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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  2 December 2001
  Pancakes, bacon and roast potatoes
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Greetings from Cairo!

Yesterday was our family day- a day in which the children order us around and tell *us* what they want to do. The power of suggestion is very useful since if we suggest what we want to do, they often agree anyway! Yesterday Alison and I preferred to stay in since we have both had busy weeks, so we suggested to the girls that we stay in and have a pancake, bacon and roast potato day- they thought that it was a great idea and I think that they will suggest this many times more in the future! Pancakes, bacon and roast potatoes are their favourite food and are amongst the items that Hannah is guaranteed to eat now. Not only do the children like this arrangement, I do as well since they are my favourite types of food as well!

The Muslim world is in the middle of the month of Ramadan at the moment. What this means in practise is that it is best to avoid travelling before sunset (about 5pm now) because the traffic is chaos. It is bad at the best of times, but during Ramadan there are many more cars on the road and most of the drivers are in a foul mood from fasting all day. Between sunrise and sunset they are forbidden to eat, drink and smoke, many people spit in the streets in fear that swallowing saliva will be a technical breaking of the fast! At sunset the streets have cleared and people are at home in their family units and are breaking the fast together, children under the age of about 13 are not expected to fast, neither are pregnant women. An amusing factor in all of this is that more food is consumed during the month of Ramadan that any other time of year! There is excessive consumption during the hours of darkness to counter the fasting during the day. Despite all of the excesses it is still a fast which almost all Muslims observe, and it is a complete contrast to the often over-indulgent secular Christmas celebrations in the Western world.

During the month of Ramadan no beer is allowed to be sold, unfortunately for me I have been prescribed it by the doctor for my kidney stones (something about the combination of malt and alcohol helps to pass the stones) so I had to buy an excess of cans before Ramadan started. I noticed in the shop that they were well stocked for the pre-Ramadan rush, this is rather confusing since the consumption of alcohol is forbidden to Muslims any time of the year!

The rest of my time during the last couple of months has been going well. A few weeks ago I did a service to a group of about 80 deaf people in sign language. Afterwards I felt this was probably a bit ambitious to do it to a large group for the first time without a translator but it was well received! Since then I've given messages in sign to a few other groups and I think I've gained more confidence as a result. Many of the regular attendees are from a nominal background, so I hope to give a direct message there sometime in the near future!

A couple of days ago I went to a group of deaf people in on the opposite side of the city, it took over an hour to get there. After I arrived I saw that it was an orthodox church. Fortunately now I am becoming familiar with Orthodox customs (kissing the hand of the priest, facing East when praying, making the sign of the cross ... etc.) so I didn't make any major gaffs. The group has requested many return visits, great! If they don't have problems with my theology I'll be happy to preach it to them! (There is a lot of potential in that group.)

Since I am not using a translator for sign language I have decided it was about time I didn't use a translator when I speak Arabic to groups too. Before my agenda gets filled with engagements next year I have fenced off the first three months for me to concentrate solely on Arabic and sign language. I have had determined efforts in the past to learn Arabic better, but the time I take to plan and prepare meetings always eats into learning time. The big problem with me is that I don't like learning Arabic, so I will find any excuse to put it off; maybe if I have nothing else on my agenda I won't have any excuse NOT to learn Arabic . . . we'll see.

On the 7th of December I'll be travelling by myself to the UK for ten days. The trip has been paid for by others, I hope to visit many friends during this quick visit!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Toodle pip,


PS The attatched photo shows some of the deaf people I taught on Friday. I think the priest was there to make sure I was teaching sound doctrine!

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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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