Mary and Brad’s visit to Egypt

We had an amazing week and so much of it was due to the open-minded approach that Mary and Brad took to this adventure. They embraced the whole experience. Some highlights:
The souqs including the Ibrihamia (at the school area), the Manchaya market downtown and the wonderful, ancient and colourful Khan el-Khalili souq in Islamic Cairo.

In Cairo, the vendors are relentless.But we have learned. If you have a sense of humour, it takes you a long way. As you pass them and sail on without biting, they keep calling…”for you, a 99% discount!,” or ” I want to spend all of your money!”. I had to laugh and wave.
New Year’s Eve was spent here in Alexandria. I took a chance and bought tickets for a classical concert at the Bibliotheca. It turned out to be kind of a light program, full of waltzes and featuring a very good Jordanian soprano. Afterward, we were invited to a dinner at a restaurant called the Delta. Sixteen of us sat around a great square table arrangement. We knew no one other than Bethany and Ronnie, who we invited, and Mary and Brad of course. The rest were life long Alexandrians who were great company. The food was delicious, with lots of tasty hors d’oeuvres. By the time we got back to the apartment, it was two in the morning and we felt like real Egyptians.
There are two restaurants in Cairo that we like because of the atmosphere and the food. Farfalla is close to Tahrir Square, about a ten minute walk. The maitre d’ is at least eighty, walks around in his tux and doesn’t actually say or do much of anything. But he looks the part. The rest of the service is very good. It is dark and a bit mysterious with birds in birdcages, fish tanks full of turtles and fish, and a photo of Jimmy Carter eating there when he was president. The food is delicious and you are not rushed at all.

The other is Abou el Sid which is in an area called Zamelak. Again, it is down a dark little side street. It has a huge door and is kind of smoky with the sheesha types at it again. The food can be excellent but we didn’t order well, felt a bit rushed but had a lot of fun while Mary and Brad made notes about their week.

The souq was really fun, partially because we felt like we understood it a bit more. Also, our Survival Arabic course gave us enough of the language to bargain and under the prices better. Although it didn’t help much with the shoeshine man at the legendary El Fishaway Cafe. He took one look at my shoes, pronounced them horrible and a disgrace and offered to polish them up for ten pounds ($1.83). I told him the price was ridiculous (pretending to be Judy, negotiator extraordinaire) and we settled on five pounds. He put a little piece of cardboard down, l removed my shoes…and he disappeared. Seriously. I lost sight of him totally. Judy thought this was the funniest thing ever but I kept the faith as I sat their in my socks drinking my Turkish coffee. Eventually,he returned, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and paid the fellow his five ginay note. And my shoes have never looked better.

It was a busy week with Mary and Brad, full of random things happening all of the time. We had to switch hotels because our first choice turned out to be a dump. A large dump but still a dump. Two out of three toilets didn’t work properly. Judy’s pyjama bottoms got wet when she went into the bathroom once. And Mary found a bunch of spider’s eggs in a towel. When a shower nozzle almost fell on my head when it fell off the wall, we finally hopped to the Holiday Inn. Sweet

Family News!

Jon and Ashley (especially Ashley…she has to do all of the work) are expecting their second child to keep Sawyer company. He or she is due in June which is great timing for us as we hope to be back around June 30th. Congratulations to them!

And, sometime over the course of the summer, Mary and Brad will marry! More on that as time passes.

Christmas 7000 kilometers from home: is it even possible?

We knew we were not returning to Canada for Christmas even though we had a three week break. And this is basically an Islamic country, Egypt style. Would we have a little private Christmas, just the two of us, or would we treat it as just another day? There was talk with our friends Bethany and Ronnie of a trip to Luxor but two things clinched a plan. First, Mary and Brad committed to a visit with a plan to leave Ottawa on Boxing Day. Second, as previously described, I joined the Christmas Choir for St. Mark’s Pro-Cathedral in the old part of the city. And we even had a tiny tree with little camels decorating it.

The Christmas Eve service was wonderful, with a lot of music, most of the traditional carols and several acapella ones (always a little nerve wracking for the singers), and the readings from the Bible. Judy read one of them beautifully. I read another too so we really were made part of things.

Afterward, we wandered through the hustle and bustle of downtown on a Thursday evening with our friend David Thomas, up some very dark stairs to the Egyptian Seaman’s Club. An old place of course with a grizzled old maître d’ who said he could cook us some chicken and mushrooms. Nobody else was there. Judy and David had a beer and I had a ginger ale (the life of the party as usual) and it was a very nice time. We still missed our children and grandchildren a lot but it did feel like Christmas.

When you think about it, we were only a stone’s throw from where Jesus was born. And it wouldn’t be long before he and his family would escape to Egypt to avoid Herod and his awful intentions.

Reality did intrude although we ignored it. Security is a big issue around these parts of course and it is interesting to say the least to have soldiers with machine guns posted outside the church walls during the service. Life goes on even in the face of fanaticism. Christmas morning, when we attended a service at the Stanly Anglican Church, a small church in the style of an English country parish building, there were a couple of military fellows posted outside just in case. Something we don’t think about at Manotick United.