Monday, April 6, 2009

So now, in the middle of the night, later than I have stayed up in ages, beginning to wonder about what lies ahead, I took a stab at contacting two of the Scarzella children who were growing up in Cairo and whose family made mine so welcome in 1957 and 1958.
Moreland House was a remnant of British occupied Egypt and possessed marble floors, high ceilings and a long dining room on two upper floors. Access was by way of either a Victorian era "birdcage" elevator or a flight of marble stairs that wound around the elevator shaft.
One of the many memorable residents then was a Professor Archibald Cameron Cresswell, an authority on Islamic art and architecture. Were a movie ever to have been made I would have cast John Gielgude in the role. Proffesor Creswell, as he was known would sit at his single table alone, while the other expatriats sat at the long center table and traded stories of their adventures. Professor Cresswell every morning at eight sharp on the dot would cry out, if he had not been served his soft boiled egg,"Come hiyah, Come hiyah!" while clapping his hands together imperiously until the servant wearing his red fez and white galabya would run forth from the kithchen with the tardy breakfast. Fortunately for all this was only an occassional occurance.
For a strange reason I was possesssed of a facination for the man, he seemes so intensly English and I was the product of a recently severed home, my parents having parted only months prior to our departure for the Middle East. Perhaps I imagined in him the shadow of kindness and gentleness that my childish mind craved at that time. In any case I never roused the courage to address him myself and finally my mother asked him if he would mind posing for a photograph with me and he did. He was I think taken off guard by the appeal and gave me a half a small box of chocolates in which for some years later I kept some cross stitch embroidery attempts I made.
I recently scanned the only photograph of him but now can not lay my hands on the print I made.
I did however in my search find my childhood journal of my trip and will at some point either scan or quote from it if it seems either charming or absurd enough to be entertaining.
I have to confess that through all these meanderings I continue to feel self conscious that this is somehow a totally self indulgent and conceited enterprise, to be reporting on this otherwise unimportant and unremarkable sequence of events. I fee sometimes embarrassed to have the privledges I do and to worry about my survival when there are literally homeless people out side my door, some of them living in cars and treating me with the utmost courtesy and dignity.
It will be good for me to go away and get perspective, to be immersed in the intensity and complexity of Cairo. I look forward to the smell of "Buta" gas, the cooking gas (butane) common in Egypt, and the flavor of the finest bread that Americans call Pita but which I first knew as "aieesh baladi" (my phonetic spelling) or "native bread' and far superior to any I have tasted elsewhere. On my visit in 1976 it still tasted as I recalled, and I hope it will still.
If I don't go to sleep soon I won't be good for much on my last day and I have a few things to do.

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