Greetings from murky Cairo. Im perched at the dining room table looking out over the balcony at the lovely east-side view from Mary Megallis Garden City Flat. So far the elevator has not eaten me, the washing machine has not held me hostage, and the Masri door has not swung shut against my too-small tush. Its been a rather dull existence so far - the only calamity occurred on the trip over when a baggage cart collided with my plane in London - the plane survived, I think the cart is on life support.
Its a typical Cairo scene: sunshades for livestock and people on those breathless August nights, satellite dishes to keep in touch with the (Arab) world, and piles of stuff that will certainly be useful someday all covered in the same thick layer of dust you can see in the air. It's khamseen season here, when the winds blow cold from the north carrying tons of sand in their wake. Some mornings are so murky you can hardly see down the block - fortunately, I haven't been yet treated to the full scale sandstorms that are a feature of the khamseen.
West side view - not very different from the east side view. The Nile is only about ½ mile away over those rooftops. When the family first moved to this flat in the 60s, this west-side balcony overlooked an extensive complex of gardens and orchards stretching all the way to an unobstructed view of the Niles banks. Fortunately, there is still quite a bit of bird life here (not to mention 4 species of bats) - the usual list of European house sparrows, Palm doves and pigeons, supplemented by small falcons, owls and the Senegal Thick Knee, whose acquaintance I made just last week. Its a wading bird, cousin to Stone Curlew, which lives along rivers edge and the rooftops of Garden City whooping a sad and eerie cry.
Just 2 days after I arrived, I had the opportunity to participate in a community cleanup event at Wadi Degla, the lovely little protected area that lies just outside Cairo. There is a dump (not landfill: read dump) about 1 mile away from Degla and the fierce winds are constantly blowing garbage into the wadi. Plastic bags are a special menace since they get caught on the spines of the tamarisks and can strangle the trees by cutting off sunlight. I met up with one of the Shoprite crews (one of the local grocery chains) in Maadi at 10 am which inevitably became 11am, this being Egypt when we clambered into a van for a trip to the wadi along the brand new Ein Sukhna. We hung out at the top for while getting organized, then trudged down into the wadi for the mission.