Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I Went to Egypt and THIS Happened

The Hamza family, our hosts, Cairo
When Doug Baum of Texas Camel Corps and I landed at the airport in Cairo we were met by his friend and brother Adel Hamza. Doug introduced us. Mr. Hamza took my hand and said, "Welcome home, Michelle." That night as we drove to his home we crossed the Nile for the first time and I mentioned that it would be so great to take a boat for dinner. A few days later Adel and Doug told me they had a surprise for me, lots of hints and grins. The surprise was a felucca ride on the Nile with dinner provided by Adel's wife Suad and daughter-in-law Wella'. Everyone all dressed up and so excited. I am teary now just thinking about it.

Wella' and Adel(ito)
I've had lots of questions about safety in Egypt and lots of comments, some from total strangers on planes, about how brave I must be to go to Egypt. You know what? I just got home from my first trip to Egypt. My first trip. I will return. Why? Because for the rest of my life when someone says "Egypt" the first image triggered by that word will be Adel in the airport, welcoming me home. 

Adel Hamza
For me Egypt will not be images of revolution or bombs or tanks. Those things exist all over the planet, all the time. Egypt is working on it, as we all are. My beloved United States of America is a relative infant and we still struggle to define and shape what we call democracy. How can we expect a country such as Egypt with thousands and thousands of years of history but no experience with democracy to get it "right" in 3 short years? How? And who's to say that our version of democracy will be the right version for them? 

With Dr. Mohammed Abd-Elhay at the Cairo International Book Fair

When I think of Egypt the images I see are these: Adel carrying my purse for days on end, beautiful Wella' handing baby Adel to me, giving bosas to baby Adel(ito), watching Abdu and Selma learn to play Go Fish!, Suad patting my knee and wrapping her headscarf around me, Magdy waving from the bakery, Ismael's laugh, Dalia's shy smile and lovely English, Maged presenting me with a bouquet of gorgeous organic vegetables from his farm because I was moved to weeping over his passion for the social contract that is dying in my own country, Salah teaching me to say "falling star" in Arabic, Sabir clapping and singing around the fire, sharing sunflower seeds with Suleiman across the southern Sinai, Khalid ordering fresh seafood for dinner from the market in Alexandria, Mohammed the poet patiently answering my questions at the book fair and signing his book for me. These people are Egypt. And I will never be the same.
With Salah and his family, our Bedouin hosts, Nuweiba, South Sinai
شكرا لكم وافتقد لكم جميعا

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