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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  5 January 1998
  Christmas isn't quite over yet . . .
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Most Christians here celebrate Christmas on January 7th so for us the celebrations will be extended somewhat!

We spent New Year with a friend who is staying with us for a few days. She is flying back to South Africa in a few days and needed to stay somewhere until then because the lease on the accommodation expired at the end of December. Hannah's happy because she really likes her and so she's seeing lots of her at the moment.

At the moment I feel that I have a 9 till 5 job. That is 9pm till 5am, really!! The work that I'm doing for my software company in London is best done at night- it is quiet, no disturbances, no phone calls. Most of all no Hannah! She finds it difficult to understand if I say that I have work to do- while I'm up and awake she feels that she has the right to play with me. Now I'll often start work at about 10ish and work through to about 6 or 7am then go to bed. Alison will wake me up at about 1 O'clock to have brunch then my day will continue as normal. I may also have an additional nap in the late afternoon. This arrangement suits me fine since I've always worked best at night- I'm still getting my full quota of 7and a half hours sleep per day.

While the work is busy like this I only have time to do a couple of meetings a week. The kind of events that I am getting invited to are getting larger and larger. An unusual one that I went to recently was on New Year's Eve. My Arabic teacher (who goes to a near-by congregation) invited me to her family party to do the entertainment. She is the one of 12 children in her family, and when all of the brothers and sisters meet together along with their spouses and children there are usually over 70 in attendance - this was one such event. The thing that makes this kind of party different to those in the West in that all the families were together- ie along with the children of all ages. In England the teenagers would want to go out by themselves and the young children would stay at home with the baby sitter - but this is an entirely different culture! The sense of belonging to a wider family is very important.

Everyone was meeting at a certain place at 10pm on New Year's Eve. There are many believers in the family and I was asked to go not just to do the entertainment but also to give a "presentation" to the others. I was glad to be given the opportunity to do this and I dutifully turned up at 10pm to find hardly anyone else there- of course this is Egypt and here NOTHING happens on time! I waited till about 11pm and still not many had turned up. I explained to my teacher that I needed to be at home by 12:30 since we will be communicating via the computer to our parents in England. She said that it was best to go now since it would be a while before everyone turns up. I got home in time for the new year!

After a computer talk-through to our parents on New Year's Day (our time!) I went back to the party and by this time it was gone 2am and the party was in full swing! Parties here go on through the night quite literally. It was like walking into an over-crowded pub, full of noise, music and smoke. The oldest brother had arranged some party games which everyone enjoyed watching and playing in. I wasn't quite sure if my "presentation" was going to work in this kind of situation- I knew that maybe half of the those present wanted me there but the other half didn't- and the only way to keep one side happy was to upset the other half . . .

I needn't have worried. The Egyptians are very hospitable and I was warmly welcomed by them and forced to participate in some of the games before going onto my slot. I first did some tricks for them which they really enjoyed (it's wonderful to hear gasps of amazement coming from them- English audiences just aren't so impressed for some reason!!) followed by a sketchboard talk. They ALL enjoyed it- up until that point the atmosphere was like a rowdy pub but they went quiet when I started. At the end I played an Arabic worship song on my guitar to which they joined in with- then one of the older sisters came to the front to finish off the time with a word of prayer.

The party finished at 4am and I was back in the flat at 5. My Arabic teacher received loads phone calls the next day to thank me for the time there. She said that many had been touched through the message. . . and they want me to speak to them again . . .

Next Thursday I go to Alexandria to speak at a children's club on Friday morning. Afterwards they arranged a teachers conference for me to speak at to give ideas on how to do a creative presentation, and to give the teachers new ideas for S. School. It is for all of the S. School teachers in Alexandria so I've heard that it will be about a couple of hundred. These kind of conferences are usually exhausting so please "think" about me at this time.

As for everything else- it goes on a normal.

Please take care,

Lots of Love,

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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