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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  16 January 2002
  What rotten weather we've been having.
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Greetings from Cairo,

The Egyptians don't usually start conversations about the weather, but the last week or so has changed all of that. I've always said that Egypt has boring weather, which is incidentally just the way I like it! It is hot in the summer, mild in the winter, not much variation from day to day . . . and most importantly hardly any rain. All that has changed. Up until a few days ago it has rained almost every day for a week and the city is having difficulty coping with it. It is surprising to see that even in a downpour Egyptians never think about using their umbrellas for the rain, they only come out in the summer to provide shade from the sun!

It has all coincided with a very frustrating week for me. As I mentioned in my last update, I have cancelled all meetings for the first three months of this year so that I can concentrate exclusively on Arabic. At my Arabic lesson on Tuesday last week I assured my teacher that everything was going to be different now . . . no more weeks of attending the lessons and doing no homework, and quickly forgetting what we did last time. I told her that the Arabic I will do from now on will be written down, studied, digested, memorised and used by the following week. That was on Tuesday . . . the rest of the week followed accordingly:

Wednesday: Meeting with the group here (I can't get out of these weekly meetings!). This took up most of the day. Afterwards I had a phone call from a lady who asked me to take a meeting on Monday, I didn't get back to her to say no, so she went ahead and arranged it assuming that I was coming. I gave in and agreed to go Monday after all! After the children were in bed someone in another flat in the same building asked me to help him with a computer problem on his laptop. That problem took the rest of the night, and still wasn't solved. I told him that I we had to completely back up his system and reinstall everything, we arranged to try this on Thursday. No time for Arabic.

Thursday: A visitor to Egypt wanted to see the sights, I had previously agreed to take him in the car and show him three interesting sights within Cairo: the pyramids, the cave church and the tourist bazaar. We left just after 10 o'clock in the morning, I was hoping to be back for 3pm. It rained heavily on the way there. My windscreen wipers didn't work, in fact it has been years since they have worked! Because of the obscured vision I missed a turning. I pulled in and fixed the wipers, but because of the one-way system it took me ages to get back to the right road. Arrived at the pyramids over an hour later than expected. The rain kept the tourists away, so all of the traders hassled us for custom. The visitor was taken on a 10-minute camel trip, and arrived back over an hour later after being over-charged for souvenirs. It rained on the way back to the car and we got drenched. On the way back in the car we were delayed because of flooding on one of the major roads in Cairo, roads were impassable because there was no drainage. Tanker lorries were brought in to get rid of the water. The tailbacks were horrendous. A one hour journey took six hours, arrived back home at 8:30pm without visiting the cave church or bazaar. The rest of the evening was spent preparing for a church service the next day where I was leading worship. No time for Arabic.

Friday: Lead the church service, went back home exhausted and slept in the afternoon. Spent the rest of the day catching up on pressing needs. Didn't feel like doing Arabic!

Saturday: Family day out to Alexandria visiting friends. We got up at 6am and arrived back home about 10pm. Went straight to bed. No time for Arabic.

Sunday: Went out with the family and did some shopping. Returned and spent the rest of the day in preparation for the meeting on Monday. Told my friend with the computer problem that I would complete the work on his computer the next day. No time for Arabic

Monday: Left in the morning to do the meeting. The president was out and about and two of the major roads in Cairo were blocked for security reasons. A 20 minute journey took two hours. Arrived and did the meeting anyway, the children enjoyed the program! I had another meeting in the afternoon with the school board (which I am a member of), arrived late to that. Returned home. After supper, bath & bedtime for the children I called on my friend and spent the rest of the evening finishing the work he needed on his computer. Went to bed. No time for Arabic.

Tuesday (today): Arabic lesson in the morning. Explained to the teacher that I really did intend to spend lots of time with studying Arabic in the previous week . . .

Oh well. It is still my intention to learn 6 new words a day and a psalm, song or sketchboard talk per week. I don't have a problem with understanding the spoken Arabic so I just have to work on getting the words right and thinking them fast enough! Now that I've told all of my translators that I won't need them after March it will be pretty embarrassing if I have to back-track and ask for their help after all!

That all for this time. I'll write again when something interesting happens, I don't predict anything exciting in the near-future, but life here is never boring.

Toodle pip,


PS I thought you would all like to see a rare sight- the sphinx in the rain! Also the sphinx's view of the world: looking at the city of Cairo for evermore! (Sorry to disappoint those who thought the pyramids and sphinx were in the middle of the desert!)

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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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