I’ve hated to write because, let’s face it, if I’m bored, so will you be after reading this email. But apparently some of you are wondering if I am ok – thanks for that – and yes, “ok” just about sums up how I am …
So here’s the daily routine here at the May Fair Hotel in Cairo, which is no longer relatively posh: I wake up at 5 when the Call to Prayer is recited by the Muessin who stands, if not exactly on my balcony, then not too many feet away. I then drift off for another couple of hours, praying in my own humble Methodist way, that I can stay asleep until noon and thereby kill half a day.
No such luck – I get up at 8, slip on my long sleeved shapeless dress and flip flop my way down the hall and out to the balcony for breakfast. The breakfast is basic – white rolls (not thet kind you slip into your purse for a snack later), cream cheese wedges, nasty jam, hard boiled eggs, fig turnover cookie, and nescafe coffee or tea. Nothing wrong with it if you stay here one or two days. I’ve been here nine days.
Then the rest of the day looms ahead – I walk as far away from the hotel as I dare, given I fear getting lost. However the longer I am forced to stay in CairoI the more appealing the thought of getting lost becomes, so I walk further each day. I find the occasional souk – market – filled with odd stuff and junk made in China, which at one point I did find interesting but now just turns me off. I’ve found a couple of parks that you have to pay to get into – it’s autumn here so nothing is blooming except bougainvillea plus there are very few places to sit down. The few benches there are, were taken by young courting Muslim couples – by courting I mean holding hands and maybe an arm around a shoulder and a stolen kiss or two (ok, yes, I do watch them).
Yesterday I went to Coptic Cairo with an initially pleasant American woman from New York and her overwhelmed-by-mom son, who studies at the American University here. Under Mubarak, the Coptics were given some protection, but under the new government they are experiencing a new level of persecution and have been leaving Egypt in big numbers. The Coptic Museum is beautifully designed and displays are much better mounted than the Cairo Museum which is obviously resource rich but cash poor. Fascinating to see 6th century bibles with beautiful Arabic script and illustrations of Matthew and Mark and Jesus – all dark skinned and obviously Arabs. Of course – what were we thinking!
By the end of the day the mum had nagged the son so much that, when he was joking around with some workmen when we had stopped to ask directions, and she started yell at him again, I said “Leave the kid alone for once”. She was not amused and we returned to the hotel in silence, except for the son who said “Now you know why I am going to school in Egypt and not in New York” . They did not ask me to join them for dinner that evening.
Now – my Gaza news… I phoned the Ministry today, the day my permit was to be ready – and was told the Minister was out of town and to call next Sunday, Next Sunday. I had a small breakdown – the very sweet young men here brought me fresh squeezed orange juice, a box or kleexex, a cup of coffee and one after another kept nervously peering around the corner to see if I was alright. I am of course – but I am losing steam. The new bombings in Gaza aren’t helping of course – that may be why they aren’t rushing the permit through, I’m sure the fewer “internationals” hanging around, the better. A friend is confirming that date for me – and if it really is another week of waiting … I’ve found a shop called “Drinkies” where you can get everything imaginable so enough with the green tea and instant coffee…Kate
The weather is wonderful at this time of year – not hot and a mild breeze. If you ever plan a trip to Egypt to see the many wonderful sights, this would be a good time of the year to come. John and I toured Egypt on our way home from Botswana in June of 1980 and it was unbearably hot. A lifetime ago.