our muquttum neighborhood & our horrible flat

Thursday, July 19:  Today is class as usual at Al Azhar.  After class, I take some pictures of some activity going on at the house across the street.  The man of the house is cutting his son’s hair at a kind of outdoor room overgrown with vines.

I apologize that all my photos have a pink tinge to them.  I don’t know the explanation for this.  As all my Egypt photos seem to have a pink glow, I can only guess that I’m seeing Cairo through rose-colored glasses.

an outdoor haircut in the house across from our flat

an outdoor haircut in the house across from our flat

Notice in the house across the “street” from our flat, the middle floor has glass panes and curtains in the windows.  The top floor does not.  This is the case all through Cairo.  I see buildings EVERYWHERE with one flat finished, and all the other flats in the building unfinished.  It’s very bizarre that only one family would live in a building with a bunch of empty shells for neighbors.

the house across the street

the house across the street

looking down the "street" to the left

looking down the “street” to the left

Here’s our lovely living room.  There’s not really much room for three roommates to sit comfortably.

our living room

our living room

Neither is the dining area very practical for three people.

our dining room

our dining room

I love how the refrigerator is stuck halfway between the dining room and living room.

the refrigerator in the living/dining room

the refrigerator in the living/dining room

And the kitchen is really something, isn’t it?  It’s really so disgusting that I never want to cook here.  I’ve taken to eating chick peas out of a can, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper tossed in.  Either that, or I go out to eat.

our lovely kitchen

our lovely kitchen

more of the kitchen

more of the kitchen

Here’s our roommate Souhaila’s room.  Rather a mess.  I’m usually a really tidy person, but what’s the point in this dive of a place?

Souhaila's bedroom

Souhaila’s bedroom

Today, Lisa plays hookey from school.  She needs to get some kind of business taken care of so I’m supposed to cover for her and tell Dr. Jones that she’s sick.

I call Robert today to warn him about an email I am sending him.  I no longer have the email I sent, but I imagine I tell him how much I care for him.  In addition, I probably discuss the hopelessness of our situation, as he is already entangled.  I think I tell him I don’t know what to do because I know there is no future for us and I’m afraid of the eventual consequence: a broken heart.


It was so special speaking to you.  And so very special of you to call just to warn me.  But by far the most special of all was to hear your laugh.  It was like suddenly hearing a very dear song from long ago; one that fills you with warm memories.  In the midst of an emotionally draining day, it was a like a kiss.  It made the dreariness fade away and sustained me on a private high for hours. Even yet, it rings in my ear and I feel so very, very lucky to have it.

I’m back in my office trying to catch up.  I have performances to evaluate, lack of performance (mine) to hide or explain away, papers to grade, more papers to grade, a desk piled high with paper to clean, papers to edit for publication, a book to write, and yet… and yet, all I can bring myself to do is write to you.

I tried not to get online.  But I just couldn’t help myself.  I do apologize.  I tried not to read your email.  But when I saw the first three words I was tugged so strongly that I could stop myself.  I apologize again.   I am so thrilled by what you say.  And I am so stricken by what you say.  I won’t even pretend to offer answers.  I can’t read the future.  I have enough trouble understanding the present. But, it is more painful each day to have a present that you are not in.  And it is more painful yet to contemplate a future that does not include you.  My future, ineluctably, has pain written all over it.  There is no getting around that, and the only person I can talk to about it is half-way around the world.

All in all, it’s been a long and draining day.  And I’ve only a few minutes of your laughter to make up for it.  It’s just not quite enough for a day like this.  I’m sorry to end on such a note, but, well, the day is ending and so is my energy.

Stay well.

Love always,

I write back to R:

BTW, if the computer dies on me, I will have to stop.  I have spent a good 45 minutes just opening your email and writing what I have written.  Not only will it shut down, but it is unbelievably slow.

So… I just have to tell you that your emails and calls mean more to me than I can possibly describe.  With each one, my heart grows fonder and fonder of you.  I am getting irretrievably attached.  I miss you so much.  I so wish you could be here with me for a long weekend to explore this wild insane place.

I am falling for you, so beware.  Careful…. fragile heart (as Jewel says).
Love,  C

Later I get this email from R:

C,  I’m pulling out early (of my office:) and will be telecommuting from a secluded and lonely place all day tomorrow to try actually to get some stuff done.  It’s possible I’ll not figure out email and so may be incommunicado all Friday.  Please read nothing into this but that I’m IT illiterate.

Hope you have another exhilarating day (while I slave away in my salt mine).  Can’t wait to see you.  Warmest to Basim.

your sm


Later in the evening, I get another email from R.


Just got back from dinner downtown with some professor buddies from out-of-town.  Super nice guys and we had a lovely time.  Walked around a bit pulling on cigars and solving the world’s trade problems. I occasionally found myself thinking what it would be like to walk around with no where special to go in Cairo, with you.  But then some pointed question would drag me back to DC.  Nothing exciting, no ‘rides of death,’ no one to haggle with, no one to tell about.  Just a bit of something different in my humdrum life.  And I thought I would share it, mostly because it makes me feel better, and closer, while I’m typing away.

Isn’t it odd how a block of words seem to take on a personality? I seem to anthropomorphize them into the person who wrote them or the person for whom they are written.  I re-read and re-read words that I know so well because it feels like I’m touching that person.  It’s not the information being relayed, the words themselves become like the being they portray.  And it is comforting to see them; like holding them. They feel warm and full of life, almost like their breathing.  It’s a substitute, but a comforting one and very special.  Maybe it’s just the next step in losing my mind. Maybe my mind is just trying to join my heart.

Sorry to meander.  Just wanted to say goodnight and wish you well.  MUSM.


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Filed under Cairo, Egypt, Middle East, Muquttum

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