Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Three Little Kittens and Richard Gere

I am starting to really love Egypt. This is a fascinating country, and the richness of its culture is as fascinating as its history. It is still not always easy, and I am still struggling with the frustrations of basic stuff like shopping, but coming back from Damascus and the Gulf really felt like coming home.

This is a first post for me without any of my children. My eldest is now 37, nearly 38. That is a lot of years to have children with you, and I have really missed the company and the busy-ness of an active house with two young adults raiding the frig at intervals. I have had to stop cooking too much, as no-one eats the leftovers. I still can’t believe how little food I buy.

Having cats in the garden is nice – as I feel that even an occasional meal thrown their way is making me a bit more necessary to someone. I am not trying to sound miserable as I am not – but it has been an adjustment that I have had to make.

Three little kittens Mum and one kitten on the grass

Now for a bit about the absolutely lovely night we had the other night. While I have already told many friends, I decided for security reasons to wait until today before this went to the blog.

If you hate name dropping stop reading now!!

I had dinner with Richard Gere. I have a smile a mile wide at the thought.

Even without Richard Gere it would have been a very special night. The Grand Hyatt has a boat – a huge, glossy, two story, beautiful boat. Think Manly ferry done up as a palace and you are getting close, but this boat is even so quiet that we had been moving for ten minutes before I realised that we had left the dock..

Something magical happens to Cairo when it gets dark. The city becomes a Cinderella. The dust, and the boring brown apartment blocks and the huge brick tenements and the dirt and rubble of the streets all disappears. As the lights come out the river reflects them in rippling gold, the best of the buildings are the ones most lit, and the appearance of the city changes in half an hour. While Cinderella may have been the same girl in rags as she was in a beautiful gown and carriage and glass slippers, I would bet that she carried herself taller and prouder and with more confidence. As does Cairo.

On the waterfront facing the river are all the best hotels, and the Grand Hyatt is the most beautiful. As we boarded the boat we moved straight to the deck, with was covered in dark red and gold Persian carpets. The rails are the thinnest of wires, so it felt as if we stood on carpet hovering over the water. The shopping malls and public areas of the hotel have a totally glass wall, and are about five storeys high. It looked like an illustration in a children’s cutaway book. There is a strangely voyeuristic feeling in watching people moving around and making purchases.

As we reached the deck I heard our friend Garry Friend’s voice behind me – he is the General Manager of the Hyatt. I turned to say hello, and realised that the man brushing my shoulder as I turned was Richard Gere.

We were immediately introduced, and I had the honour of being the first of an intimate group (only about fifteen other guests) to talk to him.

He is absolutely utterly nice. He doesn’t have the polished and groomed look of many of his movies, but was far more approachable. He was, of course, quite gorgeous, and wearing jeans, a dark grey shirt and a seriously beautiful jacket for the casual dinner. His silvery grey hair flopped over his face. He was asking local women who crowded around him in the next five seconds what was the Western world’s worst misconception of Egypt. It was a thoughtful question, and provoked thoughtful answers and some very interesting conversations. I would have thought that the perception of danger in the Middle East was the worst – but these ladies came up with many others. Most hurtful seemed to be the idea that the west saw them as veiled and backward and controlled by their men.

Hors d’oevres were passed with drinks, including a particularly delicious egg shaped sushi with rice, smoked salmon and caviar.

We moved downstairs to the formal dining room for dinner and the windows were left clear so we could watch the waterfront drifting by. The table cloth was gold brocade, and the room was just beautiful. One large table was in the middle of the room, and I was almost opposite Richard. Bob was even closer, and he and Richard talked Middle East Politics for a good part of the meal.

We ate a delicious salad with roasted sweet potatoes, then Tasmanian Salmon on a bed of lemon and asparagus risotto and a fried and crunchy shredding of leeks on top. Richard is Buddhist and doesn’t eat meat, but fish is okay.

Dessert was the most decadent chocolate tart and thick with hazelnuts and served with real vanilla ice cream. Everyone commented on the spectacular food. I have one poor photo. We had been asked not to take them, as Richard did not want cameras in his face on what was a day off. However, they talked him into posing at the end. I was still uncomfortable but took one sideways shot – a bad angle but with Bob in the foreground. Just for proof.

Bob in the foreground Egyptian friends behind., Richard in the middle

Scratch the surface and I am just a star-stuck teenager.


Blogger teri springer said...

I am glad my family is not the only one that refuses to eat leftovers. It drives me nuts!! But then, I was raised to not waste and, thus, am of the mind that any leftover can be made into a wonderful meal by cutting up the meat, heating it and left over veggies and mixing it all with brown rice!! Dear sis calls it "mustgo" dinner....everything in the fridge that must go!

However, our barn kitties do appreciate the *donations* we take their way when the leftovers get too old for human consumption.

Jenny...please joining the Artful Quilters Web Ring. PLEASE. It is so much fun to visit the world via your eyes and I think everyone on the ring would enjoy having you there.


11:26 pm  
Anonymous Virginia Leacy said...

Well, Richard Gere, cats, Damascus, food, glorious photos, what more could one wish to be reading at 4-00am!
With the cats, try just sitting quietly alongside them when you put the food out and just talk softly, telling them how beautiful they are, etc. I feed a semi-feral cat who lives in a holiday property that the people visit three days a week. I feed him the other four and over a period of time, he is now quite domesticated. They need to learn trust first and picking them up is not an option! Patience will be rewarded!

5:13 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
You speak about Cairo becoming Cinderella at nightfall, well I think that you must have felt like Cinderella with walking on magic carpets, eating from tables bedecked with gold brocade cloth and as if this wasn't enough you not only brushed shoulders with but met and spoke with RICHARD GERE. WOW!!!
Regards Helen

PS Getting colder and drier in Canberra.

8:30 am  
Anonymous Sue, in Melbourne said...

Six degrees of separation has nothing on this! As a Scquilter, I probably know someone who knows you Jenny, and now you have met the lovely Richard Gere - that makes only four between him and me. Wow!

10:34 pm  

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