Friday, August 20, 2004

Jazz Concert In An Ancient Setting


With traditional Egyptian efficiency, my telephone line suddenly quit moments after one of my visitors logged off the computer after checking his email on our return from Sharm el Sheikh. After two days without the internet, we were all going nuts. I don't know how I managed for the months before I got my phone line. Finally, late yesterday afternoon while the only Arabic speakers in the household were both out, the repairmen arrived to repair the damage, whatever it was. Pat and Emily were in charge at the house so they dug out their trusty Arabic phrase books and managed to find the ladder for the workers. I don't know what the problem was, since they couldn't ask the men and wouldn't have understood the answer anyway. But the main thing is that we got it back quickly and with little pain.

We'd had a quiet four days by the Red Sea with the kids snorkeling and hanging out at the beach while I weeded my lawn and read under the palm tree. Sharm in August is best enjoyed with a minum of movement and a maximum of cold water. We'd driven back on Monday in order to be back in Cairo for the Tuesday night concert at the Citadel of Fathy Salama and Karima Nayat. Fathy was an old friend of my late husband who met him when the band was playing in Sharm, and when the Ministry of Culture announced that he'd be doing a concert at the Citadel as part of the music festival there, we made plans to go. Fathy Salama is an Egyptian jazz musician of considerable talent and lately he has an Algerian woman singer, Karima Nayat, working with him. We figured that a jazz concert on the grounds of a thousand year old castle under the stars would be a nice memory for Pat and Emily to take home with them and an unusual experience as well.

We were a considerable group that trudged through the grounds of the Citadel having paid our entrance fees of LE 2 per person (roughly 30 cents USD). There were two of my daughter's Egyptian hybrid friends from Maadi (one a student at the German University here and the other home from university in the Netherlands), a visiting friend from Jordan who also attends university in the Netherlands, my friend Janie from Abu Sir and her Jordanian colleague who works at Chicago House in Luxor all winter, and our Norwegian neighbour Pal with a new staff member of the Norwegian embassy, as well as our visiting Columbia University students.

The concert was held in a courtyard between the Suleiman Pasha mosque built in the 1500's and the Military Museum. There were a number of different musical events going on that night, and I suspect that the organisers weren't really expecting as large a crowd for the Fathy Salama concert as showed up because the seating wasn't nearly sufficient. But the weather was gorgeous, with cool breezes and soft air, and the crowd was cheerful and willing to stand in the aisles. The range of individuals was interesting with college students, a few foreigners, women in headscarves and without, and even children. Fathy has always been an innovator and this evening was no exception with him introducing Zaki, a Danish/Egyptian rapper who joined the group for the concert. A few years back I took my nephew to a Fathy Salama concert at the Cairo Opera House that featured the harpist from the Cairo symphony in her jazz debut...a terrific concert.

At a late dinner after the entertainment, my daughter discovered that her wallet was missing from her bag and a thorough search of the car failed to turn it up. We assumed, correctly as it turned out, that it had gone missing at the Citadel, but it was 1 a.m. by the time we discovered the loss and nothing could be done until the morning. She was shattered, partly at the thought of having lost her university ID, her Egyptian ID, and her driver's license, but more because she had a note from her father in the wallet.

The next morning I called my son to arrange for his driver to go to the Citadel to speak to the security to see if they'd found the wallet. I would have gone myself, but I had a 9 a.m. meeting in Maadi that wouldn't finish until noon. The driver called me from the Citadel to say that not only had he found my daughter's wallet but also her friend Pat's wallet, something that no one had yet missed, but that she would have to go to the Citadel to claim them. We got her to the Citadel to collect the wallets, with much rejoicing, which was the reason that Pat and Emily had to deal with our telephone repairmen on their own. Pat was delighted as well as amazed that the cleaning staff had actually passed the wallets on to the security men that night, not that there was much in the way of cash in them.

All in all a satisfying evening, even if we had to wait til the next day for the final chapter. And if you get a chance to hear Fathy Salama some time, do so. He's worth a listen.