Sunday, November 02, 2003

"your a kettle of fish arent you?" There are subject lines to emails that absolutely beg to be read, and this was one. I had no idea what this could refer to and I get enough bizarre spam that I thought it could conceivably fall into that category. What I found was a very pleasant email from Trevor in Australia, who has decided that it's time to visit someplace different. I've never met anyone whose life was unchanged by Egypt, for better or worse, and coming here to visit is something that I can encourage everyone to do. Okay, so I don't like it when prices rise because the locals are making so much money off the tourists, but I don't actually hang out in too many tourist locations anyway. "Welcome in Egypt", Trevor....whenever you make it here.

"Welcome in Egypt" is the literal translation from the Arabic welcome to this country. In a very real way, it expresses part of the charm and draw of Egypt. You are not welcomed at the door and then left to drift aimlessly here. No, you will be welcomed again and again and again as you travel through the country meeting people. Every day that I go riding in the countryside, I am welcomed, invited for tea (well, okay, not during Ramadan, although it's often offered despite my hosts fasting...I decline politely.) and welcomed again. It may be a formality of speech, but even formalities express the basic attitudes.

Some of my local friends find my decision to move to a totally rural area puzzling. Who do I know there? How will I manage? It isn't as though I'm moving to the North Pole or something, actually. In 45 minutes I can be in Maadi with all the restaurants, shops and supermarkets that I could possibly need...and a visit with friends over dinner or a coffee is going to be a welcome diversion. I imagine that about once a week or so I will make a provisioning trip to civilisation. There are only the Dahshur village markets nearby for me to buy the basics (vegetables and fruit in season). For anything luxurious, I will head to the fleshpots of being muesli, expresso coffee grounds, dog chow (given as snacks for vitamins), and so on. As for who I know...I guess that soon I will know a lot of different people and that is always an adventure. I'm looking forward to it all.