Sunday, April 12, 2009

I have no doubt that I will probably find myself falling farther behind my capacity to post reports as the amount of experiences adds up quickly.
Today we went out to Giza at eight o'clock to see the pyramids, Sphinx and then go to Saqqara to see the rest of the pyramids. A group from our hotel went in a mini van and the excursion had some things in common with a tour taken in Beijing a few years ago, in that it included a stop at the government sanctioned papyrus painting store. Ostensibly to show how it's made but mostly to sell them to you.
After that we went to Saqqara and for me it was the begining of feeling that the old Egypt I remember from my childhood still exists very much, lots of donkeys and horses and gamoosa (water buffalo), far more traditional life style in evidence with people working in fields. It made me feel really glad to be here. I wish I spoke arabic, I wish I could do a personal book of photogrpahs talking about Egypt and what it means to me, but why bother? No one would be interested in something like that I don't think. I'll have to think about it more to figure something more about it if I were to try to pull off such a project. Right now I need a nap.

Last night after Jesse and I restored ourselves we walked toward the Muski and Khan el Khalili Bazaar. I have always loved this intense maze of alleys and cul de sacs filled with every imaginable kind of dreadful tourist crap as well as superb craftsmanship and all manner of basic needs as well. A mixture of the fabric shops on Orchard street in New York with the huscksterism and hustling of the Beijing dirt market. I wanted to find a few things to take home and I did, I'll go back tomorrow, but it was getting lost after we ate dinner at a cafe in the market that held the best moments.

We began to walk back after a marvelous dinner of shawarma, falafel, ayeesh baladi and mango smoothies at Fishawis Cafe. We stopped for a roasted yam earlier and the sweet burnt sugar of the yam had only wheted my appetite. So we walked away and confidently plunged into the traffic that could only have been invented by a modern day Dante writing mischievously about a hell on earth made up of automobiles that drive with their lights off, under over passes with cars driving without any regard for lanes or signals. At the side of the road are old men sitting smoking, vendors of cigaretts or roasted seeds, lemonade or fireworks and poor women sitting on the sidewalk covered except for their face with a display of cheap toys while a loudspeaker is calling the faithful to prayer. To walk through the traffic you engage as a pedestrian partner in the slow motion dance of the the traffic and watch other walkers as you thread your way through cars that are all in motion and anticipate their moves to time your own to get where you want to go. No one gets hurt but you should not try this at home. We kept walking, we looked at the map, we asked directions and thought we were approaching Ezibikeha Gardens several times, once passing a delicious smelling bakery and men roasting meat on the street for a cafe and endless cafes with men smoking and sitting and watching in the warm night. We kept walking and finally we stopped to reconoiter and deduced we were maybe a couple of miles off in the wrong direction. So we started again, retraced our steps and corrected our route and found ourselves passing shops selling serious musical instruments, guitars, ouds, tambourines, drums and there in an alley was a man working on a guitar and a man next to him on an oud and I told Jesse I had to stop to take a picture. They were so happy they led me into the workshop and showed us every stage of production of the oud, rows of staves being formed in a press and a room with a stack of built but unfinished instruments floor to ceiling. I was enchanted and they were so happy that I was interested and they made no effort at all to sell us anything. This is Cairo at it's best. Incredibly warm and hospitable, amazed that you care and responsive to your interest.
I took more pictures than I needed but better than not enough. I want to go back, I want to find some live music. I came here wondering if I would ever come back again, after being here now three times and I could imagine staying here for a few months at a time. No one else I know cares if I'm in the states enough to miss me more than in theory so what difference does it make if I am in Emeryville or Cairo, my social and personal life would be little changed as far as I know. And I would be in a place where would have respect if for no other reason on earth than that I am a man and a father. After that it's up to the fates isn't it?
Today, driving back on the Saqqara Road, past the Ramses Wissa Wassef tapestry school that I still hope to visit, past the enless canal, watching the felahin, I felt so happy to be hear. I don't know a soul here, but somehow it's far less lonely than California is sometimes.

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