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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  30 January 2001
  Living Waters
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Greetings and a belated Happy New Year to you all!

I have just come to the end of a busy few weeks. Earlier this month my agenda was full of engagements for Christmas children's celebrations (most Christians here follow the orthodox Christmas of January 7th).

One meeting which I really enjoyed was in an area of rocky desert outside Cairo. I have been there once before and I really liked it. To describe the area as being "poor" is an understatement. These people have nothing, and the reason they live in the desert is because it costs them nothing. To make a living they sort through rubbish from a part of the city and as a result there is a distinctive "pong" as you approach the village, which has about 400 people living in it. The residents have made their houses from any material they can get their hands on. There is no water supply, sewage disposal facilities or electricity. Water is brought into the village by a water tanker, which fills large barrels outside the dwellings. The village name is "Zebeleen", a rough translation would be "Rubbish people", but about 30% of the villagers are now believers and they have renamed their village "Living Waters".

I went there earlier in the month to take a special meeting for Christmas. I went there with a group of street children who themselves have very little, but they each brought a gift for the children at Living Waters. The journey there was quite an experience. The Egyptians expect travelling to be done on the cheap and to be crowded, and this was no exception. The bus we took had 26 seats, and somehow it managed to take about 60 children and 10 adults. With so many children in such a confined space the choruses we sung on the way were deafening.

The meeting place we went to is the only place in the village with a electricity generator so it is quite good for attracting the children. The children from the village seem to appreciate anyone coming from the outside to see them. Since finishing my part-time computer job I have a bit more time for regular appointments, so I decided to offer my services to go there on a regular basis; consequently I hope to bring more reports from there in the coming months.

Last week I spent a lot of time shooting videos. I mentioned in my last Cairo Update that I do a lot of teacher training for Sunday school teachers here, mainly in the area of thinking creatively (and changing the Egyptian way of learning everything by rote). The videos are intended to give teacher training ideas AND give creative Bible stories to children in remote areas of Egypt, especially where there isn't an existing Sunday school. The time taken to shoot the videos was rather exhausting, but satisfying. We decided to take the videos with children in attendance so the children watching feel part of a "crowd". What the video guy didn't realise is that children have a limited attention span . . . and taking videos of this type can be very time consuming!

Many scenes had to be taken again, and the children behaved well but were extremely exhausted at the end. The younger children had to be dismissed earlier because they just couldn't sit still . . . the filming took up to seven hours a day. I now understand the film-makers' old adage- "Never work with children or animals". I haven't seen the finished results yet, but this is quite a low budget project so I'm not expecting anything flash or of a high standard.

Lydia had her first birthday earlier this month. She was quite ill and so she didn't enjoy the day very much. The combination of nappy rash, teething and a cold knocked the strength from her. By the end of the day she started to pick up again and played with her new toys.

Hannah and Esther continue to grow and develop. Hannah has a particular liking for playing princesses and she likes to dress up and order people around. She is really enjoying her ballet lessons which she takes twice a week, but at the moment she does not like her Arabic lessons. She explained to us today that Arabic is boring and she doesn't want to study it. Of course we have sympathy with her, but she is learning such a lot. Unfortunately she keeps it all to herself, she is too shy to speak Arabic in front of Egyptians, and she won't even talk to us. The Arabic teacher told us the other day that she could say the whole story of Zacchaeus in Arabic, but when the Arabic teacher asked her to, she refused!

Esther is now going to nursery twice a week and she enjoys it very much. It reminded me of the time I took Hannah for the first time. Hannah did not want to go. She made it very clear that she didn't want to go too. We had to carry her down the stairs in our block of flats and heads kept on popping out of the doors to see what all of the commotion was about. We had to prise her fingers from the banister and she screamed at the top of her voice throughout. When we eventually arrived at the nursery my last view of her was being restrained and carried away by two teachers, with her holding out a hand to me and pleading "Daddy! Don't leave me here, please . . . " She has a special gifting for knowing how to make me feel bad.

In contrast Esther kept on asking about going to nursery with "the big boys and girls". On the first day she let me take pictures of her outside the nursery and she walked in excited about meeting new friends. I returned a few hours later and she cried because she had to leave. We are hoping that Lydia will be a bit more balanced when she grows up! Esther's English is still developing but her words often make us laugh. I have compiled "Esther's Dictionary" to record some of her blunders for future reference, here are some entries:

ari-doos (n) A drink made from squeezed oranges

baff (n) - Long open vessel used for washing oneself.

baff'um (n) - Place in which the baff is located.

boppum (n) - The part of the anatomy that interfaces with the potty.

boppum-purp (n) - flatulence.

glak-ees (n) - Bifocal aid to correct eye-sight.

kank-oo (n) An expression of appreciation

porn cakes (n) A cereal food often served with milk for breakfast.

That's all from us for this time, we hope the weather will get warmer when we write again, it is now dropping down to about 12 degrees C at night!

Toodle pip,


PS photos of the children: Lydia on her birthday looking very ill, Esther going to nursery and Hannah & Esther playing with Lydia's birthday present (a small ball pool)


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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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