I have arrived in Egypt. As always my departure was not easy. The morning I was leaving Olivia’s ear infection came back, Bea had a “hurty tummy” and she lost her blue exercise book. Leo had the worst problem of all; a bad hair day.
Anyway I managed to escape and a few hours later found myself on a camel lunging towards the pyramids. Obviously I had my BlackBerry with me (I am on a working trip after all) and in between trying to reach the elusive film star Mona Zaki to set up an interview and confirming appointments for today I saw these symbols of ancient Egypt.
Rupert calls them “proof that man has been a congenital idiot for centuries”. My guide Mohammed also questioned their wisdom: “Mr Go no come back” he told me with confidence.
What did I think of them? Well, to be honest, they look better in pictures. In reality the ground is strewn with rubbish, the animals they give you to ride, horse or camel, look like they have not eaten for weeks (Mohammed blamed their Saudi guests for this) and the prices are extortionate. I did have a brief Lawrence of Arabia moment as the wind picked up and the three pyramids loomed ahead of us. I can imagine the desert can be an extremely beautiful, calming place.
Cairo, on the other hand, is not. Well I have not seen much but compared with Abu Dhabi it just seems so dirty and busy. I guess this is the Middle East without oil wealth. As a Swede I am about as far out of my comfort zone as I ever want to be. On the way to dinner last night I almost fell over the carcass of a rotting ginger cat. The cars all look older than me. Having said that there is something very authentic about it and I may grow to love the chaos the longer I stay. One of my heroines and one of the people I am interviewing today, Nawal El Saadawi, is mad about it, even though they keep putting her in prison.
I have just had a call from Leo, another bad hair day. But the girls are happy so Rupert only has to get the gel and the hairbrush out.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009
I went for a short break to Cairo earlier this year with my husband. We hired a driver and were amazed how skillful he was at driving. Sometimes there was just an inch between us and another car but we had no scrapes or bumps. We were also amazed at how many people could cram into a taxi. One taxi we saw had the passenger holding the door as he was hanging half out of the car! Love reading the blog, by the way.
It’s hard to get away as a mother, but when they’re sick- oh dear!
I’m not sure which is worse-coming across a live or a dead cat. I hate them either way.
I’m so pleased you managed to see Giza, Helena, but I know what you mean about the camels and the horses. Being a typical Anglo-Saxon woman, human suffering I can just about handle but cruelty to animals I most certainly cannot. I went out before dawn on my own (brief moment of madness) to see sunrise above the pyramids and threw a wobbly of such epic proportions whilst negotiating rates with camel/horse owners it almost grew in to an international incident. Having scratchy Arabic and saying you live in the Gulf doesn’t help either as the prices are merely inflated higher.
The desert IS an extremely beautiful, very calming place and I find just one night spent out there under the stars as re-energising as a week in a spa. Roll on winter when those of us fortunate enough to live in the Emirates can head for the high dunes or the fabulous Hajar Mountains.
Cairo still has not worked its magic on me, I saw the wonderful Nawal last night and she said it has changed hugely, she now calls it “the concrete city” but it’s her home. Off to interview the film star Mona Zaki later today, will try to squeeze in a trip to the Egyptian museum.
Your heroine – which is your favourite book? I have never read anything by her and would like to try.
For some reason my own website thinks I am spam gggrrr so I can’t leave comments. Here is my response to your comment…
I would suggest one or more of her memoirs, I have not read them all but she told me last night the one she wrote in prison on a loo roll with an eye-liner borrowed from a prostitute is her best book. I have read Walking through Fire and liked that very much. In terms of the novels go for Woman at Point Zero. If you’re interested in women in the Arab world then also The Hidden Face of Eve.
Thanks! I’ll try and find your recommendations. Loo roll and eyeliner – talk about creativity in the face of adversity!