Sunday, June 18, 2006

Barbies in Hijabs

Veil-wearing Barbies (or maybe Barbie knock-offs) in a store window.

A boy, about Ed’s age, on a prayer rug on the sidewalk in front of a tiny cubbyhole of a shop, praying.

Egyptian women express their admiration of Eleanor by trying to pick her up and hold her. She hates it. She has taken to scurrying over to me or grabbing hold of my arm when someone approaches her, hissing. Once she’s sure they’re not going to take her, she’ll smile. Poor little sweetie.

Our day:
We’ve been sleeping in—it’s hard for the little guys to go to sleep with everybody in the same room--so we actually didn’t get everybody dressed and fed breakfast till almost 11:00! Our air conditioner stopped working again in the middle of the night. I asked a different desk clerk and he changed the batteries in the remote that operates the a/c and actually showed me how it worked. It’s been fine ever since. (And tonight they had finally fixed our non-flushing toilet.)

We had a very quiet day. I ran an errand to the Egypt Air offices, working on arranging our flights, and the kids and I worked on our Arabic. Lucy, Ed, Sam, and I learned the numbers up to 10 (they’re even different shapes), and then played some games with homemade cards with Arabic numbers on them—Go Fish and War.

We got kushari again at the place we ate it before and decided that we all like it very much. I kind of ordered in Arabic (using my numbers!). We didn’t get any apple Fanta this time because Isaac was urging us to get ice cream cones. We got ice cream cones and wandered around the tiny streets in our neighbourhood while we ate them. There are people everywhere, on all the sidewalks, selling things. Right now it’s 5 minutes before 11 PM, and the street outside our hotel is noisy with vendors yelling things and cars honking. Isaac and Nora got hissed at a lot, but we’re pretty used to that now. When I went inside the store to pay for our ice cream cones, the kids stayed outside, and the cashier asked where my baby was!

I banished the big kids out to the lobby—they have cushions under a fan by some open windows, and they call it the Bedouin Corner—while I put Isaac and Nora down for a nap. This is the first day we’ve succeeded in getting them to sleep, and they slept hard. Once they were asleep, the kids came back in the room, and Isaac and Nora didn’t stir for two or three hours, even with all our activity around them.

Sam has finished “The Kite Runner” and I’ve started it. Lucy read a book from the lobby that Sam had heard was very good, “Z for Zachariah” and Ruth is reading “Eldest.” Ed is going through the Tolkien books yet again. Isaac is reading “Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile” a lot. Ellie just chews on our books (and I discovered this evening that she has one big molar through!).

We went to the bakery and picked out some pastries stuffed with tomatoes, roasted peppers, and olives and some chocolate cookies. Meanwhile, Sam went around the corner and found someone sitting on the sidewalk selling stacks of pita bread. He bought some for us—they were about 4 cents apiece. We walked to the Nile, carrying our purchases and a couple of big bottles of water.

It wasn’t far to walk, but it was a bit tricky because we had some busy roads to cross. Cairo traffic amazes me. Every big intersection has traffic lights and white-uniformed policemen standing there, but people don’t stop at red lights anyway. They appear to be treated as only the mildest of suggestions. It’s very tricky to cross. You pretty much ignore the lights and watch for a break in traffic and just start crossing. Sometimes it turns into a bit of a game of chicken between the car (usually a Fiat taxi) and the pedestrian. We have had good success with attaching ourselves to somebody else crossing and just following in his or her wake.

Eventually we arrived at the river. As soon as we got there, someone offered us a ride in his felucca, the traditional Egyptian sailboat. I wasn’t sure where else to go, and while he quoted a price that I thought was somewhat high, I finally decided I didn’t have it in me to bargain (and I wasn’t completely sure about whether our large family would really qualify for a lower price). So I just accepted.

The boat was wonderful—a big beautiful sail right above the cushions where we sat. The boat captain, not the man who’d led us to the place, didn’t speak any English, but he was friendly. We sat and ate our picnic on the boat and enjoyed the breeze and the sunset and the sail above us bellied full of wind. It was really pleasant and relaxing. I was amazed at how quiet the river was. We passed several other tourism boats—a couple of feluccas, and some garishly decorated motorboats—and we also passed a coal barge! We went by several big hotels, some beautiful old mosques, and Nile Bowling. Eleanor loved to lean forward and catch the wind in her face. Reminded me of her big sister.

That was our day. Tomorrow we’re going to try to do the pyramids.

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