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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  14 June 1998
Subject:
  Scorcher!
  Return to Cairo Update Index

Greetings,

Boy, it's getting hot here! It's nearly 2am and I'm sitting in the study. The thermometer here tells me that it's 33 degrees C (that's about 90 F!). It would be cooler with the windows open but I don't want to let the mosquitoes in. In this kind of weather it is a case of regular cold showers to keep cool.

With the temperature being so high we're planning on going swimming tomorrow at a hotel near the airport. We have friends that are members of a club there so we can go in with them at a cost of 5 quid per adult- this is cheap compared to being full members which would set us back by nearly 400 quid per year! There's a lot of rich foreigners around here . . .

Yesterday I went to a speaking engagement to small town outside Cairo. The children from many different meeting places came together for a conference- I guess about 150 altogether. I had two speaking spots, both of which went really well. As usual many of the children found me afterwards in order to shake my hand and say "Thank you" (now you wouldn't get THAT happening in England, eh?).

I had a different translator for each talk; it always amuses me how different translators do their job. The first lady has translated for me in the past. She knows what I'm going to say next, but her English is far from perfect. If she doesn't understand what is said she'll make it up as she goes along- now that I understand more Arabic I have to listen to the translation really carefully to see if she has got it right or not. If she hasn't I have to repeat what I've said in a different way and hope that she eventually understands. Since she is a children's speaker herself she will sometimes go into her own explanation of what I've just said, speaking for about 2 or 3 minutes without me saying anything. Again I have to listen really carefully because she might say something that I will use later on in the talk and I don't want to repeat what SHE said.

The second translator gave more of a clinical, word-by-word translation. His English was nearly fluent and he entered into the spirit of what I was saying. I liked both translators for their differing styles and it reminds me of the differing translations of the bible how each is appropriate for different reasons.

Afterwards we went to a near-by house where there lived some friends of the first lady who translated me. We just went for "5 or 10 minutes"- in reality about 45 minutes. The flat was quite full with other visitors, one of which instantly recognised me as the speaker at a teacher's conference last year. Whilst we were chatting one of the ladies who lived in the flat offered me something to eat. My first reaction in such circumstances is to say "No"- I've had too many bad experiences in similar circumstances in the past. But it seemed that everyone was waiting for my reply and I felt that for the sake of good manners I should accept. The food being offered was fish, and after accepting the invitation to each she went to the kitchen and returned with the fish that she was going to prepare. I instantly recognised the type of fish it was. It looked rather like a thin trout that had been smoked. I've seen them many times before in hot and sweaty corner shops usually covered in a blanket of flies. She asked me how I wanted it prepared. I replied that in England we eat fish with chips but since this one was smoked I'd have it in a sandwich.

"With or without lemon?" she asked.

"Definitely with!" I replied. I thought that it might go some way in killing any eggs that the flies would have laid on it. She graciously cut off the head and the tail before mashing it and putting it into a sandwich. The bread was similar to pitta bread but was thicker and brown. Everyone was watching me to see my reaction when I ate it- I guess that I managed to hide my true feelings quite well. My first reaction was "Ouch!" The bones hadn't been taken out of the fish before it was mashed so I had to crunch through them. This fish had quite a high bone to meat ratio but otherwise it tasted similar to a good old-fashioned kipper.

"You like it?" asked the hostess

"Lovely!" I replied, blinking back the tears. This is the first time I've had a kipper-flavoured needle sandwich- definitely something to write home about!

Oh, nearly forgot to say- a couple of weeks ago there was an Earthquake here in Cairo! Well OK, it was more like a tremor but the Earth definitely DID move. Alison was taking Hannah to bed and I was in the living room with Esther. Whilst sitting on the sofa I noticed that not all was still- I felt that I moving slightly but there was no rumble coming from outside. I leapt to my feet to get ready to run out with Esther in case it got any worse but it stopped after about only 3 or 4 seconds. Alison walked through from Hannah's bedroom with a confused look - "Was that an Earthquake?"

"Er- yes, I think so"

"Oh."

Well let's hope that's as bad as they get!

The girls seem to be coping OK with the heat- Esther is getting some Prickly Heat but we have some powder to help with that. We'll have to wait until mid-October before we start to feel comfortable with the weather.

Right, that's it for now,

More news next week,

Lot's of Love from us all

Jason, Alison, Hannah and Esther

XXXXXXXXxxxxxxxxxxxx............

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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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