Embassy 4th of July Party

When I was in Cairo four years ago studying Arabic one of the highlights of my summer was the Fourth of July party put on by the US embassy. The 2004 party was held at the American high school in Maadi. As we approached in the cab we encountered what must have been half of the country’s armed forces waiting for us. No cars could come near the school and guests had to walk 100 yards down a straight road flanked on both sides by army conscripts standing shoulder to shoulder at attention. It reminded me of the scene in Return of the Jedi where the Emperor is getting off his shuttle in the death star greeted by a storm trooper honor guard. Inside the atmosphere was what I imagined the green zone in Iraq must have been like at the time. Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, and Grumman were sponsors. Hawaiian shirts everywhere. Foreign workers flipping burgers and serving hot dogs. The highlight for me was a US history trivia quiz where I won a sizable gift certificate to the Cairo Hard Rock Cafe.

This year was a different story. Hot dogs, yes but Halliburton sponsorship no. More subdued shirts; no history quiz. Much smaller police presence looking bored and sipping tea in their trucks. They had moved the party out to a more remote location on the edge of the desert. They did have a damn good cake (pictured above). Does this tell us something about US foreign policy in the Middle East? Are the heady days of post-Iraq invasion long gone? When I asked the lady at the raffle booth why there was no history quiz she told me it was just because a different volunteer committee put together the party this year.