Tag Archives: Cairo

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

cairo: meeting ahmed

Friday, February 12:  I arrive in Cairo in mid-afternoon and have to go through an extensive customs inspection because I am carrying two huge suitcases for my upcoming year in Korea.  It takes quite some time for them to inspect my luggage; they ask me why I’m carrying so much for a 4-day stay.  I explain that this is just a stopover on my way to work in Korea for a year.  I’m worried Ahmed will grow impatient with the delay and will give up waiting for me.

I’m also nervous that Ahmed won’t turn out to look like he does in his photos and on the webcam; I’m also afraid I won’t recognize him in person.  Another thing is his voice.  When I’ve spoken to him on Skype or by phone, I didn’t think his voice matched his body and face; it was so quiet and soft-spoken, even slightly effeminate, while he looks like he’s a bit of a tough guy, especially in one video he sent of himself working out at the gym.  But as I pull my two stuffed suitcases into Arrivals, I pass all the waiting Egyptians, searching for his familiar face.  Only when I reach the end of the line of people do I see him standing off to the side by himself, his arms crossed over his chest, smiling away at me.

It’s a little awkward meeting for the first time someone who you have chatted with extensively every day for months.  I have developed feelings for him online and so of course I’m afraid he won’t like what he sees.  I’m also afraid I won’t like him in person.  But I find he looks just like his photos.  He’s wearing glasses and a lopsided grin and he gives me a big hug.  Then we go out to get into his decrepit Volkswagen; it’s quite stuffed with junk and we have a hard time fitting both of my suitcases in the car.

As we drive along, he tells me I’m much better in person than in my pictures, though he’s always loved my pictures.  I feel relieved, but also a little awkward around him.  He is also better in person, with his charm and cute sense of humor.  Surprisingly, he also seems quite serious, which is so different from the impression he gave in our chats.

It turns out he has found an apartment to rent outside of the city.  The apartment doesn’t have a doorman, which is the reason he rented it.  Inside it’s fully furnished but rather shabby.  The kitchen looks much like the kitchen in our Muquttum apartment when I was studying Arabic at Al-Azhar University in 2007.    It’s just full-out disgusting.  Oh well, hopefully we won’t stay much in this dump of a place.

We put my bags into the apartment and go out to grab some chicken schwarma for dinner.  We take a drive through parts of Cairo where Ahmed shows me one of the hospitals where he works.  Then we come back to the apartment and relax and talk.  It’s so lovely to finally meet him.   Since I missed out on arriving here Thursday night and having the whole of Friday to spend with him, I won’t have much time with him.  He will have to go to work tomorrow and I’ll have to find something to do to occupy myself during his long workday.

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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

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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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