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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  31 March 2001
  To Luxor and back
  Return to Cairo Update Index


A quick note on the weather: WOW. In the last week the temperature has jumped about 10 degrees, now we are averaging about 35 C during the daytime . . . the fans have started to go on and the blankets are off the bed. It seems that we suddenly went from winter to summer and we haven't even seen the end of March yet.

Most Egyptians are suffering more because they have not passed the traditional day for taking off their winter clothes. I've never quite understood this- there's a certain day shortly after Easter on which all Egyptians will stop wearing their winter clothes and start wearing their summer clothes. To do so prematurely would somehow be "tempting fate", i.e. the winter weather may return and give you a cold. So while I'm going around in a short-sleeved shirt, many others in the street are still wearing jumpers and jackets.

I don't usually have time for such superstitious claptrap, but last week I got the flu and I was incapacitated for a few days. OK, so maybe I am still learning exactly how to function in this culture- maybe I should leave behind all of my western prejudices and start again from scratch.

My Mum has really enjoyed her holiday here. She has four weeks left of her three month visit. A couple of weeks ago we all went to Luxor for a three day break. To get there is a 10 hour overnight train journey. Of course for the children it is all part of the adventure, the train left at 10pm and so they had the chance to stay awake until then. When we arrived at the train station we asked three station workers for the train to Luxor, and they all directed us to platform 8. You always have to ask more than one person because of the problem of saving face in this culture. It would be unacceptable for an Egyptian to say "I don't know" so often they will give any answer to save face. After listening to the testimony of "two or three witnesses" we dutifully waited at platform 8, with about five minutes spare. The loud speakers gave an announcement that the 10:10pm train to Luxor was about to arrive at platform 8 . . . which sounded a bit suspect since the tickets clearly said that the train was due to leave at 10:00pm precisely.

We showed our tickets to a guard on the platform, he pointed to train which had been standing on a platform since we arrived at the station, and said "There's two Luxor trains, that's the train you want, but it's already 10pm and it is just about to leave . . . ", the next minute must have been quite a performance for the people waiting on the platforms: Three adults, overloaded with bags, carrier bags, hold-alls and a push-chair, all carrying/pushing three young children down a pedestrian tunnel, up the other side and throwing the said items onto a moving train before finally managing to get on themselves. I almost expected a round of applause from the other passengers . . . but somehow I think it is a daily occurrence, the only thing that made it unusual this time is that it happened to foreigners. Our tickets weren't valid for the other train so if we didn't make it, we would have lost our money.

We arrived in Luxor at 8am. The children had taken it in turns to stay awake and therefore ensure that at least one adult had to stay awake too. We booked just four seats, so we had to take it in turns to hold Lydia and Esther. I'm convinced that children must double their weight when they are asleep, when Esther finally managed to get to sleep while I was holding her I tried to sleep too, but it was like having a sack potatoes dead weight on my lap. I still haven't worked out why this seems to be the case.

Whilst at Luxor we had a great time. The best part for us was visiting the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and The Luxor Museum. The best part for the children was riding on a horse drawn carriage, eating at Macdonald’s and going swimming on the last day. Needless to say we had different agendas for the visit.

We have recently been reading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia to the children, in them they heard about the white witch who turned people to stone with her magic wand. Whilst visiting Luxor museum we showed the girls the statues of the ancient pharos and Esther asked us the obvious question "Did the white witch turn these people to stone as well??"

The trip to Luxor was a break from meetings for me, but it was nice to get back to them with a feeling of refreshment. I was pleasantly surprised to see new faces at one of the meetings I take on a regular basis. The church is in a rich part of Cairo, and the children who attend unfortunately have a common tendency for children from such areas- indifference. They hardly seem to get enthusiastic about anything. Their Bible knowledge is usually impressive though, but they seem to be bored with learning more things from the Bible. The numbers had dwindled to about half a dozen and I wondered how much longer the group would go on for.

Well, someone in the church decided to take a minibus to one of the near-by poor areas of the city and bring in 20 kids from the "Rough" end of town. Since then the atmosphere has changed significantly. There are a lot more wrong answers given but the kids are willing to have a guess. They stand up and shout out answers when they think that they know. They can hardly keep still when the lesson is given in an exciting way. Man, this way of behaving suits me much better. My adage is: "Enthusiasm mistaken as 'bad behaviour' is better than indifference mistaken as 'good behaviour' ". In cases like this I have to keep the lessons short and to the point but to see their faces when a wonderful truth has been first understood is a real blessing.

I have recently received some other words of wisdom via an Email, I'll share these with you now. My thanks to you all for the enthusiasm you have shown for our work!

Toodle pip,


RE: Words that wise peope have learned to live by


If you will take the time to read these. I promise you'll come away with an enlightened perspective. The subjects covered affect us all on a daily basis! They're written by Andy Rooney a man who has the gift of saying so much with so few words. Enjoy.

I've learned....
That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly

I've learned....
That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned....
that just one person saying to me, "You've made my day!" makes my day.

I've learned....
That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned....
That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned....
That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned....
That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned....
That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned....
That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to

I've learned....
That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned....
That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned....
That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned....
That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned....
That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned....
That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned....
That the Lord didn't do it all in one day. What makes me think I can? [,my favorite]

I've learned....
That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned....
That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned....
That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned....
That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned....
That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned....
That there's nothing sweeter than sleeping with your babies and feeling their breath on your cheeks.

I've learned....
That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned....
That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned....
That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned....
That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned....
That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one
more time before she passed away.

I've learned....
That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned....
That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned....
That I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.

I've learned....
That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned....
That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the
happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned ...
That it is best to give advice in only two circumstances; when it is requested and when it is a life threatening situation.

I've learned....
That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

And finally...
Happiness is the dividend on a well-invested life.

Return to Cairo Update Index

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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