last day in cairo: exploring small art museums, mosques and a modern shopping center

Monday, February 15:  Today, once again Ahmed has to go to work, so I have him drop me off in town so I can explore various places.

Someone has told me about a small art museum, so I go there.  It’s a small and quiet place, a kind of oasis in the middle of Cairo’s maelstrom.  I wish I could remember the name of it.  In one room, a beautiful film shows continuously; here is a pretty pathetic shot of it that sadly conveys neither its beauty or its emotional impact.  Maybe because I am quite smitten with Ahmed, this place seems to echo the state of my heart.

a beautiful film in a Cairo art museum

a beautiful film in a Cairo art museum

Later I head to a big mosque where I am to wait for Ahmed to pick me up after his day at work.  Hordes of Egyptian children surround me and happily pose for a picture.

children near the mosque

children near the mosque

Then they agree to pose with me for the picture as well.  I feel so happy today, yet I’m also sad that I have to take off for Korea tomorrow morning.

surrounded by Egyptian children

surrounded by Egyptian children

Ahmed comes to pick me up after work, but only after a huge hassle with my phone.  When I try to call him, I find that my phone has no more minutes on it.  This has me worried because if I can’t contact Ahmed, we can’t find each other.  I run around frantically trying to find a place that will sell minutes to add to my phone.  Finally, I find a taxi driver who lets me use his phone to call Ahmed.  It takes a while for us to find each other, but we finally do.

Ahmed drives me up to Muquttum, where I show him the flat where I stayed in 2007.   While on Road 9, he stops to buy a bunch of oranges.  That’s good because I don’t want a repeat of Saturday night’s diabetic attack.

Ahmed loves his oranges

Ahmed loves his oranges

Ahmed buys some oranges

Ahmed buys some oranges

Later we head to a modern outdoor shopping mall, where we have a lovely dinner at a restaurant there.  It’s quite nice, especially by Cairo standards.  It’s such a lovely evening, and I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time.

Ahmed Salem

Ahmed Salem

Ahmed Salem

Ahmed Salem

me

me

Ahmed and I having dinner our last night together

Ahmed and I having dinner our last night together

 

This is our last night together and I have a wonderful time.  Ahmed seems to be happy too.  We enjoy each other’s company on our last night together.  Early in the morning I take off for Korea.

If you’d like to follow my adventures in Korea, you can check out catbird in korea.

It’s too bad that everything falls apart with Ahmed after I leave Egypt. 😦

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cairo, day 3: a brief visit with mohsen, a felucca ride and a valentine’s day dinner

Sunday, February 14:  This morning, Ahmed goes to work again and drops me at one of the big hotels to use the internet.  After checking my emails, I take a taxi at 10:30 to Mohsen’s office at #6, Road 214, Digla Office: Progress 2 in Maadi.  It’s been 2 1/2 years since I last saw Mohsen in Cairo and I want to say hello to him while I’m here.

me and Mohsen in the Progress 2 Office

me and Mohsen in the Progress 2 Office

He’s quite busy at work, so we just have a cup of tea and chat for a bit, after which time he must go out for a meeting.  It really is nice to see him again after 2 1/2 years, even if only briefly.

me with Mohsen outside his office

me with Mohsen outside his office

I remember one of my favorite things to do when I was here in 2007 was to take a ride on a felucca on the Nile.  I rent the boat by myself to go out on the river.  It would have been quite peaceful, but another Egyptian named Khaled, whom I had also met on Facebook, calls me and wants to meet me while I’m here.  I’m free during the days, but in the evenings I have committed to spending time with Ahmed.  That is the whole reason I came to Egypt after all.  I tell Khaled I have time to meet him this afternoon, but he has determined he wants to take me out for Valentine’s Day.  I tell him I’m seeing Ahmed, who I’ve already told him I came here to see, tonight for Valentine’s Day.  He won’t let it go and keeps me on the phone during almost the entire hour I’m on the felucca, arguing with me about how I should spend Valentine’s Day with him rather than Ahmed.  The whole thing is so ridiculous since he’s known the story from the start.  Finally, I tell him I have to go, that he could easily meet me anytime this afternoon or tomorrow, but he insists he wants it his way or no way.  I finally just hang up on him, infuriated by his inflexibility.

the felucca captain

the felucca captain

me on the felucca, for old times' sake

me on the felucca, for old times’ sake

felucca on the Nile

felucca on the Nile

me on the felucca

me on the felucca

the felucca and Ma'adi

the felucca and Ma’adi

Ahmed picks me up around 3:00 and we head to the Carrefour.  We wander around the Carrefour buying food so he can cook me dinner tonight for Valentine’s Day.  I am a little disappointed because I was hoping we’d go out.  But it turns out to be quite a lovely dinner in the flat and I’m impressed by Ahmed’s cooking abilities, despite the kitchen being quite disgusting.

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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Felucca, Ma'adi, Middle East

second day in cairo: lunch with a flight steward from egypt air, whirling dervishes & a nightmare in al azhar hospital

Saturday, February 13:  Today, Ahmed has to go to work.  He drops me in an area of Cairo called Zamalek, near a phone store so I can get a SIM card with an Egypt number.   After, I walk around the neighborhood and take some pictures.

Zamalek is an affluent, and exclusive district of central Cairo encompassing the northern portion of Gezira Island in the Nile River.   The island is connected to the river banks with three bridges each on the east and west sides of the island.  (Wikipedia: Zamalek).

hot and sultry Cairo

hot and sultry Zamalek in Cairo

view of the Nile

view of the Nile

Streets of Cairo

Streets of Zamalek in Cairo

Streets of Cairo

Zamalek

the Nile

the Nile

I text Alaa, the Egyptian flight attendant I met on my Egypt Air flight, asking him if he’d like to meet for lunch in Zamalek.  I’m surprised that it’s so hot and sultry in Cairo in early February, and, when Alaa arrives,  I’m even more surprised that he is wearing a heavy wool sweater.  He is very serious and it is quite awkward to be around him.  Of course I keep thinking of Ahmed and wishing he wasn’t at work.    He walks with me to the Cairo Marriott Hotel, where we sit and talk for a bit in the lobby.  Alaa wants me to spend more time with him, but I get bored and impatient quite quickly and tell him I have to go to meet Ahmed.

After I leave Alaa, I find an internet cafe, where I write to two of my girlfriends back home, regarding Ahmed:  He’s very sweet.  In person, his voice doesn’t bother me at all.  He’s much more shy in person than in his chats; that takes a little getting used to.  He really is so sweet and is looking out for me so nicely.  He’s also very serious and prone to long political, historical (Arab world), and religous discussions.   I’m very attracted still, but I’m also having a little trouble reconciling his playful chat self with his real shy and serious self.  I’ll write more later; my time is running out..

When Ahmed gets off of work, he picks me up near the Egyptian Museum and we head out to do various things in the city.  It turns out to be quite a traumatic night.

Ahmed and I are exhausted, him from work and me from jet lag, etc.  After work he drives me out to a new city where his family has a house under construction.  We go to a papyrus gallery where I end up buying a beautiful papyrus to take home.

We then drive into the Khan al Khalili Bazaar area where we get stuck in sweltering traffic for nearly 2 hours.  During this whole time, I have to go to the bathroom desperately but there is nowhere for me to get out and go and no possibility of escaping the traffic jam.  I’m sweating and miserable, and more than a little panicked, until we finally are able to escape the traffic jam a bit and find a bathroom in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

We then head to the Citadel to see the Whirling Dervish show.  At the show, Ahmed, keeps falling asleep; I say, come on let’s go home, I’m tired too.  But he keeps saying,  No!  I think he is just being determined that I should see the whole show from beginning to end.  But every time he says that, he falls back to sleep. When the concert is over,  I can’t get him up.   He is all groggy and losing his balance and I have no idea what is wrong with him.  I lead him outside and keep asking him what’s wrong, but he can’t say; he is out of it and disoriented.   I make him sit at a cafe, and he falls asleep again.  I hail a taxi to take us to the nearest hospital, Al Azhar Hospital, which is horrible.  The sheets on the bed are disheveled and filthy.   The doctors (if you can call them that) listen to his heart and take his blood pressure.  They say he is “well;  it must be a psychic event.”  This is the only doctor who speaks English.  I am terrified.  Ahmed is curled on the bed in a fetal position.  I look on his phone and try to call one of his family members, but I don’t recognize any names except Sophia, his sister.  I call and try to tell her what’s going on, but we can’t understand each other.

Whirling dervishes

Whirling dervishes

Whirling dervishes

Whirling dervishes

Finally, I call Basim, the neurosurgeon I met when I was in Cairo in July 2007, and the docs tell him in Arabic that Ahmed is fine, it is a” psychic event.”  Basim wants to come pick me up immediately, but I don’t want to leave Ahmed.  Though I know the address of the flat,  I have no idea how to get there.  Also, he has a lot of keys in his pocket and I don’t know which is the key to the flat.  I keep crying and I have no idea what to do.  I can’t leave Ahmed because my two bags for my whole year in Korea are in the flat and I don’t want to lose them.  Finally, after a couple of hours, Ahmed finally starts regaining awareness. He wanders to a little juice shop and buys a bag of oranges and starts eating them one right after the other.

When he finally becomes more aware and coherent, which is still some time after he eats the oranges, he explains that he was having a diabetic attack.  He is diabetic and takes insulin every day.  I don’t know if I should believe him because the doctors kept saying it was a “psychic” event.  He begins to seem more normal.  We seek out the car and when we finally make our way out of the chaotic city, Ahmed drives us like a maniac back to the flat.  When we finally return, he shows me the kit he uses to give himself insulin.  The whole night is incredibly traumatic.  I am so upset and afraid because I didn’t understand what was happening.

Back at the flat, we talk and talk, and I begin to feel more comfortable with him.  I can’t help thinking during all of this night’s fiasco that he is trying to scam me in some way, but I can’t figure out how he stands to benefit in any way from this incident!

The Whirling Dervish show was fabulous, except for the fact that when this evening was said and done, I felt like a Whirling Dervish myself.

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“i love egypt” on facebook, a young doctor, two blizzards, & a detour to cairo on the way to korea

October, 2009 to February, 2010:   In October, 2009, two years after spending a month studying Arabic at Al Azhar University in Cairo, I joined an “I LOVE EGYPT” Facebook group.  Suddenly, I had friend requests from over 30 Egyptian young men.  I was still so enamored of Egypt after my time there, that I added them all.  Some of them started chatting with me.  Irritatingly, I found many of them were looking for someone to marry to get a U.S. passport.  Some of them just became friends and others I never really talked to at all.  But one young 26-year-old doctor, Ahmed, started chatting with me in late October.  I enjoyed our chats so much that I ended up talking to him by Yahoo or Skype or MSN messenger nearly every day, from late October through early February, when I left Virginia to go teach English in Korea for a year.

I liked Ahmed so much, from his looks to his personality, his sense of humor, and his persistence, that I fell a little in love with him.  It was really ridiculous, considering our huge age difference and our geographical distance from each other.  Despite that, I determined that on my way to Korea, I would make a stop in Egypt and meet him in person.  So, the ticket I bought took me to Korea via Cairo for four days.

During our many chats, Ahmed sent me pictures of himself.  One Sunday afternoon, he sent me YouTube videos of Egyptian composer Omar Khairat.  He had recently been to see Omar Khairat in concert with his friends and he also sent pictures of himself, with his friends and the famous composer.  I remember that November day, sitting in my room with a cool breeze coming through the open window and pumpkin and squash-colored leaves rustling in the wind to the melodies of Omar Khairat’s music.

Ahmed worked at a hospital and a private clinic, and every time I talked with him, he seemed to be at one of those two places.  I determined that I would arrive in Egypt on Thursday afternoon, February 11, so that I could spend all day Friday with him.  Friday is the holy day in Egypt and it was Ahmed’s only day off.  He would have to work the rest of the time I was there, but he would try to get off in the evenings.  I didn’t mind because I knew people in Egypt I could visit and I was familiar with Cairo from my time there in July 2007.

I was due to arrive in Korea on Wednesday, February 17 for the EPIK (English Program in Korea) orientation.  So I would have to leave Egypt by Tuesday, February 16.

Friday & Saturday, February 5-6:  In Virginia we had two blizzards in a row.  The February 5–6, 2010 North American blizzard, referred to at the time as Snowmageddon, dropped 20-35 inches of snow across southern Pennsylvania, the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and southern New Jersey, bringing air and Interstate Highway travel to a halt (Wikipedia: February 5-6, 2010 North American blizzard).

My neighborhood in northern Virginia on February 7, after the first blizzard.

My neighborhood in northern Virginia on February 7, after the first blizzard.

view to the corner from my house, February 7

view to the corner from my house, February 7

my house with piled up snow

my house with piled up snow

our border collie Bailey and his frisbee in the snow after the first blizzard

our border collie Bailey and his frisbee in the snow after the first blizzard

the woods after the first blizzard

the woods after the first blizzard

Tuesday & Wednesday, February 9-10:  The second blizzard, the February 9–10, 2010 North American blizzard was a major winter storm and severe weather event that afflicted the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions of the United States, affecting some of the same regions that had experienced a historic Nor’easter three days prior. This storm brought 10 to 20 inches of snow across a wide swath from Washington, D.C. to New York City (Wikipedia: February 9-10 North American blizzard).

Thursday, February 11:  I had bought a ticket to fly out on Wednesday night, February 10, but as all area airports were closed due to the blizzard, I was delayed a day.  It turned out I didn’t arrive in Cairo until late Friday afternoon, leaving me little time to spend with Ahmed on his day off.   Sometimes it seems that life conspires against our best-laid plans.  Often these things that go wrong are a sign that something is amiss, and it turns out I should have heeded those signs.

On the flight to Cairo on Egypt Air, a flight attendant named Alaa, 42 years old, flirted with me constantly on the overnight flight.  At that time I could speak a little Arabic and he seemed greatly impressed by this. He gave me his number and invited me to call him while I was in Egypt.  I didn’t think I would since I would be with Ahmed, but I noted the number, just in case.

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Filed under Americas, Cairo, District of Columbia, Egypt, Middle East, Oakton, United States of America, Virginia, Washington

from cairo to new york city

Wednesday, August 1:  This morning, Lisa and I FINALLY get on a plane for our flight home.  I doubted it would happen after yesterday’s debacle, but Dr. Jones does manage to succeed.  I think some of our group is left behind to wait for later planes.  This Al-Ameen Associates program has been very poorly managed overall.

me with Lisa on the plane in Cairo

me with Lisa on the plane in Cairo

Lisa wants to drop by her old apartment in New Jersey before heading to Pennsylvania, so we decide to rent a car together from New York.  I will drop her in New Jersey and then she’ll make her way back to Pennsylvania from there.

we pick up a rental car in New York City

we pick up a rental car in New York City

It takes us a good long time to make our way out of the city, especially as I don’t know New York at all and I’m driving without any sense of where we’re going.  At one point, we see this guy selling hot pretzels and pull up to the curb to buy some.

We stop along the road in the city to get a couple of bagels from this guy

We stop along the road in the city to get a couple of bagels from this guy

Finally, we manage to wind our way out of the city and into New Jersey, where we make it to Lisa’s house.  She tries to convince me to spend the night, but once I’m on a road trip, I just want to keep driving.  At one point, I stop at a rest stop and sleep for about an hour.

Thursday, August 2: I finally arrive home at 2:30 a.m. after a long day and night of travel.  Once I get settled in, I will immediately begin to move out of my house to live with two young women, one of whom, Jenn, is in my Master’s program at George Mason and who went on the Mexico Study Abroad trip with me.

When I get home, utterly exhausted, I get this email from R:

If you get this, just let me quickly say– CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU.
PLEASE CALL AS SOON AS YOU CAN.  WELCOME HOME!!!

I write him back in the morning.

Dear R,

I want desperately to see you as soon as possible.  However, I know the weekend is coming up and you will be off-limits.  Tonight I guess might be our only possibility.  I have to take the rental car out to Dulles, meet Jenn at the house in Arlington to see how much space I have to fill, and then I might very well be free, if you are.  I would love to see you, but let me know if or when you can.

I didn’t get home until 2:30 a.m.!  I was exhausted and had to stop an hour north of Baltimore to sleep for an hour at a rest area.  Before that I just caught myself drifting off and edging off the highway.
Love,
C

Later in the day, I hear back from him.

C,

Me too.  It’s worse than you think as I have to go to S.C this weekend to see my sister.  But I may have a plan if you’re flexible today/tonight.  I’ll call you.

R

And so begins the continuing saga of  a relationship between R and me that lasts until the day after I arrive back from my Singapore and Thailand Study Abroad trip on January 22, 2008.

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Filed under Al-Ameen Associates, Americas, Cairo, Egypt, Middle East, New Jersey, New York, New York City, Oakton, United States of America, Virginia

the “haram” doll, a day of frustration at the airport & a night at the hotel novotel

Tuesday, July 31:  Lisa is an ESL teacher in Pennsylvania.  On this trip to Egypt, she brings a doll she made.  She photographs the doll in various locations in Egypt, such as in front of the Pyramids and other landmarks.  When she returns home, she will show the pictures to her students, who get great enjoyment from seeing the doll in places where Lisa has visited.

the doll that Lisa brings on her travels

the doll that Lisa brings on her travels

This doll reminds me of the rabbit Felix in the amazing children’s book series that began with Letters from Felix: A Little Rabbit on a World Tour.

At the end of a vacation something terrible happens: Sophia’s cuddly rabbit, Felix, disappears in the airport. This is very, very bad, because Sophie and Felix are inseparable. But when school starts again, suddenly a letter for Sophie arrives from London – a letter from Felix!

the fabulous children’s book: Letters from Felix

Our roommate, Souhaila, is a serious believer in Islam and believes the doll is haram, or sinful.  Every time she sees Lisa’s doll lying around the apartment, she turns it face down or she asks Lisa to remove it. Now, Lisa is Muslim too, but she doesn’t see it this way.  She sees it as a plaything for children, and something they enjoy, especially when she brings back pictures of it in front of landmarks throughout the world.

Here’s what the Metropolitan Museum of Art says about this idea: The Islamic resistance to the representation of living beings ultimately stems from the belief that the creation of living forms is unique to God, and it is for this reason that the role of images and image makers has been controversial. The strongest statements on the subject of figural depiction are made in the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet), where painters are challenged to “breathe life” into their creations and threatened with punishment on the Day of Judgment. The Qur’an is less specific but condemns idolatry and uses the Arabic term “musawwir” (“maker of forms,” or artist) as an epithet for God.

HOWEVER, says the Met:  Although the often cited opposition in Islam to the depiction of human and animal forms holds true for religious art and architecture, in the secular sphere, such representations have flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures (Metropolitan Museum of Art: Figural Representation in Islamic Art).

I am just a bystander in this disagreement between two Muslims, but I have to say, I find Lisa’s take much more moderate and reasonable.  Besides Lisa has a fabulous sense of humor and I can’t help but laugh as she decides, on our last morning in Cairo, to take pictures of the doll in various places throughout the flat, including on Souhaila’s bed.

the doll on Souhaila's bed

the doll on Souhaila’s bed

We have some fun with the doll in the flat before we gather up our belongings to head to the airport.  After we take a number of pictures and have a lot of laughs about the whole situation, we load our suitcases on the bus and head to the airport.

Lisa and her doll

Lisa and her doll

me with the doll

me with the doll

When we arrive at the airport, we find we are all on standby for a flight home.  Dr. Jones is scrambling around trying to get us sorted out.  While we’re waiting, Lisa and I play around in the airport, laughing our heads off and acting goofy, as we have from the first minute we met at the beginning of July.  I push her around on a baggage cart and then she pushes around some Egyptian children.  We laugh and laugh, acting like little children ourselves.

Lisa and me at Cairo Airport

Lisa and me at Cairo Airport

Lisa and me at Cairo airport

Lisa and me at Cairo airport

I push Lisa around on a baggage cart

I push Lisa around on a baggage cart

acting like goofy kids

acting like goofy kids

more goofiness

more goofiness

Lisa and some Egyptian kids

Lisa and some Egyptian kids

Finally we get a little tired from all the energy we’re expending acting goofy.  Irritation starts to set in.  It seems this situation with our flight is not being resolved.  Dr. Jones and his Al-Ameen Associates are so disorganized; it appears we will not even get on a flight today.  As the hours tick by, we get increasingly impatient and annoyed.  Finally, after about 6 hours in the airport (!!), we find we will not get on a flight after all.  We are transported out of the airport to the Hotel Novotel Cairo Airport to spend the night.   We will try to get on a flight tomorrow, insha’allah.

This extra night gives me another chance to see Basim.  I call him and he comes to visit at the Novotel, but he can only stay for a short time because he has to attend a birthday party for someone in his family. It’s okay, I’m happy to see him one more time.

Basim and me at Hotel Novotel Cairo Airport

Basim and me at Hotel Novotel Cairo Airport

After he leaves, Lisa and I have a light dinner in the lobby restaurant.

me at the Novotel having a light dinner

me at the Novotel having a light dinner

I go to bed early, exhausted from our ridiculous day at the airport.  At this point, I’m ready to go home, and I am keeping my fingers crossed we get on a flight tomorrow.

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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Hotel Novotel Cairo Airport, Middle East

a farewell walk in wadi degla desert protectorate

Monday, July 30:  Today is supposed to be our last day in Cairo, and we spend the day mostly packing and gathering things together.  

When I check my emails this morning, I find this one from R, written yesterday afternoon from Virginia:

C,

Absolutelynothing to talk about, but that I felt like writing anyway. Spent the day with a house full of in-laws and kids.  Repaired the rest of the toilets, graded papers, finished a few performance evaluations, and sent some emails tending to tasks long overdue.  Just another Sunday in suburbia.  Enough already.  Taking my nieces to “Shear Madness” tonight.  should be fun.  I’ve not seen it in a long time, and always enjoy the theater (except when there is something much better to do).

Hope all is well in Cairo.  Looking forward to your return.  Good luck with it.  Hope it doesn’t involve any camels or long stays on tarmacs.
MU.

r.

I write him back: 

Hi R,

I have absolutelynothing to talk about either, but I wanted to write to let you know I believe all is on for my flight back Tuesday. As of yesterday afternoon, there were only 3 people confirmed on the airplane, and I wasn’t one of them.  But last night at 10 pm, Dr. Jones called my cell to let me know I am on (Insha’allah!) We will see about that.

I had to transfer money to my account on Saturday because I was down to $6.  Hopefully I will be able to access it today, because I need to do some shopping for people back home.  I thought I’d get the boys each shisha pipes; they can be decorative for now, but they can take them to college and smoke them later if they feel like it.  They are just so cool.

Anyway, I am so looking forward, with some reservations re: family, etc., to my return and especially to seeing you again.  I hope it will be very soon after my return.  I hope you can get all your papers graded, etc, so you will have a little time for me.

I hope you enjoyed Shear Madness with your nieces.  I can’t even imagine being back in such civilization where people go to theater, etc.

I am going to miss Cairo terribly, however, and it is difficult in many ways to think of my life back in the old U.S.A.

See you soon,
Love,
C

I go shopping one more time at Khan al Khalili because I want to buy some gifts.  I buy my daughter several pairs of earrings and each of my sons a hookah, an Eastern smoking pipe with a long tube passing through an urn of water that cools the smoke as it is drawn through.

Basim wants to see me one more time before I leave.  We go in the late afternoon to Wadi Degla Desert Protectorate for a hike.  This was the place where I went to my first Cairo Hash and where I first met Basim.  It’s a hot day, with no shade in sight, and we climb up to the top to get a grand view of the Wadi.  We have a lovely time laughing and walking and I can’t help but feel really sad that I’ll probably never see him again.

wadi degla desert protectorate

wadi degla desert protectorate

Basim at Wadi Degla

Basim at Wadi Degla

me at Wadi Degla

me at Wadi Degla

at the top of Wadi Degla

at the top of Wadi Degla

me at the top of Wadi Degla

me at the top of Wadi Degla

As he’s driving me back to Muquttum, I take a picture of a pretty mosque along the way.  I am starting to feel nostalgic about Cairo already, despite the fact I haven’t even left. 😦

mosque in Cairo

mosque in Cairo

mosque in Cairo

mosque in Cairo

I am really so sad to be leaving Cairo.  And believe it or not, I will really miss Basim.  😦

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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Khan el-Khalili, Middle East, Wadi Degla Desert Protectorate

graduation from al azhar & the unknown soldier memorial

Sunday, July 29: Today we have our graduation from Al Azhar’s intensive 1-month-long Arabic course.  I think I know about as much as I knew the first day I arrived.  My entrance test and my final exam had about the same scores.  Oh well, at least it’s been the adventure of a lifetime.

the group of American women studying through Al Ameen Associates at Al Azhar University

the group of American women studying through Al Ameen Associates at Al Azhar University

another group shot

another group shot

me with Lisa on the terrace overlooking the courtyard at Al Azhar University

me with Lisa on the terrace overlooking the courtyard at Al Azhar University

the "infidels" - Kevin, me, Clint, and Shannon (the only non-Muslims in the group)

the “infidels” – Kevin, me, Clint, and Shannon (the only non-Muslims in the group)

me with my diploma

me with my diploma

Lisa with her diploma

Lisa with her diploma

Lisa and me

Lisa and me

Lisa and me outside in front of Al Azhar

Lisa and me outside in front of Al Azhar

me with my diploma

me with my diploma

On our way home today, we make a stop at the Unknown Soldier Memorial, a pyramid-shaped monument in Nasr City, Cairo. President Anwar Sadat ordered its construction in 1974 in honour of Egyptians who lost their lives in the 1973 October War. It was inaugurated in October 1975. The site was also chosen for the president’s tomb after his assassination in October 1981 (Wikipedia: Unknown Soldier Memorial (Egypt)).

Unknown Soldier Memorial

Unknown Soldier Memorial

Across from the memorial are the stands where Anwar Sadat was assassinated on 6 October 1981.  An annual victory parade was being held in Cairo to celebrate Egypt’s crossing of the  Suez Canal.  Sadat was protected by four layers of security and eight bodyguards, and the army parade should have been safe due to ammunition-seizure rules. As Egyptian Air Force Mirage jets flew overhead, distracting the crowd, Egyptian army soldiers and troop trucks paraded. One troop truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As the truck passed, the assassins dismounted, and Islambouli approached Sadat.  Sadat stood to receive his salute, whereupon, Islambouli threw three grenades at Sadat, only one of which exploded, and additional assassins rose from the truck, firing assault rifles into the stands. After Sadat was hit and fell to the ground, people threw chairs around him to protect him from the hail of bullets.

fatwā approving the assassination had been obtained from a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.   Though it has yet to proven, it has also been theorized that Sadat’s Vice-President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Abu Ghazala played in role in planning the assassination. (Wikipedia: Assassination of Anwar Sadat)

me in front of the stands where Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981

me in front of the stands where Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981

me with Lisa at the Unknown Soldier Memorial

me with Lisa at the Unknown Soldier Memorial

When I return home after class, I find this email from R.

C,

Back from a family-sort-of-reunion-thing. People from around the country getting together.  Best part was I got a chance to spend some cool pool time with my granddaughter.  2 is such a cute age.  But I’ve a whole night of grading ahead. What a way to spend a Sat. night.  Would much rather be with you.  But I bought a bottle of Bushmills to
help get me through.  Usually, grades improve as the evening wears on.  Not entirely sure why.

Anyway, I’m not sure how much more you’ll be on-line and I guess it’ll be choppy until you actually get back.  And then maybe choppy until you get settled– whatever that means.  In the meantime, if you can, let me know when you think we might get a chance to get together.  From Aug. 1 on I’m flexible, so let me know.

Can’t wait to see you.

In meantime, stay safe.

Love,
r.

In the evening, Basim comes by to pick me up and we go back to The Virginian at Muquttum Corniche.  It’s so lovely now to spend time with him.  I’ve come to enjoy his company, even though it’s been hit or miss much of the time I’ve been here.  I realize I will miss him when I leave here.

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Filed under Al-Ameen Associates, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, Middle East, Muquttum, Muquttum Corniche, Nasr City, The Virginian, Unknown Soldier Memorial

final saturday in cairo: a shopping spree at the far end of road 9

Saturday, July 28: I am almost to the end of my month in Egypt and this is our last weekend day here.  Lisa and I plan to do some shopping later this afternoon.  We also need to study, as our final exams and graduation are tomorrow.

This morning, I send an email to R:

Have you fallen off the face of the earth???  I haven’t heard much from you.  Have you decided to join the “Hate Cathy Club”?  Or are you simply incredibly busy?  Or maybe you are tired of me cluttering your life.

Anyway, I hope all is well with you.  It is so freaking hot here.  All I feel like doing is staying in my apartment with the A/C going full blast.  There is no relief from the heat when you go out.  Taxis, cafes, shops: none of them have air conditioning.  I want to shop more at Khan el Khalili, but don’t know if I can brave the heat.

Study today, maybe shop, who knows what else.  My 3 infidel friends enjoyed the hash last night.  We had a lovely spot with a pool for BBQ and cold beers afterwards.  None of my Egyptian friends were there.  It was fun, nonetheless.

Take care kind sir,
let me know if you have abandoned me…
C

I hear back from him after a couple of hours:

Not off the face of earth, yet, but flitting around the edges lately and have had a bit of a problem getting to and staying near a computer.  Not in the club.  Can’t even imagine the club.  Quite the contrary.  But, have to dash again. I’ll try to be more complete about my flittings later– they mostly have to do with a flood of papers from two courses and performance evaluations for all the people who work for me, due Tuesday.  I’m just a grading fool.  And no time to be human or to slow down.  Will chat more when I can.

As for my ‘millionnaire’ just as I was going to lay into him, his wife asked me under her breath not to burst his bubble.  Damn.

See you soon!!!

Lisa and I go on a shopping spree at some shops at the far end of Road 9 in Muquttum.  She does more damage than I, but both of us buy a lot of stuff we don’t need.  After we shop, we have a lunch of cucherie and Coca-Cola in a steamy hole-in-the-wall.

me having cucherie and Coca-Cola in Muquttum

me having cucherie and Coca-Cola in Muquttum

Lisa in Muquttum

Lisa in Muquttum

Lisa and me in the tuk-tuk

Lisa and me in the tuk-tuk

Lisa and me after our shopping spree

Lisa and me after our shopping spree

Lisa, me and our spoils

Lisa, me and our spoils

Later, I write back to R:

I know you are swamped and I’m just happy to hear you haven’t joined the club.  I hope you haven’t surreptitiously added your name to the wait list.  Anyway, we will talk more upon my return to the USA after Tuesday.  I am so looking forward to seeing you.  The boys called today and Adam goes to lax camp through Wednesday, so I’m sure I will need to spend some time with him when he returns.  He sounded sad and like he misses me.  Alex seems to be doing fine.  Mike never speaks to me when the boys call.

I will leave you to your paper grading and your performance evaluations.  I have my big Arabic test tomorrow, but instead of studying today, Lisa and I went shopping at the other end of Muquttum.  We actually found it quite nice.  If only we’d discovered it earlier.  We were so dead set against the neighborhood from the start, that we never gave it a chance.  Oh well, that’s life.

So, hold on dear R, and I look forward to seeing you in just several more days.
Love,
C

He responds back:

Love it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it.

r

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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Middle East, Muquttum