copy Excellent Adventures in Egypt

Enter here to share Joni's adventures living and working in Cairo courtesy of the U.S. Fulbright cultural exchange program. Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization. - Mahatma Ghandi

9/09/2004

I know it's midafternoon - and time to draw the curtains against the heat of the day - by the sound of the waterman processing down the street. He carries a samovar by a strap on his neck, vessel and cups arrayed 'round his chest. right hand busy clanking our the waterman song with a pair of cymbals: clackety, clackety, clackety, CRASH! He moves briskly down the street , pausing only to pour water for a bystander or a street-sitter, his music fading as he winds around the corner. Many adventures in the last few days: a hafla fi'l bayt (housewarming) at the flat of Tory and Fayiza, two Fulbright students doing refugee studies who happen to live in the building next door; two visits to the Helwan Faculty of Tourism (about which more later); three visits to the Fulbright office, successfully finding the building each time by taxi, by foot and by car (what a triumph!); and endless wandering round the streets of Zamalek. I actually end up where I intend to go most of the time now. Later this week I visited the bookstore on the American University of Cairo (AUC) campus. AUC is where visiting students usually come to study (several CU students are here this term) and has the best English language bookstores in the City (although Luxor has a bookstore that's even better, right Fran?). What a contrast to the Helwan campus! AUC is irrigated grass and manicured lawns, clusters of comfy chairs grouped in secluded and shady locations, tennis courts and an immaculate physical plant. (No pix 'cuz they don't allow cameras.) Students wear designer pants and fashion jeans with their higabs and baseball caps, reflecting the wealth of their families and/or countries of origin. No wonder there is envy and resentment of the "have mores," to use GW?s quaint and faintly insulting descriptor. I walked back to Zamalek from central Cairo to get a better sense of distances and to avoid the dreadful afternoon traffic. The previous day I spent 20 minutes stuck unmoving in a cab on Qasr al-Aini in the hottest part of the day. It was six lanes of traffic jammed into a space designed for four. Cars were packed together so tightly that a bicycle delivery man trying to get across the street couldn't maneuver his bike between the fenders of the cars. (For those interested, the walking distance from Central Cairo to central Zamalek is about the same as walking from the Table Mesa park?n ride to downtown Boulder. It seems much farther in a cab.) On Tuesday morning I found my way to the Anglican Cathedral on the other side of 26th July Street (a main arterial that divides the island of Gezira in two). I was looking for a thrift shop they once ran (still in search of that can opener) and found a found a courtyard full of Sudanese refugees instead. It is sobering to walk through a doorway and find yourself in the middle of a lead story on the news. There were several hundred men, women and children quietly working or resting in the cathedral complex' spacious grounds. Most were gathered under a cloth pavilion intently watching the evening news on a big screen TV. What is it like to be a refugee, watching those talking heads report that the global community can't find a way to stop the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, knowing that ethnic cleansing is code for death and rape and destruction for the people and places that you love? The folks were soft spoken, infinitely polite and neatly turned out in the sharply-pressed clothing that characterizes Egyptian dress. Instead of thrift shop, the Anglicans are now running a craft store featuring items form their various missions, including Sudan, prisoners and the blind and deaf. Lovely embroidery and fabric work; I came away with two pillow covers and a plush woven rug for the bathroom floor. Tuesday night was dinner with Ahmed, my good friend from our very first trip here, and Ahmed sends his greetings to all. Posted by Hello

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