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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  10 August 1998
  A Day Out to Ain Soukna (A Hot Spring)
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As for us we've had a busy couple of weeks. We've just come back from a place called "Eien Soukna" with our Arabic teacher, Fadia, who just so happens to be a good friend too. She invited us to her sister's holiday flat from Saturday evening till Sunday evening. The place is beside the Red Sea- I thought that it would be cooler being on the coast. I was completely wrong- I found out that on average it is about 2 degrees hotter than Cairo and the name itself means Hot Spring. Well, we spent most of the day on the beach, first from 11am till about 1.30pm then we went inside for some lunch. Afterwards we went to sleep for a couple of hours (well, not Hannah, she wanted to play so Fadia stayed up with her). We went back to the beach at about 5.30pm. This was a much nicer time to be on the beach since the sun wasn't so hot but still when we're there we must be in the shade unless we want to be burnt to a crisp!

Hannah had a really good time playing in the sea. She soon learnt to keep her mouth shut when a big wave came along! She especially liked playing with the wet sand because it made a real mess. She wasn't so keen at first on Daddy's diving mask and snorkel, but eventually she realised that it was the same Daddy behind the mask.

The past few weeks have been very busy, averaging about 3 meetings a week. Last Monday I travelled for an hour to the end of the underground line to a place called Helwan. I've learnt through experience never to start a journey before 9.30 am because the underground system gets very crowded. There's been times in the past when I've upset a lot of people by taking a sketchboard, large bag and stand on to a crowded metro. I've literally had to push people away from the doorway to get in with all of the equipment, then of course I've blocked the entrance for others to get on and off. Sometimes it's an advantage not to understand what people are saying to you!

This time there weren't major problems, also I took a friend along who wanted to see the types of places that I visit. The place that we went to had a children's conference from the local Methodist congregations in the area. I had two slots in the program, 11am and 6am. Of course I knew that these times were flexible- nothing happens on time or according to plan here. (I actually spoke at 12.30pm and 8.00pm!) About 16 children made a first-time response. After the meeting I spoke at length to a Sunday School teacher who I'd met previously. I spoke to him during lunch time until the time of the siesta- about 2.30pm. Afterwards everyone went to sleep except me- I went shopping in Helwan to get some resources for a trick that I was going to use later on.

After everyone woke up my translator spoke to me to say that all of the teachers (about 15 of them) were upset because I was spending such a long time talking with the other teacher and not to them!! This is fairly typical in this culture- it's so easy to offend people or make them jealous! They wanted to ask me about using the same methods as me to communicate to the children, namely the sketchboard and tricks. I agreed to give them all a lesson about effective communication to children, after the last talk that evening. I eventually managed to get home just after 11pm that evening.

I had a meeting later in the week where I first met the translator at the main travel centre in the city called Ramsis (after the pharaoh). There is a big statue of Ramsis where I met the translator at 8am. While I was waiting I noticed some street children sleeping on the grass beside the statue, it's a real sorry site- they were all wearing little more than rags, nothing on their feet and as they slept their faces were covered with flies. I'm told that it's best not to give money because they are likely to spend it on glue for sniffing but it's difficult to turn away and ignore it. I saw another boy near-by trying to make a living by cleaning shoes of people that passed by- my shoes needed a clean anyway so I paid him well and gave him a good tip.

It reminded me to visit my friends sometime in the City of Peace just outside Cairo where they work with children like this. The problem isn't just physical, there's big emotional needs too. As a friend of mine said, all the children that go on the program (run by believers) experience a 180 degree turn-around in their lives and attitudes. I can believe it too, the love and attention that the children experience is quite a contrast to what they experience on the street where there is little sympathy for their plight.

The talk that I gave afterwards was about feeding the 5000- it's interesting to read that Jesus gave the job of giving out the food to the disciples . . .

Newspapers here say that it's the hottest Summer here for 100 years- I'm not surprised. The thermometer in the office still hasn't dropped below 30 even in the middle of the night. Roll on October!

Lots of love,

Jason, Alison, Hannah and Esther.

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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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