Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles – Part 3

More Egypt Chronicles

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GemmerGat – Die kat kom weer!
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Cat#1 & Cat#2

And yet more cat stories.  Ja, wragtig!

So, I should probably give you an update on our cat family here in Cairo. The last time I wrote about them l was really sad about the ginger, Gemmergat, vanishing from our lives. Although we became used to him not being here, I kept wondering what had happened to him – especially after little Swartgat was hit by a car. Yep, we came back after travelling and was relieved and happy to see that the rest of the building fed the cats and that the cute little black cat survived. I was even starting to wonder what the procedure would be to take a cat back to South Africa. The very day after we arrived back, our son and I walked to the shops and was away for about an hour. When we came back, we saw the lifeless little body of ‘our’ black kitten lying in front of the church across the street from our home. He was hit by a car. So, that was the end of little SwartGat.

There was still no sign of ‘our’ ginger, so I was wondering if that was what had happened to GemmerGat too, but then I thought that Gemmergat was too smart a cat to be run over by a car. Did she die from injuries after a fight? Hm-hm, I thought, couldn’t be either, because although from the few fights l witnessed, I learned that that she didn’t like to fight, but she knew how to defend herself. So, I kept wondering.

In October or November last year, the serial mother of our neighbourhood, Camo, surprised us with yet another few bundles of joy. She always have three, it seems, but somehow only one or two make it upstairs to our garden. The other one stays downstairs in the underground parking garage or die or something. We still see one of her previous kittens – a beautiful light grey male – from time to time. He even visits our garden. This time the two kittens she brought upstairs for us to help feed, was a beautiful, strong black one – just like little SwartGat was – and another, much smaller ginger one. We didn’t even bothered with names anymore and they just became Cat#1 and Cat#2 .  We feed them and watch them grow and of course I take a lot of photos of them.

In December we went home to South Africa on holiday and when we came back, the most wonderful surprise awaited us, because in front of our door, as if she had never been away, GemmerGat was bathing in what Egypt has to offer as a winter sun! Never in my life would I had believed that I would be so ecstatic to see a stray cat!

Yep, it was just as in a well-known Afrikaans song’s words: Die kat kom weer (the Cat comes again)!

 

Read my previous cat chronicles here:

Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles – Part 2 https://fieliesdekock.com/2017/04/30/egyptian-street-cat-chronicles-part-2/

Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles – Part 1 https://fieliesdekock.com/2017/04/30/egyptian-street-cat-chronicles-part-1/

 

2018 ©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

 Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

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Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

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Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Egypt Chronicles – Cruising the Nile

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The route – from Luxor to Aswan

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The Nile Adventurer

In April we went on a Nile Cruise. The cruise entails flying to Luxor from where the actual sailing starts. Before cruising though, all the well-known tourist attractions in and around Luxor is being visited. All these are temples, except for the Luxor Museum harbouring artefacts from temples. Not really my cup of tea. On the first day we had quite a full program.

Day 1

After we arrived in Luxor we started with a visit to the Luxor Museum, which paved the way for the rest of the sites, because it was filled with statues and artefacts from temples and archaeological finds. There were even two mummies in the museum. There were a few similar pieces which are also featured in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. One such a piece is the face of a pharaoh who had done away with all the Egyptian gods and declared that there was only one God – the Creator and the only One that should be worshipped. Other similar pieces are horse carts and statues of historical figures.

Our guide on this Nile Cruise tour was an Egyptologist who is very passionate about his job. He is also very patriotic, has strong political views that he is not afraid of voicing and according to him everything and all were invented in Egypt. I realised soon that we would be treated to quite a lot of information we would not always appreciate. 🙂

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As a Bible believer I had a tough time staying focused on what we were being told, because the stories about the pharaohs and the gods and the religions were a bit much and one always tend to weigh others’ truths against your own Truth. Anyway, this is an account then of our Nile cruise for any of you who are interested in coming to visit Egypt and wanting to go on a cruise. If you find personal travel pieces boring and just want to know if it worth the while, here is the short answer: Yes, come and visit Egypt and go on a Nile cruise.

We booked into our cabins on the boat after the museum visit and had time to settle in a bit. Our group occupied two ‘ships’. The bigger bulk stayed on the larger of the two boats, The Mövenpick Sun Boat, and we booked into the smaller one, called The Nile Adventurer. The latter is a quaint little boat with nice interior, a pleasant atmosphere and friendly and efficient staff. The food is excellent and way too much on a way-too-regular basis.

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Just before sunset on Monday, we left by bus to visit the first temple. There we saw the sun set over Luxor which was a beautiful spectacle. From there we went to see a sound and light show at the Karnak Temple, where we were met by the governor of Luxor. Here listened to an overly dramatic audio narration – which sounded as if was made in the 1930’s – of the history of the gods, starting with someone calling himself the ‘god of the first day’. My attention wondered a bit, but I practiced taking photos in the dark with my newish camera, while another ancient proud himself that he married four of his own daughters and bragged about the amount of children he had with them. Later we moved to a different location nearby in an amphitheatre-like pavilion and were treated to another half to three quarters of an hour’s sound and light narration.

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Day 2

On the second, hot morning of the cruise we visited the Valley of the Kings, the Habu Temple, where in 1997 seventy plus tourists were killed by terrorists, the Hatshepsut Temple and the Collossi of Memnon. All the hieroglyphs and tombs etc. were starting to look the same to me by this time. One must admire the tenacity with which the ancient Egyptians recorded their doings, especially because they did it in stone. Some of the artifacts here are really well preserved. And, now I can say that I have seen the actual mummified body of Tutankamen, the boy king. Mmm.

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After the very hot morning, we were welcomed back on the boat with nice warm cloths to clean our sweaty faces and fresh lemon and mint drinks to refresh us. We had a late lunch and we finally started sailing to Esna.

Cruising was my favourite part of the week. We sailed all along the Nile, passing farmed lands and very small villages. Time had stood still alongside the Nile. They are still attending to their crops the way they did a few thousand years ago. On the one hand, I thought, man, these people have so much to learn and they could benefit so much by new farming methods, machinery and expertise help. And on the other hand, I envied them for the absolute quietness, simplicity and peace in which they live.

Maybe this was how life should be. Living from the land, from the hand to the mouth, just sustaining yourself and those living with you. It is mind blowing to find that in a country which had become modernised up to a point, you can still find this way of living. And what blows my mind even further is that the land alongside the Nile still belongs to these people, living their modest lives. It is not yet monopolised by big food corporations or holiday consortiums. Weird. And wonderful. If we are here for the next three years, we will go on the cruise again and again, because this passing by of peaceful Nile existence, and not the glamourous temple visits, was what I enjoyed most.

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Day 3

We sailed to Edfu in the early morning and got off the boat to visit the Edfu Temple. This was probably the most fun visit of the cruise, because instead of getting into an air-conditioned bus, we got on horse carts and were driven through the busy town’s streets to the site. At least now we can say that we have been in a horse cart traffic jam too. I never thought I would be able to add that to my life’s CV. It was very hot here again, and we moved from shade to shade and had our first and only ice cream afterwards. We didn’t enjoy the harassment of the stall owners that much of course, but it’s compulsory of any Egyptian experience.

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We were back on the boat for lunch again and cruised to Kom Ombo, a lively town with colourful shops lining the docking space. Here we visited the Kom Ombo temple at night with its small museum housing quite a collection of stuffed crocodiles.

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After the visit to the temple it was galabeyya (Egyptian dress-like attire) party night on both boats. It was a lot of fun with a Bulgarian lady friend with camel riding trousers on dancing the night away and a South Korean friend perfecting the Gangham Style. We macarena-ed with our American friends and the boat staff joined in and showed us a few Nubian dance tricks. Michael looked like an oil baron and Deon and I looked cool in our ‘dresses’ too, I think.

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Day 4

Ah, Aswan. We cruised to Aswan and had a full day full of pleasant surprises in this surprise of a town. I know, I’m surprised myself that I use the word so many times. 🙂

We visited the Philae Temple, to where you have to go by bus first and then by boat. The temple is situated in a beautiful area filled with water and rocks and plants, unlike any other terrain we have seen so far in Egypt. It almost feels as being in another country. It was still hot, so we did some shade hopping again.

We went back to town by bus and then caught falloukas – these have engines – to the botanical garden on an island in the Nile. The garden was planted by Lord Kitchener, when he was in Egypt. At least he did some good in other areas of the world, because he wasn’t a popular man in South Africa back then. (If you don’t know why, go and do some research about the Anglo-Boer War between the British and South Africa.) Plants and trees from all over the world were imported to be planted there. The gardens are being looked after and is a peaceful haven in the desert. On the other side of the garden is a huge sand dune or a small mountain full of sand – a beautiful piece of earth.

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Our next stop was a Nubian village. The Nubians are an ethnic group who originated in modern-day Sudan. They are a little darker of skin than the rest of the Egyptians, are very friendly and like to paint their houses in colours – mostly shades of blue, which is absolutely beautiful. We visited a home where we met the family’s pet crocodile kept in their sink and drank some good mint tea. Real nice green mint tea, like the Moroccans make it.

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We rested a bit on the boat after which we had an appointment for high tea at the old Sofitel Cataract Hotel, where the likes of Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, Tsar Nicholas II and Queen Noor hung out regularly. It is said that Ms Christie wrote part/s of her novel ‘Death on the Nile’ there. So, for me this was a real treat. The wind started blowing fiercely, which provided a nice breeze in the early evening and we had our ‘tea’ on the lawn in front of the hotel. The view is spectacular with the Nile ‘forking’ here underneath it and the one leg flowing pass the one side of the hotel. At a little table outside on the terrace I could swore that I saw Ernest Hemmingway’s son creating a best seller. (I even have a photo to ‘prove’ it!) The rooms are beautiful and old Englishy and just sooo romantic. I could almost see Agatha sitting in her room behind her desk, putting words into Hercule Poirot’s mouth on her old type writer. I took way to many photos of the hotel’s interior. I’m ashamed to say that I will treasure this visit more than the sight of the mummified body of Tutankamen. But, hey, I must be forgiven, because I’m a writer…

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Back at the boat we were welcomed by a band and dancers and being entertained on the dock for about half an hour before heading for dinner and a bottle of wine on the deck – the most Deon and I had ever paid for a pretty ordinary bottle in our entire lives…

Day 5

We were nearing the end of our cruise. We left the boat after breakfast and gone to the Aswan Dam by bus. We got out and ‘inspected’ the dam wall in the still strong blowing wind. From there we went to Abu Simbel – probably Egypt’s most written about temple. Most people drive there from Aswan, which can take up to four hours (just to get there and then you still have to drive back) and can be rather uncomfortable in the heat. Fortunately, we flew and what a sight it was, flying over Lake Nasser for the whole way! It is such a big body of water and it is beautiful to see the water veins flowing into each other from high above. When we landed the water still stretched to the horizon in the direction of the Sudanese border.

The visit to Abu Simbel was pleasant, because even though the sun was warm, there the breeze blew the heat away. After the visit we went back to the airport and flew home to Cairo where we were greeted by very uncharacteristic icy weather in the middle of April!

It was a most enjoyable trip, which for us comes up annually while we are staying here. I can’t wait to go again. Hopefully, we will be spared and the security situation will stay good and we can repeat it next year.

Travel Tip: Abercrombie & Kent is a wonderfully, professional and competent international travel company to use with when planning a Nile cruise.

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© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, a stuffed toy dog, named Ike – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters, to functioning normally.

Living in Egypt – Almost Eight Months Down the Line

Leila Quote

Since my first blog entry about our new life in Egypt a lot had happened. Our small family was transformed from overwhelmed hotel dwellers, into residents living in a house and becoming streetwise very quickly.

Our house is a ground floor ‘apartment’ as it is called here and not a ‘flat’ as we South Africans would call it. That earlier blog entry was written by a person new and still very confused by her surroundings. Since then I learned to find my way around our neighbourhood and can even navigate the way home when entering the beginning of our suburb. And I am starting to recognise roads previously taken. That is what is called forward motion in such a large city as this one.

It was a crazy, busy time these last almost seven months. We had stayed in hotels, did house hunting, moved into a house, furnishing the house, living in it and learned to breathe in it. (Which is not as easy as you think in a climate that requires 24/7 air conditioning.)

Work-wise things had gotten direction too. My husband is settling in nicely and I am playing my supportive wifey role pretty well, I think, attending dinners and receptions and other events and making a lot of small talk – because in the ‘business’ we’re in, that’s called ‘work’. And sometimes it is real hard work. Most of the functions we attend are in other parts of the city, a mere ten kilometres or so away, but going there three, four or five times a week, means travelling in peak traffic, which takes an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. Fortunately, driving back only takes half an hour or so – normally. Sometimes we do this twice a day.

We have travelled a bit for official purposes, as well as for leisure and have seen quite a bit already of this vast and intriguing country. We’ve made our way to Alexandria and were happy that the sea there was more like ‘ours’ – with actual waves and sounds. We’ve made a stop at El Alamein and found the grave of my great uncle who died there on 23 November 1941 in WWII in one of the battles. We went to the Red Sea at Ein Sochna twice and we have flown over the breathtakingly, beautiful Sinai desert to Sharm Al Sheikh, from where we drove the 50km to Dahab – a diving and snorkelling paradise, where we lazied away five wonderful days in the very, very, very hot sun.

A few weeks ago we visited El Alamein again for the commemoration ceremonies. It was a touching experience, sitting there in the blistering autumn desert sun, thinking of the many people who lost their lives in those wars and wondering what life would have been like if they didn’t sacrifice their lives for us. I also couldn’t help to wonder what the future holds for us with the threat of fanatic terrorists taking lives as if life was theirs to take, not so far from us in the Sinai, Iraq and Syria. The previous night twenty plus Egyptian soldiers were brutally murdered in the Sinai, making the day of remembrance much more of a reality than just remembering history. With the young soldiers standing guard around us in a church service, I couldn’t help wondering what still awaits us in the near future.

Since being here, we have met with friends from South Africa visiting Egypt for various reasons. Some were old friends of ours, some were friends of friends and others were new friends, like Foeta Krige and Barend La Grange, who were finishing a trip from the Southern-most tip of Africa in L’Agulhas to the northern-most tip in Ras ben Sakka, Tunisia.

My brother-in-law, John, was our first stay-over guest. Our spare room was ready just in time for his visit. He stayed three weeks, but it rather felt like three days. Our son was in the last three weeks of his school career and we couldn’t entertain him as a guest should be entertained, but fortunately he is a seasoned traveller and no stanger to Egypt , so he entertained himself. He went about his own business and even went to the desert for a few nights. At least we took him for his first-ever quad bike experience to Sakkarah – something he took to enthusiastically and enjoyed immensely.

Michael’s friend, Wilhelm, is currently visiting and the two of them are enjoying their first few months of adulthood together. Both just finished school and turned 18 recently.

Life is treating us well and we feel very privileged and thankful to be able to have this experience. Things aren’t always easy and we miss ‘home’ and our family and friends and our pets. (We are warming up to the building cat however – or is he warming up to us?) And we miss the tastes and sounds and sights and everything that is familiar. But it is a fantastic experience to live abroad for a while and to experience so many different people from so many different nationalities that we socialise with on a regular basis. One learns so much from other people and from visiting other places. And you learn also to appreciate what is dear and sacred to you. One has to learn to live your faith, rather than just practice to believe. It is good for the soul. Very good.

Travelling, in my opinion, must be something that every person aspires to – even if you can do it only once in your life, you should. One should save as much as you can and travel as far as you can on what you have. Go experience the world and its peoples. Learn about new places and taste new tastes. And broaden your horizons. And if your savings aren’t enough yet, get onto your feet, onto your bike, or into your car, or on a bus or train and just go to a place in or out of your town or your city and experience something new. Go see how people who are different from you live life. It will change your opinions, views and just maybe, your life also.

I have a young friend who was a member of my writing club, who is exploring the world right now. She is only 19. She is beautiful, a talented writer and this is what she said about travelling on her Facebook page the other day:

With travelling there are many things that go along with it. Once you have been somewhere so different you undergo a form of transformation, a loss of innocence. You realise how messed up and beautiful the world is at the same time. The more you see, the more you realise how little everyone knows. It makes you want to live for others and not for yourself. You realise how little it means to have a lot of money or a nice face. To realise this at an early age of your life will change the way you think forever.

You get it, Leila!

© 2014

I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, almost-university-student son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to live as a normal functioning human being.

The Egypt Chronicles – New Residents in a Foreign Country

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l (and my husband) never had the desire to emigrate from South Africa, but we always had the dream of living and working abroad for a while. Hopefully our only son will one day earn his living mainly in our country too. Through the years so many things in our lives and our country changed and we started to think that the possibility of working and living in another country was lost. But ‘out of the blue’ the opportunity came our way and we took it.

We love travelling and thought that if we lived somewhere ‘in the middle of the world’, travelling would be much easier. (Read less expensive.) We South Africans are mos eager travellers, but it costs an arm and a leg for us to travel.

To live in South Africa have more advantages that most South Africans realise. Ask any South African living abroad or who had lived abroad or who travel abroad regularly. At this point, please let me just state that I do not criticise people who emigrate. l can really, really, really understand it when people leave the country after they had been hijacked for the third time…

l am also of the opinion that migration is a very natural thing and that circumstances ‘moved’ people to emigrate throughout the centuries – in this instance the crime rate in our beloved country became most people’s moving factor. It was this ‘natural’ migrating phenomenon after all which brought our forefathers to South Africa in the first place. l believe the point is now made. So, let’s get on with us living in Cairo now.

It goes without saying that it is much different to holiday in a country than to live in it. We came to Egypt with the intent of staying and not holidaying. I think we got that one right so far. But, in spite of travelling via Cairo elsewhere six times before, and knowing what it looks like, I was still overwhelmed on our first night here. In my head I did the Maths: 4 x 365 days to go. l didn’t feel up to it. But, the next morning I woke and the fatigue from the flight was gone and so were the woes.

Let me put it in perspective for you. l grew up in a small town with a population of only in the thousands  – the then black township people included – of whom you rarely saw a few dozen at a time and where, according to statistics only 33.5 people live per square km.

For the past 26 years we had been living in Pretoria, a city with 1.7 million people. The whole metropolis houses plus minus 2.4 million (675.1 people per square km). South Africa has between 48 to 52 million people (according to different websites, none of which claims to be correct). Our new city, Cairo, ‘they say’ has 20 million people! In one city! That’s almost half the population of South Africa! In one city! Will you forgive me if I felt just a tad overwhelmed?

But like in most situations where one feels overwhelmed, it always helps to get your facts straight. According to the CAPMAS, the country’s official statistics body, Egypt has 86 000 000 people – excluding the 8 000 000 living abroad. (Yes, Hany, you were counted too.) It states that Cairo has only 9,12 million souls. ONLY. I feel much better now.  🙂 Although,thinking of sharing a square kilometer with 47 257 other people in the Cairo governate IS daunting. On the other hand – stats here are only manipulated numbers. There may well be living 20 million people in Cairo. The indications are there. Enough of the stats. I’m more of a words than a numbers person.

As it normally goes in life, one can adapt quite quickly. While Cairo seemed like a dull, chaotic, dusty, dirty place on that first day, l wake up every morning since then to be surprised by something new. lt is as if someone comes every night with a box of crayons – not paint yet, but crayons work for me so far – to colour a new piece of the city just for me. And when I come out on the hotel balcony every morning to see what the day looks like, I find that the water in the Nile in front of me suddenly has changed colour. And so does the agricultural patches across the river and the  trees on the the other side of the river bank. And even the desert and the pyramids on the horizon. And the cars and shops in the busy streets. And some of the scarfs on the woman’s heads.

When you keep calm and draw a breath and get enough sleep, the world around you seems to become a better place. Because then you have the awareness to be wooed by the views and the sounds and the sights and the people around you. OK, I admit that the sounds are still something to get used to, but the friendliness of the people overrides the bombardment of the forever-present hooting sounds and the forever-present howling sounds from the mosques or the forever-present sounds from the traffic in the streets.

Every South African living here, tells us that they enjoy it here and those that are leaving or had left already, told us that they are/were sad about leaving. l don’t want to think about leaving. We just left South Africa. I don’t have the capacity for more goodbye’s in the near future.

We’ve been ‘living’ in Egypt for two and a half weeks now. So far, so good. Hopefully we will move into a house soon and then the real ‘living’ can start.

I don’t want to bore you, so I will stop here for now. Thanks for being on this  journey with us – wherever you are when you read this.

2014 Riette De Kock