adventures around the egyptian museum & an argument with the brain surgeon

Saturday, July 14:  This morning I sleep in for the first time since I arrived in Egypt.  After I get up and going, I email R:

Hello again.  It’s 12:30 pm on Saturday (our Sunday).  I’m heading today to the Egyptian museum.  I slept in today for the first time since I’ve been here.  I think I could nap all day.

I don’t have anything new to tell you since last night, but all still holds.  I will carry you with me today on my adventures.  I never know what will happen; I will never pass up a chance to chat with the locals.  The heat is horrible, so I’m hoping the museum is air-conditioned.  Then I’ll try a restaurant that Jerry recommended for an early dinner.  I hope to get back home at a reasonable hour to get some studying done.  But, we’ll see about that…

You never mentioned what you’re doing on your weekend.  I hope you’ll check emails while at home.  I am sending heartbeats your way.

Love,
C

Finally, I head out to the Egyptian Museum. On the way to and from the museum, I have several adventures which I tell about in the letter to R below.  The Egyptian Museum has over 100,000 relics from nearly every period of ancient Egyptian history.  Sadly I must leave my camera at the baggage room before entering the museum, so of course I don’t have any pictures. 😦

The Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum

There are so many antiquities in this museum and they are all poorly marked and crowded into a tight and stuffy space.  It isn’t pleasant to walk through, as one thing looks much like another and there is so much of  it all!

The ground floor contains the Old Kingdom rooms, including the 4600 year old limestone double statue of Rahotep & Nofret.  What many consider to be the museum’s masterpiece, the larger-than-life-size statue of Khafre (Chephren), builder of the second pyramid at Giza, is on this floor.  Room 3 is dedicated to Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC), the pharaoh who set up ancient Egypt’s first and last monotheistic faith, and his wife Nefertiti (Lonely Planet Middle East).

On the first floor, I find the Royal Tombs of Tanis, the Tutankhamun Galleries, and the Royal Mummy Room, where I get to see the bodies of 11 of Egypt’s pharaohs and queens who ruled Egypt between 1552 and 1069 BC, including Ramses II.  The Tutankhamun Galleries contain around 1,700 items from the treasure of the “young and comparatively insignificant” King Tut, who ruled for only 9 years (Lonely Planet Middle East).

After I return back to Muquttum from the Egyptian Museum, I find a reply from R in my inbox:

Weekends.  Hmmm.  Almost too exciting to describe.  I’ll work out, take a bike ride if I’m lucky (call nobody from the woods), mow the lawn, clean up after the 9 people living in my house, take another cold shower, check gmail, buy new shoes (mine are falling apart and starting to embarrass even me; and I can’t find any brown duct tape), review an article for my journal, check gmail again,and then celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday.  Well, try to match that in an exotic, ancient city in the mid-East.

Sunday?  Probably another cold shower, check gmail, maybe church, play with my granddaughter, clean up after the 9 people living in my house, check gmail, take yet another cold shower, work on my Mexico videos, check gmail, and try to catch up on my reading.  Probably another cold shower.  I’m probably the cleanest and horniest guy in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Well, check ya later.

Love,

R

I write him back to tell him about my day.
Hey there, 
Wonder why you’re taking cold showers. Frustration with L, or thoughts about me??  I guess I’ll never know the truth…  Hmmmm….I’m sure you will have a fun time with your family, as you do every weekend.  I wonder why you’re not just satisfied with them??  You have a full life with wonderful people who love you and who you love.  I guess I just will never understand it.  I know I’m icing on the cake.  Still.

OMG, I’m starting to see a distinct pattern here in Egypt.  It seems everywhere I go, some young man latches on to me and insists on accompanying me wherever I am going.  On my way to the Egyptian museum, a young man insisted on helping me across a terribly busy highway, jumping in front of cars to stop them and pulling me across the road by my hand.  Then he asked for my number.  I gave him a fake one, which he called immediately to double-check; since it didn’t work, I had to give him the real one.  I of course label their numbers right away so that I can see if they call — in which case I won’t answer.  This guy came to Egypt 4 months ago from Iraq.

Then after the museum, I was looking for Abu Tarik, a restaurant that Jerry recommended that sells cucherie (delicious!).  A young black Nubian approached me because I looked lost, spoke perfect English to me, then insisted on accompanying me to Abu Tarik, going so far as to sit at the table and eat with me.  Then he took me to an old run-down cafe on a side street and we had coffee and mango juice.  At his suggestion I smoked apple-flavored shisha.  His huge family is Bedouin and they live near the Sakara Country Club where I went last night for the hash.  He asked me to accompany him to Sakara to meet his whole family, have dinner, and then ride their horses by the pyramid.  I asked how old he was and he said 28.  He said he had feelings for me!!! What the hell????  I said, that’s ridiculous.  You don’t even know me and I’m twice your age.  (Besides, his teeth were horrible!!!)  Luckily, I wiggled out of that one by saying I had to go home to study and nap.  But he insisted on getting my number.  Again, tried the fake one, but when he called it and it failed, he wanted the real one.  OMG!

OK, so returned home and told Lisa and Suhalah (my other roommate) and they said it’s because young men are hoping to marry an American to come to America.  So I must look like some terribly lonely older woman who they think they can sweet talk.  I talk to them because I like to talk to the locals and find out what they’re all about.  But I’m hearing the same lines over and over.  You have beautiful eyes, it doesn’t matter about your age, I have feelings for you…blahblahblah.  They must all take some course about how to snare an American woman to get a free ride to the USA.

Just now got a call from Basim the brain surgeon.  He wants me to go out with him tonight.  And to think I thought I was done with him.  I planned to stay home and study, but of course will go.  He’s refreshing because he’s older — hey, in his thirties!!– and he isn’t all gushy.. Not at all.  And he’s kind.  But soooooo not attracted to him.

Okay, another fun day in Arabland.  Oh the Arabs.  I also got a face massage with exotic oils from a man who invited me to his daughter’s wedding tomorrow evening.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring….

Take care, and enjoy, fully enjoy, your family.  It’s good that I’m gone; maybe you will rediscover the joy of having them in your life.

Love,
Me

After sending this reply, I meet Basim, the brain surgeon, on Road 9, and he takes me to a cafe on the Nile.  It is quiet and nearly deserted except for one other couple sitting on a terrace above us. I tell Basim about my evening at Al Ahzar Park where I witnessed the morality police haul off a young man who had his arm around his girlfriend (an evening in al azhar park).  He says there are reasons for the strictly enforced morals in Egypt.  He says, “For example, if you and I started kissing now, that couple sitting up there on the terrace would be encouraged to start kissing.”  I say, “That’s ridiculous.  Either that couple already wants to kiss or they don’t.  They either have chemistry, or they don’t.  Seeing us kiss would not encourage them to kiss if they didn’t feel the urge themselves.”

We go around and around with this argument, and he won’t budge in his belief that by kissing, we would certainly corrupt that other couple.  I disagree strongly.  Strong and angry words fly back and forth across the table, with both of us getting quite agitated.  Finally we are quiet and I shift uncomfortably in my seat as our eyes meet.

“Do you know what?” I say, smiling at him sheepishly.  “All this talk about kissing is making me want to jump across the table and kiss you.”

He looks at me.  “Yes, me too.”  He laughs and I do too.  Tension and chemistry flit about us like lightning bugs in the sultry air.

It’s funny, because in the email I sent above to R, I had said: And to think I thought I was done with {Basim}… He’s refreshing because he’s older — hey, in his thirties!!– and he isn’t all gushy.. Not at all.  And he’s kind.  But soooooo not attracted to him.

This night turned all that around.  Suddenly, after tonight, I find myself very attracted to him.

I realize then that Egypt’s prohibition of public displays of affection has made it seem appealing, even enticing, to both of us.  Ironically, it has just the opposite effect that I believe it intends to have.

At this point in our relationship we haven’t kissed at all.  And tonight, as he drives me back to Muquttum, Basim is too proper to try to kiss me at all.  After all, it’s practically impossible to find a secluded place to park in Cairo.   With a population of nearly 8 million people, one is hard-pressed to find even a speck of privacy.  So we say goodnight, and I prepare to go back to school at Al Azhar tomorrow.

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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Egyptian Museum, Middle East

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