Thursday, August 19, 2010


Here are some of our first impressions of Cairo. We arrived last Saturday. It was a hectic trip overall. Emmett overturned two lamb and rice lunch trays on the flight from Athens. The rice and lamb squished into the aisle rug and a stewardess came and bent down next to us for a long time to try to scrape it off. I was surrounded by mostly arab men and veiled women who seemed vaguely disapproving. Thankfully Daddy Dave managed to meet us right at the foot of the airplane. We were all so relieved!! We gave him a big long hug and went to meet Mohammed the driver.

Mohammed generously did not say a word about the enormous pile of luggage Dave and I had between us, which, upon closer examination, turned out to consist almost entirely of multiple vials of toddler diarrhea pills. He whisked us away to our villa which will be home for the next few years. On the way we passed camels and men in robes and lots of sand-colored half-constructed high rises. We passed a cemetery in which a huge village of squatters makes their home. Everything looked hot and dusty. Generally, the city is much more other-wordly than I expected. I thought it would look basically like a dingy commercial street on the lower east side with some beautifully preserved old buildings and sites. It does not look like this at all. It looks like nowhere I have been before. Maybe Havana a little bit in the general falling-down-ness of it all.

Our villa is in an expat suburb called Maadi. The house is small, but beautiful. It has enormous ceilings and a wonderful new garden. Someday I will post pictures. But not now because in our story we only stayed long enough to drop off the bags and meet the gardener, Hamdi. Evidently word of my love of cats had made it to the Cairo NYT bureau which had been paying Hamdi all summer to buy Friskies cat food so that a feral momma cat and her kittens would still be in residence when we arrived. The cat was here! I squealed in delight, and so did Emmett. He immediately called the mama cat "Egypt" I think this is because I had been telling him w'd see cats in Egypt. This was how he knew we were really there.

Then Mohammed drove us to nearby Giza where for reasons unclear the Times had agreed to put us up in an amazing palace of a hotel right at the foot of the pyramids. Mohammed pointed out that the house was all ready and it would be much easier to get Thomas to school on time the next day if we just stayed home. Thankfully we ignored this good advice. Here are Dave and the boys at the hotel, which was enchanting. Because it is Ramadan here everyone is fasting until sun down when they sit down to a good feast. We feasted like demons.

So much more to write-- the trip to Klima, saying goodbye to Clare, Thomas' new school, the embassy club, a felluca boat ride on the Nile. But now I would just like to say that it has been a real bear figuring out how to blog on the Ipad which is otherwise a great device.

In closing here is Grandpa Peter teaching Thomas to play chess in Greece:

and here is Thomas on the day we arrived in Greece from DC. He had just endured a missed plane, a transatlantic overnight flight, lost luggage, a third flight to santorini, and a three hour wait for a ferry. We were now floating through the actual crater of an ancient volcano, which is what the island of santorini is. This would have been Thomas' first encounter with an actual live Volcano. As you can see from the shadows, Thomas is fast asleep. I chose not to wake him.