certainly balady. If the same plumber happens to have got lucky and accumulated wealth he is probably still balady and worse still ‘nouveau riche,’ and one determines this by looking at his shoes and his wife. In contrast if the son of a very rich man does nothing but go to the club everyday and knows mostly nada about nada he is still not balady because he speaks English and comes from good-breeding. Wealth is not a conclusive determinant of balady-free status because the family might be intellectuals, which means that at some point in their family history someone’s father had a full library but an empty bank account: members of these families will almost certainly never be balady. Education is important too: State universities are generally frowned upon, private universities are acceptable, and having attended AUC at some point virtually guarantees that the individual in question is not balady. A university education abroad (in western Europe or the US) means that the individual in question both has money and speaks another language and is decidedly not balady - though not if through his own brilliance he is there on a scholarship and his family live in Boulaq. Observance of one’s religious obligations is necessary and good, but excessive piety/religious conservatism is not, because it may indicate an uncultivated mind.

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