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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  17 November 1998
  Egyptian Dentist
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After putting it off for over two years I've finally managed to make an appointment to the dentist. Yesterday I was eating a Mars bar and I was surprised to find something hard and crunchy in it. After I finished it I noticed that there was something different about my mouth- then I discovered that the crunchy "thing" was actually part of one of my upper teeth. Later in the evening we were visited by a nun from the Coptic orthodox church- we were helping her with some computer work- anyway, she has an uncle who is a dentist who will treat me for a reasonable price so I arranged to see him this morning.

My childhood memories of the dentist aren't good- the combination of a sweet tooth and being too lazy to clean my teeth at night took its toll. I have a lot of fillings and without exception the treatment for each of them was painful. I'm quite proud of the fact that while I was a student I never visited the dentist in over 5 years!

I introduced myself to the dentist, he spoke good English and seemed to be competent you can't guarantee these things in Egypt. After looking at my teeth he explained the nature of the problem. I could tell that most of his English vocabulary came from reading medical text books- in simple English he told me that the tooth in question actually had a large filling already and the enamel walls were quite thin. The tooth needed a temporary filling, then a visit next week to see about getting a crown fitted. But there were more problems . . .

The two back molars are decaying and hence they both need larger fillings too, and after that the upper wisdom teeth need extracting sometime too, then the lower wisdom teeth probably need to be pulled too after a while. So, my mouth is a complete medical project for a dentist! He asked about giving the temporary filling there and then. Whilst he went into details about what he would do I stopped him in mid-sentence and asked him - "All I want to know is this: is it going to hurt?" He assured me that it wouldn't. I guess that it was a stupid question because he's hardly likely to say, "Yes, it's going to be unbearable". Anyway, I wasn't going to believe him no matter due to simple logic: 1) Dentists lie when they say it won't hurt 2) Egyptians lie anyway; therefore this Egyptian dentist must be lying.

I'm not sure how he did it but despite two injections and excessive drilling I hardly felt a thing and I had to review my logic reasoning. I have the feeling that I'm going to see a lot of this guy so I'd better start to trust him, or maybe I'll be proved right later . . .

Last week I went back to the City of Peace where there is the school project with the street children. I was asked to do take a two-hour teaching session. At the end of the session I decided to make them all animal balloon models, I took a couple of helpers without whom I wouldn't have been able to make all 70 models in a reasonable time.

It is surprising how excited the children became at the thought of receiving a simple balloon model. The excitement grew as we made cats, dogs, mosquitoes, poodles, camels, horses, giraffes, mice, tigers, rabbits, parrots and flowers! The teachers had a task to keep control as we started to give them out. The person in charge apologised for the disorder afterwards but I didn't find it a problem. These poor kids get hardly anything- they only get three decent meals a week because that's what the school project supplies so the thought of getting a present made it into a special occasion- It's difficult to imagine children in Britain reacting with the same level of enthusiasm.

It's one thing to give Bible stories but it's another thing to show care and attention to the child's other needs- in a small way the models gave the children a sense of personal worth because it was a personal gift to them that was individually made.

I heard more about the background of these children which I can't tell you about right now. Some of them are real sad cases, but the more I hear the more time I want to spend with them.

That's all till next time,


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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