World Clock

Cairo, Egypt


One Month in Cairo: Katie




Feb. 16


Greetings again!  Lots to tell about.  Much will probably be repeat info if you’re following Mike’s blog (http:\\, but I’m sure we’ll emphasize different things.  Mike avoids having too much about the girls on the blog, too.  They’re doing okay.  Maya seems to enjoy herself more than Ivy, although that’s typical at home, too.  I think Ivy is settling in a little more at school, though.  Maya is picking up various words (and numbers) in Arabic.  I’m pretty much limited to recognizing the numbers, after think too much about their names.  Here’s an interesting bit of trivia.  We use Arabic numerals (who wants to work with Roman ones!), but they use the numerals from India now.  Not sure when or why the switch was made.  The basic systems is still the same (read left to right), just different symbols.  1 and 9 are the same.  Enough of that.  Maya has started Girl Scouts (GS USA, just overseas).  This Saturday she’ll be going to Thinking Day.  I remember seeing something about this at home, but it’s never been a big deal.   Different troops are doing different countries.  Hers is doing Indonesia, where her leader is from.  She has several friends, though she does more with Alva (actually spelled Ailbhe, but I’ll continue to use Alva).  They exchanged Valentines in her class on Sunday.  They took a field trip to the Egyptian museum a couple of weeks ago.  She’s starting a project on rocks and minerals.  Spelling tests are very individualized.  The teacher had tested her on a bunch of spelling words the first couple of weeks.  I’m assuming her spelling lists are taken from the words she missed.


Ivy is doing a little better now.  They have a band concert Monday night (all bands).  They’re further along than her class at home, but she says her band at home is better, probably because they have classes of like instruments (her teacher is only teaching clarinets her period), whereas here half the band meets at a time and it is a mix of all instruments.  This trimester is about over, so it will be interesting to see what takes the place of Health in her schedule.  Another art class (ceramics or sculpture, something 3D) will replace Drawing and Painting, which is by far her favorite.  She enjoys Egyptian food a lot.  Her favorite is koshary, which is mixture of rice, spaghetti (or little thin spaghetti), little round pasta tubes, lentils, garbonzo beans, a red sauce (usually separate and similar to spaghetti sauce) and little fried onions (like Durkees).  She also likes hummus and the grape leaves things that every country seems to claim to have invented.  She’s tried lentil soup (with lemon) and tamia (Egyptian name for falafel, not sure on spellings).  She doesn’t like foul (not sure on the spelling, pronounced like fool, and basically mushed beans—I didn’t care for it either, though maybe from a restaurant and not from a can would be better) or French fry sandwiches (French fries in a pita with ketchup or ketchup-like sauce—I did like this one, hey what’s not to like about it!)  Sorry about the rambling sentence. 


Okay, now on to activities.  The weekend after the pyramids, we went to khan-i-khalili, which they claim is the world’s largest outdoor market (Mike says the Grand Bazaar in Turkey claims the same thing, but you get the idea, it’s big).  The girls liked that.  They counted something like 70 cats while we were there (they running total is around 210, many having been counted multiple times I’m sure to and from school; their favorite is Sir Jonathan Graytail, who unfortunately was not looking healthy last time we saw him). 

Anyway, the market is pretty touristy (you see the same things throughout the market, all geared to what tourists would want), at least the part we were in.  We did notice that the quoted price (or starting price) dropped the further you got into the market.  The girls got little camels stuffed with sawdust and little scarab beetle things.  We ate at a restaurant with great hummus, and Maya tried and didn’t like koshary, although she likes to crunchy onion things on top. 


The next weekend we went to see Grease in the theatre at the girls’ school.  Not a spectacular production, although they probably have a limited talent pool to draw from.  We all enjoyed it. 


The next weekend’s activity was a tour put together by Mike’s school to a Coptic monastery (established in the 4th century) in the Wadi Natrun (sp?) area of the desert between Cairo and Alexandria.  Coptic basically means Egyptian Christian.  Monasteries developed in Egypt, it sounded like as a way for hermit-types to help each other out.  One of the priests showed us around.  We heard very little of what he said, but there was a professor who explained stuff on the bus on the way there and back.  What was the most interesting in a way was how many families and people where there.  The professor explained that the monasteries are gathering places for Copts to come and just be themselves (surrounded by other Christians) on the weekend.  There were some groups listening to speakers, but mostly people just seemed to be hanging out.  The other interesting thing I found out is that to join a monastery you have to have a college degree.  On the way back we stopped at a rest stop—not like rest stops at home—there were places to eat, shops, of course restrooms, and a zoo.  The zoo was quite small and reminded me of old time zoos—felt sorry for the animals, but like I said, luckily it was small.


Last weekend we accompanied Mike to a 5K race through the girls’ school at Wadi Digla in the desert outside of Cairo.  Mike thinks wadi means depression or something like that.   Anyway we rode in busses into a canyon.  Then we climbed up the canyon walls to the area where the route was set up (shown with arrows made with flour) and plastic markers.  The girls were a little grumpy at first, but as we walked around and climbed (we weren’t completely out of the canyony part (I know that’s not a word)) they enjoyed it.  Just under the crusty top there was really fine sand.  There were also shell fossils around.  We went out to the desert and found shell fossils!  In the distance you could see some of Cairo (the newer part on the plateau) and if you climbed up some you could see some of the older part down in the valley).  I even heard the call to prayer echoing in.  I think we had more fun than Dad even.


The other thing we do on weekends is check out a movie DVD from the girls’ library (Mike & I also check out books) and watch it on the laptop.


Mike’s classes are going well.  They are both small.    I’ve been cleaning the apartment and figuring out what to do for supper.  The girls have been eating lots of plums.  I’ve been disappointed in the variety of produce.  Most of the fruit comes from elsewhere—some apples even come from the US.  One thing I won’t miss is having to soak the produce in bleachy water.  More veggies are local.  Nothing too exotic though at our local stores.  I did accompany some women to a market area on the “Egyptian” side of Maadi (we live in the “foreign” side), and got a large root ball thing that I have no idea what it was.  It was described as being like potato.   I boiled some pieces (very unappealing) and pan fried some.  Those tasted much like French fries.  I doubt I’ll get it again though because it was VERY hard to cut.  What I’ve made mostly falls into 3 catagories, tried and true recipes from home (Karen, I’m trying out some of the ones you gave me), new recipes from home that I selected because they had ingredients I thought I might be able to find (much of my guessing was incorrect though), and new concoctions I’ve thrown together from what I have.  One turned out pretty good, kind of like an Indian sloppy joe in pita.


There’s lots of birds in the area, although little variety.  I’ve had fun though identifying the new ones (house sparrows are one of the most common, I had to chuckle when I saw them—come half way around the world and the first bird I see is a house sparrow!)   The local version of the “pigeon” is laughing dove, although they’re more like morning doves at home in that they don’t flock.  Have also identified common bulbul, chiffchaff, hooded crow (Ivy has named the “one” at school Ashes), white wagtail (it bobs it’s tail a lot).  The “coolest” is the hoopoe, looks a little like a big orangy woodpecker (especially when flying, but it feeds on the ground).  It has a long beak and pointy crest out the back of it’s head (which sometimes fans up when it’s excited).  I’ve also seen one Nile valley sunbird, pretty little bird with long tail and yellow chest.  Sorry to bore you with bird, but it’s been a highlight for me.  Another thing


It’s beginning to get warmer, time to start pulling out the short sleeve shirts.


Still don’t have the internet situation worked out, run into a snag, so letters will probably continue to be long and far apart.

466 comments to One Month in Cairo: Katie

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