Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patrick’s last few days in Cairo (Sept. 4-7)

Truthfully we didn’t do very much during Patrick’s last few days here. We lazed around the house all day on Friday after church and most of the day Saturday…maybe even all the day. Our Israel trip was exhausting for everybody.

Furthermore, we went from what felt like a nice, temperate climate—one that had me wishing for a sweater some evenings—to…this. Heat and sand and dust and smog. Being in Cairo is exhausting.

Sitting around got boring after a while, even if we weren’t feeling quite up to doing much yet. Or maybe I was the only one who was feeling that way. I can never tell.

Andrew started classes on Sunday, so I took Patrick out to see some more pyramids. There are a lot of pyramids here. We stopped in Saqqara and visited Djoser’s pyramid—the oldest known hewn-stone building in history. Patrick went up and touched it, but Rachel and I just stayed and played in the sand.

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There are several other pyramids in the area, 15 or 16 I believe, but most of them just look like piles of dirt. We didn’t feel like doing very much exploring, but we did go visit the tombs, which are neat—full of hieroglyphics—and saw that King TiTi’s tomb is open for exploration. Patrick almost went down inside but the “guard” wanted to go down inside with him, which meant baksheesh.

When I pay 30 LE per person to get into a tourist attraction I have hard feelings about giving baksheesh to enter every single thing there is to see, so he didn’t go down, which is just as well since we were planning on visiting Dashur next, anyway.

There’s a lot to do at Saqqara that we haven’t actually done. Maybe one day we’ll break out the old guidebook and head out there for a more in-depth visit.

We were anxious to get finished with today’s itinerary, though, since Rachel was being such a pain. A cute pain, but a pain nonetheless. She was whining about everything. At one point she threw herself against a wall and refused to move, so I just stood nearby while Patrick went off on his own for a while and Rachel dumped sand in her lap and pouted.

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When I told her it was time to go and started dragging her towards the Djoser’s funerary complex…and the entrance…she was very reluctant to go and screamed the whole way. Once we were inside the funerary complex, however, she brightened up and ran into every niche there was to be found—this time laughing the whole way. Silly girl.

Dashur ended up being a quick visit as well. There was no way I was going inside the Red Pyramid, not being this far pregnant and with a toddler in tow, so I sent Patrick up by himself. He bounded up the pyramid half-way and then slowed to a more human pace. We thought he’d be down there for a while because, although the smell of ammonia is dizzying, it’s interesting; and it’s no ordinary workout getting up and down the ramp, either.

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Rachel and I had barely busted out the crackers, though, when Patrick was making his way back down to us on shaky legs.

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It had been a bit of a disappointment to him as half the lights weren’t on leaving some of the more interesting chambers pitch black. The main chamber was lit, so he made it to the stairs to go to the upper chamber, but that was completely dark. He said he felt his way along the wall, inching his fingers and toes along, but when he felt an edge he decided he had better turn back. There was no telling how far he was going to fall since had just just climbed up three flights of stairs!

Poor guy, but at least it was an adventure!

He was ready to go back to the apartment after hiking up and down the pyramid. Like I said, it’s no ordinary workout, so even Patrick, who runs and plays ultimate and volleyball almost daily, found it challenging and was a bit sore the next day…which was his last day here with us.

He wanted to go down to the Khan to pick up some souvenirs; we obliged since we hadn’t been to the Khan in a while. It didn’t take us long to find what he was looking for: prayer beads and a prayer rug. Both were offered at decent prices and neither vendor was really open to bartering, because they had already offered us decent prices. Patrick tried to get Andrew to barter for him and Andrew brought down the cost of Patrick’s prayer rug from 18 LE ($3.25) to 16 LE ($2.85). Patrick wasn’t impressed.

“We’ll teach you how to barter someday,” he said to Andrew, clapping him on the back.

If only he knew how often we barter. We fight for every taxi ride we take, every piece of fruit we buy, every single day of our lives. It’s pretty obvious when you’re given a fair price and when the vendor is being outrageous. This vendor gave us a very fair price, truthfully.

Sometimes bartering just isn’t worth it. Or even possible.

At least he didn’t want to buy anything really touristy. Then he could have seen the silly vendors in action.

“I don’t know what you want but I have it! Everything’s free today—free to look! This authentic camelhair [whatever] is only 500 LE.”

Ha, yeah, right.

Anyway, after finding his final souvenirs we walked toward Bab Zuweila for the first time instead walking down Muizz street from Bab al-Fetouh like we normally do. It was a short, but interesting walk.

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Plus, I found the muumuus maternity dresses I’ve been looking for (like the one I’m wearing in these pictures)! Andrew doesn’t think I should call them muumuus because apparently muumuus connote sloppiness and he thinks these dresses are cute. For me, though, it connotes comfort and I’m quite the comfort creature lately. Now I have three of them, which means I am almost always in a muumuu now! It’s great!

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We all went into Bab Zuweila and onto the roof, but Rachel and I didn’t venture into the minarets. And with good reason, we found out. Somehow I don’t think Rachel (or I) would have been able to handle the “stairs,” or lack thereof…

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Andrew said that he doesn’t know how Patrick handled it after doing Dashur the day before. Andrew’s legs were complaining about the stairs; Patrick’s legs must have been absolutely traumatized. Stairs after Dashur are not the funnest things.

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Patrick climbed all the way up between those little pillars…not to make Mom nervous or anything…

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They were really high up. I felt that Rachel and I were already really high up. She kept running around on the roof and I kept screaming at her to stop. There was a railing…of sorts…but I wasn’t convinced it was going to keep her from toppling over the edge if she crashed into it at full speed.

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Rachel noticed some goats that lived on the roof of one of the apartment buildings. She was really excited about them and even stopped running for a minute to count them:


Good counting, baby girl, good counting. We’re doing our job as parents if she grows up completely confused, right?

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In truth they were a little difficult to count because they kept wandering in and out of their “shelter” and we couldn’t tell if they were the same ones or different ones from where we were. It didn’t really matter because Rachel wasn’t really all that interested in finding out how many there were and started running around after getting to eleven.

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Sometimes it puzzles me that people still live in building like this, but then I remember that our apartment isn’t exactly a gem, either. Who needs building codes? Infrastructure? No thanks—totally overrated. Why use mortar when you could just have your building collapse on you at any minute instead?

And how about those public drinking fountains? By all means, wear your little flu mask and make me fill out a health card at the border…just don’t take away the public drinking fountains because they are perfectly sanitary. Yum, yum.

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*Sigh.* I’ve been feeling so cynical lately. Living in Cairo is hard sometimes, especially when you’re battling bureaucracy (like at the beginning of every semester). Things seem so backwards sometimes. Pointless, even. But that’s life here.

I think Patrick enjoyed wandering around the streets downtown for a while, though, but we were all glad to get back home and off our feet. I don’t know how we ever managed in Jerusalem, walking all day long from early morning until late evening. We hardly lasted two and a half hours under the Egyptian sun, which is just as well because Patrick’s flight left early-ish (if midnight is early) and he had to pack his stuff (and we had to pack a suitcase for him to take home for us).

Andrew went to class; Patrick and Rachel and I lazed around and read and watched Dora until Patrick’s cab arrived. Rachel and I waved goodbye until the taxi was far enough away that people started staring at us like we were crazy (the standing tradition in my family is to wave until the departing vehicle is out of sight) so we stopped and turned around to go inside and I started bawling. And then Rachel started crying because I was; she was desperately wiping the tears off my cheeks and begging me to stop, but I just couldn’t. These pregnancy hormones seem to be taking over more and more everyday!

But we’re surviving. Every morning we have to talk about Uncle Patrick, where he is, why he isn’t here anymore, where he lives, and what he’s doing before we can do anything else. It takes Rachel a while to understand that visitors aren’t permanent fixtures.

Like when she was listing things she was thankful for in her prayer:

“And Mommy. And Daddy. And Uncle Patrick. And Joseph…where is Joseph? Mommy! Where’s Joseph?”

“He doesn’t live with us; he just went to Israel with us. What else are you thankful for?”

“And the food.”

But like I said, we’re surviving. We’re kind of getting on a schedule of sorts, although Andrew is still on Ramadan schedule for another week (at least this year it was only two weeks instead of four), we are getting used to the days that Daddy will be gone. Sometimes Rachel begs Daddy to go to school, which I think is funny and he doesn’t. What can I say? Staying home with me is fun…

I’m pretty sure all I’m doing is rambling now. I was ready to go to bed hours ago. Hours ago. Why am I still up?


  1. Maybe you are still a kid at heart, and you really don't wanna go to b-e-d!

  2. Sounds like you had a good visit with Patrick. I'm going to admit that I'm a little jealous. You guys did a lot...and Rachel knows him.