Continuation of First Working Trip to Cairo, Egypt

NOTE - My Journal ends here. The trip back home was known to be arduous due to the time schedule. A flight left Cairo at 6 am but to clear customs you had to be at the airport at 4 am. This meant that you had to leave your room at 3 am. Which meant that you should get up at 2 am for a shower and coffee, and baggage removal. My reservation unexpectedly ran out at the Nile Hilton on the day before I was scheduled to leave. The front desk called me about 1 pm and said that my reservation had expired, I appealed to Allah but the Hilton people prevailed. At 4 pm Mohammed showed up and he said that I could find another room for just a few hours somewhere; so off we went out of the back of the Nile Hilton to find another room.

At the appointed place he asked the fee: four dollars a night! The desk man asked where I had been staying - Mohammed replied the Nile Hilton Hotel. The man replied that he didn't think I would like this place! Mohammed replied that I would only be there for a few hours. I paid the {four dollars (a couple of pounds) and we went back to claim my luggage from the Hilton. The $4 room had been recently painted about sixty years ago. The bed had been recently made, about 6 months ago - but it appeared to have been constructed from wheat! The toilet did not work -I had to purchase a roll of paper anyway because it was not provided! There was a large beautiful window opening out onto the street - you know that the traffic never slows in Cairo, and the horns never stop there, even at 1 am. I came in about 11 pm and just laid on top of the beds not sleeping at all. The desk called me at midnight saying the taxi had arrived. I told them that I didn't want to leave until 1 am.

They then said that the taxi driver would wait until 1 am but that he would charge me to wait. So I just hung up the phone. Finally Mohammed graciously came by at 2 am and gave them a good Arabic piece of his mind about the place. I didn't understand a word he said, but we got to the airport just fine. By the way, if you ever travel through the airport there don't forget to bring your own toilet paper! I returned to Atlanta via Paris and JFK. My plane was delayed in Paris and I missed my flight to Atlanta. It took me 27 hours to get home!

Second Working Trip to Cairo, Egypt

I returned to Cairo again in the summer of 1983. This time Dr. Kagan went with me to deliver the SPSS package to the Ain Shams University Medical School and to work on pathology issues. We received the computer package just a couple of days before leaving and were quite worried that we would have to go without it due to flight reservations. An edited portion of my journal follows:

September 7, 1983 - Left Atlanta at noon with Dr. Kagan for NYC. We stayed in the first class lounge until departing for Rome at 6:45pm. We arrived the next day at 2pm Cairo time. Coming in we flew over the bent pyramid and the three main pyramids and could see them quite well. The cannibalism of airplanes was still evident, with pieces lying around the runways. We were met in the airport by Prof. Sherif and whisked through customs. I saw several US Air Force pilots there with their C-141 aircraft (there was a problem with the Sudan being invaded by Libya at the time). We took a Mercedes to the Nile Hilton where I got a room on the back side to avoid as much noise as possible. I was very tired and stayed in bed 12 hours but still found it difficult to sleep especially with the incessant horn blowing in Cairo!

September 8, 1983 my birthday! -We ate breakfast (4$LE) in the Nile Hilton Ibis Coffee Shop and afterwards went to the American Embassy to pick up our per diem (mine was 1052 LE). At the embassy we went to the commissary, book store, and beverage store. The commissary had only frozen meats. Later that morning we went to Ain Shams and delievered the tape to the computer center. I found that they had no systems programmer and that they would need to call Data General to install the SPSS package. They would try that afternoon and let me know tomorrow. Later we went back to the embassy to get our per diem. That afternoon we played tennis with two other CDC people who were staying at the hotel. I did pretty good considering that I had not played for at least five years! That evening I went back of the hotel, the traffic noise were still unbelievably loud. Dr. Kagan wants a side room but I wanted to stay on the quietier? side!

September 10,1983 - Woke early and had a great breakfast. I have scheduled a trip to the sound and light show tonight at 7pm. I went to the computer center and learned that DG won't be able to come until Sunday so I scheduled a lecture on Sunday and another meeting (the Arabs work: 6 days a weeks taking off Friday only). This morning Mohammed El Shawarby and I worked on completing the biopsy forms and had them typed up. In the afternoon we went to the Khan El Khaliki bazaar, where I bought gold earrings, copper plates, alabaster vases and some dresses for Katey. The bazaar was extremely crowded with narrow streets. We could not find a place to park so we parked in a no parking zone. This seemed to be common and Mohammed was not at all alarmed when he received a ticket!

That evening the driver picked us up at the Hilton at 9pm for dinner at Prof. Haliel's. Dinner is served quite late in Egypt, about 10 p.m.. This custom really bothered me because you don't finish until midnight and you don't have time to digest your food before retiring. You go to bed with a very full, uncomfortable stomach. We drove in the Mercedes to a dark alley with much garbage and water in the little street. Going up two flights of stairs, we entered a flat with a den, kitchen, and dining room. The flat was well furnished. The living room had Victorian furniture: gold bright wooden trim and bright red cloth. Egyptian pharonic objects abounded with an out-of-place tapestry scene from a forest, which they wouldn't have in Egypt! We all had limeade. At last we began to eat at 10 p.m. - rice, beef tenderloin, sausage, turnip greens and goulash. I ate lightly on the advice of Dr. Kagan. It was said that the government purchased frozen meat to give to the poor (you would see ads in the paper to buy such meat). We had a delicious desert pineapple cake and something like fruitcake. Another phusician from Ain Shams came about 11 p.m. and began to eat! They and their daughters had just returned from the USSR (Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev) and seemed to like it very much). So I stressed the negative points, they stressed the positive points and we had an interesting conversation! We left about midnight and returned to the Nile Hilton.

September 11, 1983 I woke up with severe diarrhea and took lomotil. It had to be that Egyptian food last night! At Ain Shams I reviewed a typical SPSS program with Mohammed and a female doctor. We wrote a program for the bibliography data making a lot of changes because had not used SPSS for so long {I used SAS, mostly]. I scheduled to give lectures at the computer center over the next couple of days. We are scheduled to go to the bent pyramid Sunday morning and I will meet with Data General on Sunday afternoon/evening. About 1 p.m. we returned to the Hilton and though l still had diarrhea, I did not want to waste the afternoon. So, I walked over to the Egyptian Museum of antiquities just behind the hotel. Back to that incredible Tut exhibit -- still as unbelievable as ever. However this time the funeral mask was there (it was in the US on my last visit). It is indescribable -- easily the world's most beautiful object. The gold - work is so smooth. It is exciting to just stand near it! Everything about the museum seemed unchanged, the guards in white uniforms and the hundreds of objects seemed not to have moved an inch!

This evening we went to Prof. Sheriff's residence at 7 p.m.. It was near Ain Shams in a very nice district Zamalec. His flat was in a guarded building with a full time attendant. The flat was large and well furnished. The living room had paneled walls, high ceilings, and well upholstered empire style furnishings. We began dinner but I ate almost nothing as I still had diarrhea. We discussed the USSR and Egypt and, in particular, the lack of freedom in the USSR. Sheriff's wife is a pediatrician. Their house is probably the best one could expect in Egypt except for the very rich. Sherif was the personal physician to Anwar Sadat; he said that he had been to Russia several times and had seen nothing! Once the police met him at 7 AM and asked him to pack his bags; Sadat, his personal advisors and Sherif went to a secret underground airport near Cairo and flew to Russia. In the meeting Sadat was very angry and they had an argument with the Russians and they flew away immediately!

The couple returning from Russia remarked on the huge statues there. Kagan and I remarked privately that the largest columns in the world are in Egypt but that they didn't seem to appreciate this!

September- 12, 1983 - Friday an Arab holiday - I lay in the sun by the pool and went to the sauna! This evening at 7 p.m. I went to the sound and light show at the pyramids. This show started at 8: p.m.. The seats are just in front of the Sphinx. It begins with the history of the first pharaohs: Chephren and Cheops. The sphinx relates the history of Egypt though poems, letters etc. The story ends with Champoleon deciphering the hieroglyphs (they awake and speak with a thousand tongues and come alive once again!). The sounds come from many different speakers and the sphinx and pyramids are illuminated with different colors of lights for a very beautiful effect. In one scene the pharaoh is showing the populace what a good shot he is with a bow and arrow. His chariot rumbles across the desert and his arrows fly swiftly across the landscapes hitting their mark! These sounds are portrayed very realistically because they all come from different locations and seem to move across the foreground. This is a show definitely worthwhile! On the way back I met a man from Albany GA on the bus! He was investigating an airplane crash.

September 13, 1983 - This morning I gave a lecture at the Ain Shams University Computer Center. Attending were Mohammed and the lady doctor from the pathology department, a professor from the computer department, and several programmers (all female, two in Classic Arab dress). I reviewed SPSS for them, and explained a sample data set and program. They appeared quite enthusiastic. I copied the SPSS system instructions and left them for review before Data General arrives tomorrow at 6 p.m.. I will also leave all of the SPSS books in Egypt.

Mohammed, his wife Nafissa, and I went to the newly restored Citadel this morning. I had seen the Citadel on my previous visit but no restorations were in progress then. This area is a former fort with huge walls and towers. It is located on a hill at the east side of the rivers close to the mosque where the Shah of Iran was buried. Inside the fort are several mosques the most largest being the mosque of Mohammed Ali. He was a former ruler of Egypt (1804) who was very powerful and would have apparently have taken much of the near east if not prevented by the British. This large mosque was constructed starting about 1814. The living quarters had been opened and furnished. Life size mannequins showed the court in operation. The other mosques are perhaps 500- 800 years old. A tremendous amount of restoration had taken place here. The walls of the fort are at least 50-75 feet high but previously you had only been able to see just the top 20 feet due to the sand and garbage piled around them. Indeed, even inside the fort there was lots of sand etc. Most of this had been cleared away and the place looked much better. They were also restoring the mosques by washing the walls etc. We went inside some of the mosques, removing shoes first. There were carpets on the floors, no seats, and huge circular steel chandeliers made of rings with many lights; but the lighting was still dark due to the huge area indoors. It was very hot. We went back to the Hilton Ibis shop and I bought all of us sherbet ice cream and tangerine drinks!

At 5 p.m. we walked to the new Marriott hotel for dinner. The Marriott is about a half-mile north of the Nile Hilton (almost across from the new Ramses Hilton) but on the west side of the Nile. It consists of new towers on two sides of a restored palaces which was built for the British royalty upon the opening of the Suez canal. It is magnificent! There is a huge foyer which is exquisitely furnished and decorated. Many sitting rooms are as well done as Versailles and Windsor palaces for example. The back is a garden with small statues and pathways and a swimming pool with terraces around it. You can rent a spot on these terraces for sunning. The Marriott is completely Islamic! The Egyptians love its and I can see why! For dinner Mohammed and Nafissa had steaks (about l0-15 dollars) and I had sea bass and a local Stella beer. I felt that this must be a very expensive dinner for them because one of the female doctors at the school told me that she only made about 200 dollars per month. Mohammed told me that doctors who could set up their own clinics made about 5-10 times that amount. I split a desert with Nafissa. Interestingly, Mohammed has stopped smoking and drinking since my first visit (not even an occasional beer). Smoking is pandemic in Egypt, especially among the male doctors. I returned to the Nile Hilton after that excellent dinner. Tomorrow (Sunday) to Meidum at 10 am!

September 14, 1983 - Dr. Kagan, two doctors from the Ain Shams Medical School, the driver (who spoke no English), and I tried to find the bent pyramid and Meidum today. What an experience! We drove out towards Giza and past the three pyramids. The driver then followed an unmarked road into the Egyptian desert. After a few miles it became apparent that we were on some sort of military reservation! Finally we had to stop and were surrounded by Egyptian soldiers with guns! There was much discussion in Arabic and we turned around and drove back Dr. Kagan and I didn't know what had happened but we knew we would have to find another way. No one had a map! They seemed to be missing from Egypt! Finally we drove back to Giza, down pyramid avenue and turned right on the road to Sakkara (about 2 miles towards town). We followed this road until it deteriorated badly along the canal after about 15 miles. In this area there were farms, mud huts, donkeys, camels, cows, and dogs, you name a domestic animal - and we saw it! After passing Sakkara we saw the bent pyramid and turned right to get closer. Surprise! There was another military reservation and we couldn't pass down that road! It turned out that there was some big-shot coming so the soldiers wouldn't let us go down the road. So we weren't able to get very close to the bent pyramid.

We decided to try to find Meidum (the fallen pyramid) by traveling further south down the canal. We stopped and asked a couple of camel drivers along the road: one said 4 km and another said 60! Kagan chastised the Egyptians for- asking such men- "You don't ask a man who has never been two miles {from his house}." No maps. No knowledge of roads. No one knew for sure. When they are outside of Cairo they are lost! Finally things got so bad that we just turned around and gave up. What a day! The doctors seemed to know Europe better than their own country. We continued on to Memphis (on the left going towards Sakkara, south). There we saw the huge stone statue of Ramses, about 30 feet long and highly polished. Most of his legs were missing but the torso was intact. A few other statues were around but there was not much to see but an alabaster Sphinx. Then we went to Prof. Maklid's home at 4 p.m. and had an excellent meal of roast beef and grape leaf masha. His house was well furnished in the Victorian style.

At 6 p.m., Sunday evening, I met with the DG computer people; they promised the computer tape by tomorrow. If all goes well, they will try to convert the tape to a readable format and we will try to install and run SPSS. What a day, chasing pyramids and not being able to get to them!

September 15, 1983 At 9:30 I went to Ain Shams in the Mercedes with our faithful driver who spoke no English. I met Mohammed and picked up the tape to take to the computer center Data General has the new tape. On Tuesday Mohammed El Shawarby and I drove through Heliopolis and Nasser City. This area consists of huge 20-30 story apartment buildings and very wide avenues. It is a very nice suburb of Cairo. We went by the tomb of the unknown soldier which is under a big open pyramid perhaps 60-70 feet high. Anwar Sadat was assassinated just across the street from this tomb in the parade review area, which is covered like a modern stadium. He is buried apparently just next to the tomb of the unknown soldier. The assassins, driving a jeep, turned off the main road just in front of the review stand which had a four foot Wallow They shot him and a number others by firing over the walls I had been by this same tomb during my visit in 1980. We next went to Mohammed's uncompleted flat, in a new multistory buildings consisting of about one dozen units. His mother had given him the flat. The flat consisted of a bedroom, den, living room, dining room, kitchen, and bath, all very modern rooms. There were 4 beautiful chandeliers. Below the buildings in the dirt cellar, lived the porter and his family, cooking rice on a sterno-type little stove. He had at least 6 children, including one cute little girl, perhaps 3-4 years old. It was heartbreaking to see this family with nothing more than a cookstove, a few blankets, and just a few clothes I gave them a pound or so through Mohammed objected.

The standard of living in Egypt is extremely wide. There are palatial homes in Heliopolis with several Mercedes. Many apartments have Mercedes parted outside, but slums with no water or electricity abound. These consist of little more than mud huts or extremely old buildings with crumbling walls. You will see plenty of these on the drive to the pyramids or along the canal to Sakkara. It becomes quite painful, when you see whole families living in the dirt with only a few rags and a cook stove. You see mud-brick houses where people live next to animals. These people live much the same as their remote ancestors .

Yet, there is indescribable beauty in the details and perfection in the Pharonic remains. Was their ancient society rich and powerful and fairly well to do across all strata? Or are we only cognizant of the upper crust? Has the Egyptian society deteriorated under the Islamic influence, as I suspect? I don't know, but I suspect that the pharaohnic times are represented best by 15-17th century Europe with Courts Kings, and Queens.

This afternoon I got some sun at the Nile and bought agate necklaces, silver earrings, and a silver cartouche.

September 16,1983 -We finalized the Schistosomiasis biopsy forms this morning. Data General had converted the tape but said there was one bad file, so I will have to take the tape back to the US, get it fixed, then mail it back to Egypt!

September 17,1983 - Mohammed, Nafissa, and I left for Alexandria about 10 am in their little Honda. We drove up a road by the Nile into the delta and gradually west. The road was four-laned all the way but towns, cars, people, and animals were congregated right up to the side of the road so you had to be very careful driving. The speed limit was 55 and it was enforced according to Mohammed. The usual auto traffic was mixed with camels, carts, donkeys, and buses. A lot of irrigation was being used in the delta area with oxen and donkeys used to turn the pumps for the water. The soil appeared to be extremely fertile with very tall crops such as corn. There were many small towns along the way, a lot of construction being mud and brick.

After 3 hours we came into the city of Alexandria with about one million people. There is little English here, all signs are in Arabic. The city is strung out 20-30 miles along the seacoast. The Western tip has the [Qait Bay Fort] Citadel, a medieval fort at the site of the ancient Pharos light house, and the famous library destroyed by earthquake and fire respectively. Two huge sea walls guard the bay which must be at least ten miles in diameter and roughly circular, making a really spectacular port. It is a magnificent site. In this area are many hotels, shops, and sidewalk cafes. Most of the buildings are concrete and tall, about 5-25 stories. As you go east, more beaches are encountered, until you get to the former palace of king Farouk [Al-Salamlek in Montazak Palace] and the train station.

That afternoon I got a room at the Windsor Palace hotel which was not first Class, but definitely livable for $20. Afterwards, we went to the Greco-Roman museum featuring many objects and statues from 2000 years ago. The statues exhibited a Roman influence not seen in other Egyptian museums. The statues that represented folded garments were especially exquisite and I thought that they resembled those of Michelango. They had several tiles and frescos which were very colorful and elaborate. Unfortunately picture taking was not allowed. Afterwards we went over to the east side of the city to see Farouk's palace. It has a high wall surrounding it and at one point you encounter the train stations that he used. You can't go in the palace but there is a big park where you can walk and a first class hotel that is located next to the beach. We went to the bar inside and had limeade which was great! The whole area is well-maintained, the beaches are beautiful with a lot of development alongside them in the style of the palace. There are many other large buildings, apart from the palace which are also in this royal style. It was obvious that this is where the rich of Egypt go to have their fun!

There was a road leading out over a big seawall, which protected the beaches. A small island was at the end of this wall and a royal bridge with towers was out there. I went up one of the towers which had circular stairs It appeared that none had been there in years. The island contained several villas which appeared to be used in some diplomatic role. They were of white marble with statues in front and small courtyards. Mercedes were parked in front with special tags. The area abounded with ancient history as there were ancient stone columns lying about. I saw several stone sarcophagi. You could pick up rocks which appeared to have been used in ancient buildings The place was exhilarating due to the tremendous sea hitting the walls making a great noises. With all the beautiful villas and royal bridges and the ancient remains I did not want to leave.

Later we went to a Greek fishhouse which was next to the sea and located at the site where Admiral Nelson defeated the gigantic French fleet in 1798 (the battle of the Nile). Nelson won because he maneuvered between the shore and the French fleet where they did not suspect him. The French had their cannon pointed to the sea, instead of land. This fishhouse was completely open, showing the lack of need for any kind of heating or cooling. It was done attractively in blue and white paint on concrete with pictures of Europe inside. I ordered sea bass. You picked your own fish from their cases and they broiled it. I was still suffering from stomach troubles so I didn't eat too much. Mohammed and Nafissa had fish and shrimp. Apparently searches were still being made in the area for ships lost in the battle of the Nile and excavations may be made at some time. I got back to the hotel about 8 p.m. and tried to sleep but as usual the horns bothered me.

September 18, 1983 - My last day in Egypt! Mohammed and Nafissa picked me up at the hotel at 9:30 I had no breakfast but drank a couple of colas because of continuing problems with my stomach. We went straight to the Qait Bay Fort [citadel] to see the excellent naval displays. This fort was contructed in 1480 on the ruins of the Alexandria Lighthouse. It is similar in style to those seen in San Juan, Puerto Rico (San Cristobal ,El Mora). There were excellent models of many ships. There was also a model of the great Pharsos lighthouse. The original was about 500 feet high, equivalent to the Washington monument, which must have been very difficult to build at that time. It was finally destroyed in a great earthquake and nothing remains. There is also an oceanographic museum at the fort which contains skeletons of a great many fish, sharks, and a whale. This part was very crowded by kids aghast at the size of the whale and the ferocity of the sharks!

S. Jay Smith

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