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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  14 December 1997
  Egyptian Directions
  Return to Cairo Update Index


No doubt for you guys it feels like it's getting close to Christmas. You may be pleased to hear that the weather has started to turn colder for us too- sometimes my feet get cold whilst walking around in the flat but there's no heating to put on to take the chill out of the air. Never mind, it's a small price to pay for having nice weather for the rest of the year.

I've had three performances over the last two days whilst trying to rush to get work finished for my software firm in London. My first engagement was for the orphanage, which I mentioned in my last update. This was an event to raise money for the orphanage over the next year and I was happy to help out. My first obstacle was to try to get the the event- it was in a large congregation in the middle of a crowded part of the city. I managed to get the the general area without many problems via the city's underground metro. After I got to street level and made a few turns the scenery changed to how I imagine medieval England; the streets were narrow, the road was a dirt track and it was very crowded and busy. As I walked through this scene wearing my children's entertainer's outfit and a big sketchboard I felt like a spot on a domino.

I followed the directions in my hand precisely but the meeting place wasn't there! This is a lesson that I've learnt several times now- Egyptians don't know how to give directions! I like to hear precise instructions in a step-by-step manner but Egyptians send you to the general area and expect you to ask someone else. In this culture it would be a shameful thing for an Egyptian to say "I don't know" when asked directions- they feel that they have to make up an answer in order to sound useful. I asked several people for directions in how to get to the place and I got several different answers. I ended up going in the general direction of the majority opinion and eventually got to the meeting place.

After I arrived it was obvious that the meeting was much bigger than I expected (I should be used to surprises like this now!) a few hundred adults and children- and lots of the children were from the orphanage. The children recognised me from the last time and crowded round me and followed me wherever I went. This was unfortunate because I needed some peace and quite to get set-up! I was pleased with the performance but I had to rush off to get to the next meeting . . .

The next meeting was quite close to our flat, in fact it is with the Arabic speaking congregation with whom we have close contact. I try to do their children's meeting every other week but recently I've had to cancel some of these. After I arrived back home I was quite tired because I had been up early in the morning and I had been very busy since I left. I lay down to "meditate" on what to do at the next meeting and promptly fell asleep . . .

I awoke with just over an hour to plan, prepare and translate the next talk. It is quite surprising because I tend to work much better under pressure like this although I don't always like doing it. I'd spent some time the day before trying to think about what to do without much success, but now I had to do it in a few minutes the ideas seemed to come to me quicker. Alison helped too, then I phoned my Arabic teacher to ask her if I could call by in order to translate the talk then paint the sketchboard at her place- she's very gracious and agreed readily to it! After my quick visit I went to the children's meeting where I delivered the sketchboard talk to a class full of very attentive children. After this I could go back to bed and sleep again . . .

I still give my talks in English but I paint the words in Arabic (this is what I need the translation for), everything that I say must be translated by one of the other teachers. I really appreciate the work that they do but my aim is to talk completely in Arabic. Sometimes I learn a set few phrases in order to do a trick but it takes some time to completely memorise set-pieces like this.

The only meeting which I had today was a child's birthday party- fortunately this didn't take much planning since I have some ready-prepared material for such occasions.

Hannah has been poorly recently with a nasty virus that has been going around. Alison had it last week but she is coming to the end of it, and so is Hannah, thankfully! Hannah had a really bad cough yesterday but today it has cleared-up. Because of this both Alison and Hannah spent much of this week indoors- it would be a shame to pass the virus on to anyone else! (Although still, I'm unaffected . . . )

More from us next week,

Jason, Alison and Hannah.

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Egypt


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