Shopping Fun

Last weekend we took advantage of a bus to a nearby shopping mall, featuring a Carrefour.  For Americans, the best analogy would be a Super Target or Super Walmart.  This is the store that has departments for nearly anything you might want in your home, though each department has a pretty limited selection.  We picked up several things we'd been wanting to make daily life easier.

We were wowed by their spice and bulk foods section, which was the most attractively designed that either of us had ever seen.  And it was manned by very friendly young men who were more than helpful in suggesting what we might want and offering usage assistance on the mixed spices, like "Chicken Seasoning" (though it has a beautiful Arabic name I can't reproduce here).  Lots of fun.

 Then we made the delightful discovery that our favorite dessert from the other end of the continent, when we were in South Africa, was made here, too!  Same stuff, just a different box.  So we promptly bought a box and enjoyed triple-chocolate crunchy muesli for dessert that night.

Later that weekend our friends Bob and Susan took us to Road 9, a shopping district here in Ma'adi and the location of one of the two vendors of pork meat.  We took the opportunity to stock up on bacon, which was cut fresh from a side, much like deli meat in the states.  (Pork is shunned by Muslims, so stores selling it are scarce around here; only two in the whole city.)


Everyone delivers

We're discovering that here in Egypt, there is a culture of delivery...meaning that nearly everyone delivers.  The grocery stores, meat market, green grocer, and water vendors.  The butcher, baker, restaurants, and even the pharmacy.  But the pinnacle was when I saw this fellow on the street; when I saw this I knew I could ask anyone for delivery and almost always the answer would be yes.


Out of our window

I am loving all the mature trees and shrubberies that abound in our neighborhood.  Although our apartment only just this weekend got its first plant (first of many, in our plans), I've been enjoying the greenery just out our windows ever since we moved in.

Just down the street from our apartment is the neighborhood mosque.  It's a rather unassuming building at street level, but the minaret that ascends above the trees is pretty.

And at night, the mosque is lit up with green neon, making another interesting view!  :-)

Along with the view, we also get to listen to the melodious call to prayer several times a day, if we're quiet at the right moments.  It lends a delightful, gentle, and distinctly islamic feel to our sleepy neighborhood.


Saladin's Citadel

Following our feluca ride, we were treated to a tour of the Citadel of Salah Al-Din, a famous Muslim general.  He built a giant fortress in medieval Cairo, with a mosque inside of pure alabaster (white marble).

To begin with, we paid our entrance fee of 60LE (LE = Egyptian Pounds).  At the current exchange rate of about 7LE/$1, that is about $8.  Then we walked up a set of stairs over 1000 years old.  The stairs are eight times older than my country!  Mind-altering.

The mosque itself was rather dusty from the desert air, so it wasn't as blindingly white as in history.  Our guide said that was deliberate to keep from causing airline pilots and cab drivers problems.  After an admiring walk around part of the perimeter, we headed down a colonnaded walkway to the entrance, where we removed our shoes (in respect for the mosque; an islamic tenant).

Inside the outer section is a beautiful fountain at which devout muslims will bathe their feet (up to the knee), face and neck, and hands (up to the elbow), before entering the mosque for prayer.  As we were not there to pray, we were allowed to skip this step.  Our group attracted quite a bit of attention from the many local school-children who were also touring the mosque.  They were happy to ham in front of the camera and to talk to us to practice their very limited english.

Inside, there are 365 lams (used to be lit with scented oils, now electric) to symbolize the days of the year.  The entire inside is carpeted and is not to be touched by the soles of any footwear.

In the front of the mosque is a stand (on the left) for the imam or sheik (the religious leader) to lead the faithful in prayer.  Following that he ascends to a pulpit (on the right) to address them with a lecture.

After the mosque, we walked around a balcony overlooking Cairo and saw it stretch right to the visible horizon (which is admitted foreshortened by the smog).  The young lads in the bottom center appear distorted solely due to the camera & the panoramic shot; they are perfectly healthy and normal looking in real life.  :-)


Sunset on the Nile

One evening last week we were taken on a Feluca ride on the Nile.  A Feluca is a traditional sailing craft on the Nile;

 ours had a large table in the middle, around which we all sat and chatted while we ate a picnic dinner and watched the sun set. Truly delightful and relaxing.


A tour of the school

Here's a short visual tour of the campus here at Cairo American College.  It's a pretty nice facility, right in the middle of a multi-year refurbishment plan.  We began our tour walking past the middle school library
A bit later we passed the on-campus coffee shop (Juana may have trouble with her goal to stay off coffee with this temptation!  Being in the opposite corner of the campus from the elementary building may make it easier to resist, though.
The center of the campus is a well manicured field for large events and sports.  In the background you can see the elementary building peeking through the trees.
 I'll spend most of my time in the high school building.
 There's also a running track (elementary in the background again) and a swimming pool with a high dive.  The boys have already tried out the pool extensively and report that it's lots of fun.

 They haven't gotten to the playground yet, but it looks like we'll probably spend some time there before long.

Safe in Cairo

Arrived in Cairo safely, after several plane rides.  We recommend Turkish Airlines, especially if you can get on their Comfort Class (price isn't much more than economy and the seats and room are substantially better).

In the Cairo airport we were met by CAC, who facilitated our entry visas, customs and immigration.  It was the easiest foreign entry we've ever had, despite carrying the maximum amount of baggage.  Happy day to arrive at our apartment and crash.


An interesting vision of the future...

As part of the research for a CEET Meet in which I am participating, I ran across this really intriguing site with a vision of education and the change we are encountering right now, with semi-humerous, semi-scary implications for the future. Well worth viewing for anyone interested in or involved with education today.

- Matthew