Now that we've left Egypt, I feel a need to record what we did there so when we look back on our time we'll remember it wasn't all homeschool and sleeping. I'll continue to post to this blog until I catch up to the time we left Cairo in June 2010. Our new blog will pick up from that time forward.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Morning Walk in Cairo

There’s something about mornings after a rain. The same holds true in any city that I’ve been in through my life. Certainly, it holds true in Cairo. I had the chance to walk to the office today, and a walk through Cairo on normal days is anything but routine, but on a day after a rain, it’s something special.
Normal Cairo air is dusty, dirty and has a heavy, grainy feel to it. One can almost feel the pollutants, the population, the dirt in the air. The smells are not as pronounced, but instead feel stifled, waiting to break free, but bound by the weight of the heat and dirt. However, on a day after rain, the sights, sounds and even the smells are all found in abundance, as if they have been waiting for this moment to shine forth in exaggerated fashion. Such was the case this morning.
The sun was a bright and shiny thing, without the oppressiveness of working through several layers, but was able to stand forth in its glory. Being January, the heat itself was not the monstrosity that it bursts forth in a few months, but is a relaxing warmth, that one feels in the soul more than the skin. Being in the light has obvious effects on people, and the normal smile and ‘Salamu aleykum’ had a special lift to it today, a little more emphasis as people truly felt the peace they were conveying to me as I walked past them. Much of the time, I didn’t even have to initiate the greeting, it was as if people were waiting for me, knowing that I was coming, and had that smile and light in their eyes waiting just for me as I walked past them. It put a little spring in my step, and made my day that much better.
The colors were warmer and brighter than I remember them being. The dust, dirt and clutter was a little more sparse. I wandered through the streets greeting the flower shop attendant and chatting just a bit about the beautiful smell of his flowers. He offered me one and had Catherine been around I would have taken it, but as I was by myself, the flower would not achieve full enjoyment. I thanked him and forced myself out of the deep smells of the purples, the reds, the blues, as those are how I recognize good flowers. I stopped by the fruit stand (one of several on my stroll) and chatted with the old Hajj about the beautiful day. As we exchanged pleasantries about where I was from and how I loved Cairo, he kept expressing the traditional, “You are welcome mister. You are welcome,” in English. One of his young workers, a dirty and disheveled young man also wandered over and tried practicing his limited English. However, it’s always comforting to realize that as bad as my Arabic is, someone’s English is a little worse. After a beautiful interchange, I excused myself to continue my path to work, and the Hajj rushed to offer me an orange, or an apple. Graciously, I thanked him and tried to give him some money which I had to do two or three times before he finally took it (a mere pound for a beautiful orange).
The other scenes greeting my eyes were those typical of a morning walk in most cities I’ve walked in before. Construction going on in almost every other building, with the construction workers filling sand into wheelbarrows or into bags and packing them on their shoulders. Then walking into the buildings to carry it up flights of stairs. Taxi drivers with their rags wiping down their cab so that it’s nice and clean for the next customer. Business men walking in their suits with their computer bag over their shoulder, oblivious to the car ready to run them over. Drivers in the road jockeying for position and greeting other drivers with a toot or a honk – and each car has a different horn customized for that driver – and emphasized with a fist or a wave. Car radios blaring out the sounds of a muezzin giving a Quranic recitation or the latest from Amr Mostafa or Sherif Hamdy or perhaps Heba Mokhtar.
Finally, I arrive at the office and greet the standard police officer who stands outside and helps park cars. Such a nice man, and so I give him my orange and the water bottle I took from the hotel room. Just seeing his smile and gratitude only makes the day that much brighter.
Ah, I love a walk in Egypt in the morning after a rain.


Rich said...

Nice, bro! Such wonderful imagery.