Trip Start Nov 09, 2012
16Trip End Nov 25, 2012
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Radwa looks like an Egyptian version of Barbara Streisand. She fended off over-aggressive sales folk and held Eden's hand when we were walking close to the edge of large drops. She was meticulously honest. Change was given with exactness but when we tried to pay her back for a couple of toilet fees she refused "it all rounds to nothing" she would say. At every chance she offered us information about Islam. "These books are free" she would tell us, "Maybe take some for your friends?" She ran her business the employed a driver and an assistant. It was clear she ran the show. Her professionalism was striking. She was early for our meetings dressed well and spoke with authority. One night she woke up at four am to arrive hours before we would dock just to be sure traffic wouldn't impede her. She was meticulous in her explanation of places. She would offer all of the competing theories and then explain what one was the most likely. She loves KFC and cant figure out why we don't eat it more often.
At lunch we were all discussing how tired we were from the night of cruise ship board revery. Radwa offered that she was also very tired. When pressed to ask why she told us her husband subscribes to an Twitter feed from his home village in upper Egypt and that a group of school kids bus had been hit by a truck. They were all from poor families and she had been up all night trying to round up the medical supplies that the kids needed for her husband to take down to the village. When Eden didn't touch her food Radwa asked if we wanted to have it boxed up for later. I explained how much food the cruise ship had and we likely didn't need the left overs. Radwa had it boxed up for a homeless person.
We had a few trinkets we wanted to buy but had been nervous about shopping. Everywhere we were accosted with people who wanted to offer us a very good price. On our walk to the ship we finally stopped. Eden bought a pen with her own money but broke it seconds later by pushing on Nephertitis face and not the pen clicker. The fatherly shop owner patted crying Eden on the head and reassured her that "We make the glue" and then spent about four minutes holding the head onto the pen while the glue set. He did this while dozens of tourists walked in and out of his shop without having the 'good price" offer. He gave the fixed pen back to Eden and sadly pointed to the crack that was still evident. He sadly told me "Glue not change that" but Eden was delighted that Nefertiti now looked like a recently decapitated zombie. She beamed and took the pen.
While walking back to the car from the pyramids I felt something nudge at my bag. I had tied a water bottle to the bag and I assumed the pull was from the sway of the water bottle. But when I got out of the car I noticed my bags strap had been partially cut through. Somehow someone was able to get close enough to cut a bag and discrete enough that i was able to dismiss the strange tug.
Someone thought it would be worth the substantial risk to try to cut my bad and run--in daylight with armed guards everywhere. I cant imagine what life must be like for that to be a reasonable risk. I have a privileged version of crime. In my world most crimes are committed by people who have food and, generally speaking, shelter. In America it assumed that bad people do bad things. Not always the case here. I'm not saying that it was a Jean ValJean cutting my bag. But I've always been fed and clothed and I've always had my children safe and warm. I cant judge here. I'm simply not qualified.
We know so much about the dead. The living have homes that are remodeled and torn down and more living put up new houses. But the dead have homes that are built and sealed up. Until some point of serendipity leads us to find them. The catacombs in Alexandria were discovered when a donkey fell down a hole. It is a large complex filled that had additions added over the years. You could see the roman and egyptian gods on the same frieze. We walked down hundreds of circular stone stairs to reach the second level. The third level was under water and we could see the still pond in the center of our staircase. I worried about the kids. In Boston Sam got a little frantic about seeing a graveyard and I thought this might be the same. But they trotted along the wooden slates laid down above a standing river and next to the large cubbyholes that held the dead. Fadwa explained in perfect English how the common people were burred here with cheep versions of mummification that didn't last as long. But still Isis stood with her protective wings covering the tombs and the Jackal god held his hands out for the dead to live again.
The Coptic church in Austin Texas has a slogan "We aren't nondenominational. We are pre denominational." We so wanted to see one of these ancient churches. When we told Fadwa this she went hunting on her phone and sent the driver off to find one for us while we explored the catacombs. The keeper of St Marks head was an old lady who looked adoringly at David. She requested a photo of her with him. David is very popular here. Women yell from the car "Very Beautiful!" as he walked down the road in Israel. At the pyramids swarms of teenagers asked to have a picture with him (sunglasses on please). So we weren't surprised with this old lady's adoration. We were surprised with the photo that resulted. I'm sorry I cant get it to post right now. I'll show it later.
St Mark, it would appear, left his head here and his body back in Rome. The old man who told us about it wasn't clear on how it happened. But such things aren't uncommon and we didn't want to ask for fear of appearing rude.