Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A car went past us on the way to Carrefour this morning.

On the back in a huge and obviously custom made sticker was one word.


On the way back from a coffee shop where I had joined a friend to drink a luxurious cappucino in a cup big enough to float a fair sized model boat I saw a very old man who had been going through garbage bags left for collection as I came past. He had a small pile of food in front of him and was picking and discarding bits and eating. Every second piece was given to the very very pregnant tabbi cat beside him.

There are times when I am forced to relinquish my deeply affectionate view of Cairo. The garbage in the Khan reached horrible levels today. One pile we passed was almost shoulder high. It was covered with flies in great black clouds and had a large selection of cats working their way through it. Many were obviously starving and sick and worst of all - one dead cat was curled and slumped like a discarded strip of fur on the pile.

I met a very famous Egyptian actress last night. No names for obvious reasons. I was telling my friend Ibrahim that she had been there this morning and he could not understand the way I was saying her name.

"How old was she?" he said.

I thought for a second, considered forty and decided to be kind.

"Maybe 35" I said.

He appealed to our chef for his version of who she was and Ahmed's face lit up and he said the name - almost as I had said it - and light dawned.

Ibrahim protested in Arabic and both burst out laughing. Apparently she was not 35 but in her sixties.

I want her doctor's name!

In Edfu on the Nile cruise we were rushed out of the boat almost in the act of docking. We had been held up at the lock at Isna and had only an hour left before the Temple closed for the night.

A line of horses and buggies were fretting and pawing at the curbside.

The guide was allocating people in the order they had come off the boat into buggies. We hoiked Mum into one and I clambered in beside her - it was extremely high and I had trouble getting my foot from the step to the higher level so the driver lifted my leg by the trousers.

Then the next couple arrived - and both were large people, like me, and while the buggy had opposing seats there was minimal space between them. Four left-out legs stuck out at very awkward angles and we were all laughing so hard as the poor horse staggered along that it was hard to work out who owned the legs. Any closer and we would have had to marry.

It was fine on the way there. We moved at a furious rate down the main hill and I wondered for a second if we were so out of control that the buggy might actually overtake the horse.

Coming back was different. The hill was shorter coming down and long and slow going up and the horse just couldn't do it. At one stage his head twisted over his shoulder as if to say 'what is back there anyway?'. His feet were scrabbling and slipping on the bitumen and he started to turn back to go back down the hill.

A shout from the driver alerted a couple of police and pedestrians to the problem. There was a somewhat derisory look for the large pink and white passengers with legs still draped over the hubs, and they started to push. Two shoved the buggy and two tried pushing the horse from the rump.

My mother still gets the giggles when she thinks of the indignation on the horses face. I can only feel sorry for the poor animal.

We had a large cocktail party last night. In Egypt it is almost impossible to say how many might turn up, so we catered for two hundred. In fact about one hundred and forty came. Finger food two hundred is a lot of food and waiters circulated continually with big trays.

One older man sat outside at a round table covered with a white on white embroided Damascus cloth. In front of him he had a large plate of chicken wings roasted in soy and sesame seeds. Obviously he had requested them as all the trays were of mixed hot hors d'oevres. Someone in the kitchen had arranged them for him as a radiating wheel with a curl of fresh coriander in the centre and a small dipping bowl of sauce. He tucked a napkin into his collar and went to work on them, sucking and dragging the meat off the bones, then replacing the bones neatly in the position of the original wings so they radiated out from the centre.

A women plonked herself on a chair opposite. Clearly they did not know each other from the look she got.

Moving the vase of flowers out of the way in the centre she reached across and removed the plate from him and proceeded to his obvious annoyance to scoff the rest.


Blogger Heather Blakey said...

Hello Jenny
I stumbled upon your work while researching for my 2006 AdvenTURE Calendar at Soul Food ( The theme embraces the Grand Tour and the work of the Orientalists and so your blog and photostream are perfect links. Maybe I can entice you to join in and participate at Djanne is a member here at Soul Food now and it would be wonderful if you girls posted some goodies to share with the Soul Food Cafe community.

I am from Melbourne, North Fitzroy to be precise and you can reach me at heatherblakey at dailywriting dot net.

12:03 pm  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,

I do hope that somewhere there is a photo of that buggy ride or better stil a video. It is extremely hot in Canberra today, it was 25o at 6:30AM.

Cheers Helen

5:25 pm  
Anonymous debbie jordan, elf4 said...

jenny, i had a giggle, along with your mum, thinking and imagining what you all looked like trying to get up that for the other things.....cairo, like any city certainly has its dark and light sides

7:01 pm  
Blogger Liz Needle said...

Hi Jenny,

Good to see you back on the blog. Your writing never fails to lift my spirits. What adventures you seem to attract.
Thank you for a few moments of pure pleasure.

Liz Needle

10:45 pm  

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