Monday, September 19, 2005

From the Ambassador's Wife's Diary


First let me show you a bit of my diary for the last week.


10.00 - Morning coffee at the Women's Association in Zamalek.
This is a fairly dressed-up occasion at a club for expatriates and Egyptians. It is what I always think of as a 'lady' day - makeup and a jacket despite a 39 degree temperature.

1.00pm - Lunch at the Canadian Ambassador's for another club - this time Ambassadors' wives, Ministers' wives, and the wives of senior journalists.
Even more dressed up (add significant jewellery and a bit more glitz if you have some!)but a delight, as the Canadian Ambassador's wife is a very good friend and so are many others now. Also her house is brilliant - a beautiful old mansion in Zamalek which is also beautifully furnished - and her cook is excellent. This was a lovely lunch. Whole salmon, iced gazpacho, lots of fresh salads and a couple of different quiches, topped off with some sinful desserts. Chocolate mousse that was almost black in tiny demi-tasse cups (great use for these since I never use them for coffee now) and angel cake with platters of fresh fruit.

Evening at home on my own as Bob went to the Qatar National Day reception. Very few women go to these.


9.00am - Organise flowers and set up house and table for a catered men-only lunch. Meet caterers and the new Executive chef for the Grand Hyatt who has just arrived in town - another Australian for our little community.

11.00 am - Picked up by cab with two friends - one a newcomer to Cairo whose husband is the new head of the British School, and one her sister. Explore the back areas around the El Azar Mosque with its old houses and great stonework, walk through the very grotty small vegetable market and into the tentmakers souq. About 40 degrees and no shade for much of the walk. It was wiltingly hot. Watch tentmakers sewing and was pleased to see that my friends were buying some small pieces.

2.00pm - Slink into the house tousled (cab windows wide open as no air conditioning) and windblown and sweaty and try to skulk past groups of men (BHP BILLETON, Egyptian businessmen as the VERY SERIOUS level, embassy staff) in suits chatting as they wait for their lunch. Check process in the kitchen and breathe a sigh of relief to see that Mohammed from the Grand Hyatt has everything under his usual smooth and calm control. Grab a bowl of lentil, eggplant, mint, tomato and pomegranate salad with a lime and olive dressing left over from the day before and hide up on the roof in my studio. The men are eating Tasmanian Salmon, HUGE steaks with leeks and asparagus and a divinely rich mushroom sauce, then coffee and hazelnut icecream triangles with diced mango, tiny biscuits - one of a fat filling, thimble sized, of dates, encased in thin pastry and rolled in pistachios and the other small rough rocks of chocolate and walnuts.

4.30pm - The men have walked out the door, the gardener, Gamal and I grab a ladder and start hauling down quilts. We give them a good shake - whoops - I should have done that outside as there are clouds of Cairo dust - and pack them for the exhibition. They want the rods as well and that will be interesting in a small Peugot taxi.

5.15pm - In cab with an unsecured case with all my quilts bounicing around on the roof, and a secured and waving loose bundle of metal poles threatening to spear passers-too-close as we weave our way urgently through traffic to the American University of Cairo.

6.00pm - Arrive home in time to walk in with our next visitors, a retired Foreign Affairs officer and his wife who are visiting Cairo. Once we all have drinks I frantically rustle up a tray of nibbles - old standby Philly cream cheese with sweet chilli sauce poured over it decorated with huge clusters of fresh basil, strips of red and yellow peppers which are wonderful at the moment, olives and crackers.

8.00pm - Leave with our visitors who we will drop off on the way. I have had a quick shower and changed into evening clothes for the Mexican National Day. This si at the Pharoah - a boat moored down by the Nile. There are good things and bad things about receptions on boats. Good is that it is usually cool, even though it must still be close to forty degrees at 8.00pm. Bad is that you are locked on the boat until the boat moors.

This time the reception is not actually on the boat when we get there - it is on the very gorgeous reception areas on the dock. There are margaritas encrustred with salt and Corona beer with a wedge of lime jammed inthe top being handed out as we arrive, and marvelous Mexican music blasting from loud speakers. Waiters are in huge sombreros, and I am lucky to be short - taller men have to swing sideways as waiters walk by. Not so good is the fact that most of my evening clothes are synthetic, and the dock is walled completely in glass so it is like an oven. I manage just enough time - about an hour - to hear the speeches and the rousing cheers, and persuade Bob that I am wilting and need to go.


Well you know all about Friday from my last entry - this was Jewellery Exhibition day at the house.


am - Drive to Pyramids and have a look at the wonderful Solar Boat from 3,200 BC. Finally work out where the track to the Sphinx emerges.

4.30pm - Use an Embassy driver to go to the more public Jewellery Exhibition to see how things are going.

6.00 pm - Meet Gallery staff at Falaki Gallery to see how the exhibition hang is looking. My Quilts are all up and look brilliant. I had forgotten how different gallery lighting can make things look.

Home. Eat leftover steaks from men's lunch as they are so much better than anything I could cook.


12.00 noon - Meet a group of Australian Tourists who are starting a tour of Egypt. One is a good friend from a workshop in Blackall in Queensland - a talented silversmith. Click here to look at his website.

Tour the Pharaonic Village. This is a blast - somewhat dodgy, and more about it in a blog of its own. This is getting too long. Left at about 3.00 and managed to get totally stuck in one of the worst traffic jams yet - about two blocks in an hour and a bit - then suddenly it freed and we arrived home.

4.45 pm - Walked in to a strangely deja vu scene - a loungeroom full of elegant men in black suits with Nehru collars. These are waiters for the reception for fifty or so tonight. Give them carte blanche on furniture moving to create enough space for guests to walk around with drinks. Organise a frantic buying of extra soft drinks, mixers and juices as we are low on all of them. Contact Bob to collect these on his way home and suggest it should be soon as he has the key to the wine cellar and they want the wine. Locate chmpagne glasses as the chief waiter apologises for forgetting wine glasses. He didn't actually - we didn't tell him we would be serving champagne. However Grand Hyatt waiters are so wonderful that they take the blame for your mistakes! Watch somewhat bemused as the lounge turns into a reception space, with elegant clusters of bread sticks, crudites, nuts and Japanese crackers - with an evil blast of wasabi stuck in the cluster I picked up which left me with watering eyes, cleared sinuses and unable to speak for several seconds.

7.00 pm - Farewell reception for about fifty at the house for two wonderful Embassy people who are going home. On feet till nine thirty.

Quick change in to more dressed up glittery stuff!

10.00pm - Left for the wedding of the daughter of our major Egyptian importer of Australian meat. This is another whole blog on its own. Enough to say that it was a wonderful party - absolutely no-one parties like Egyptians. It was loud and happy and absolutely joyous, we ate at two thirty am, left at three - just as the entertainers were arriving for the floor show - but we were too tired to stay.


10.00am - Call on the British Ambassador's wife in a stunning residence on the banks of the Nile.

5.00pm - Leave for Bob to go to Tunis to present his credentials while I go to my first exhibition opening - Cloths From Heaven - in this country. If I didn't know so well that Bob can do nothing about this it would be a problem. As it is, a diplomat's wife becomes enured to disappointments and changes of plan!!

And there you have six days in my life. More on the Pharaonic village and the wedding tomorrow, but my fingers are wearing out, and I have had three hours sleep. A siesta in good Egyptian style is calling - or maybe I should pack for Bob as he is running late from the office.

We interview a possible cook next week and I can hardly wait.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow -- I'm totally exhausted after reading this! I think I'd have to have a siesta every day!

Love, Tena

12:59 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny
To think that I feel exhausted this morning just because yesterday I had a dental appointment followed by grocery shopping and then Friendship Group. Well done Jenny.

Regards Helen.

PS today looks like being a nice spring day 5o - 15o.

8:59 am  
Blogger Kt said...

Did I mention I'm EXCITED about coming to visit???

8:16 am  
Anonymous debbie jordan, elf4 said...

jenny - i thought i was tired after 'hosting' an elegant tea party day with some elfs and other friends! we got out the very good china cup saucer and plate sets and the chintz teapot and ate delicate morsels for lunch, then had chantelle, and then sat and sewed and chatted for the afternoon! then flaked on the couch after a quick make your own pita bread pizza tea! are your weeks always that hectic? when do you find time to create and sew? but dont stop being busy - i love to read all about it.

9:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whew, I'm with everyone else - except KT cause I'm not coming to visit! Toooo much socialising for me - I guess someone's gotta do it, and I'm sure you do it brilliantly!!


6:26 pm  

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