Egyptian Festival

On Friday, August 21, 2009, I headed across the bay for an Egyptian festival, the King Tut Festival, in Hayward. I learned about the festival from a flyer in my dentist's office. (He's Egyptian.) I guess the Coptic community is small--I was amused the girl greeting people at entrance knew him. :)

I arrived at the festival an hour behind my intended schedule (due to running around getting things in order for my trip the following day), so I went straight for food. Due to my hurry, I accidentally left my camera in the car. Once at the festival, I scouted it, gulped some food down, then took a church tour. The tour, with a dozen people and one energetic guide, was cozy. It took twenty minutes during which I learned a good amount on the history of the Coptic church. Maybe my knowledge of Christianity is sparse, but I never realized that there are five original organizational units of Christianity ("the pentarchy"), each started by a different significant figure, and each associated with a different originating city: Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople. The Coptics are from the branch started in Alexandria by Apostle Mark; they're commonly referred to as Egyptian Orthodox Christians.

After the tour, I explored the festival in more detail and got more food.

Though run by the Coptics, the festival was similar in style to the many Greek festivals I've attended. Like the Greek festivals, this festival occurred at the community's local church and had a heavy emphasis on food. Most of the tables were set up in the church's parking lot, adjacent to the playground. Non-food items for sale included jewelry, posters, t-shirts, boxes, plates, and pots; all of these were patterned/decorated in a style that felt appropriate for Egypt, some like what an Egyptian tourist might buy. The costumes/clothing were hokey, making me think more of Egyptian Halloween costumes than anything an Egyptian might actually wear. There was also a bookstore which mostly sold religious books, and some videos too.

Like Greek festivals, there were many tables of food: kebabs, pita, falafels, dolmas, stuffed cabbages, zucchinis, peppers, hawashi sandwiches, feteer meshaltet, and a wide assortment of desserts (basbousa/bassbousa, kunafa/kunafah, baklava (in rolls), katayef/qatayef, kahk, lokmadis/loukoumades). I got to see the woman make pita bread (roll it, bake it). You can buy it fresh from the oven. As for the Egyptian food, if you haven't heard of most of those, you're not alone. Incidentally, gosh it's a pain that there aren't standardized spellings of many of these dishes. I guess it's because they come to the roman alphabet from a few different languages.

The coolest thing about the festival is that I heard more Egyptian than English. The analogous statement cannot be made about Greek festivals, which I think try more actively to bring to the festival people outside their community.

The only disappointing feature compared with Greek festivals was the lack of live music. Although there was a stage, all the music was pre-recorded. However, I think this may have been due to the time I attended the festival; according to the schedule, the festival often should have live music.

Although I left my camera in the car, I nevertheless managed to take pictures of what I ate using my cell phone's camera.

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