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Faith Kaplan with an Egyptian perfume merchant in the khan el khalili


Alexandria Synagogue


camel market , with Faith in the middle[Editor's note: This one is a beauty]


Faith Rides Horsey!

 
FAITH KAPLAN: THE SANDS OF TIME-MEMORIES OF MY TRIP TO EGYPT

Faith Kaplan, Nov 21, 2011

November 20th was the 30th anniversary of Hart’s and my first date. We discovered we had much in common. I was planning to finish my BA and travel through Europe and Hart regaled me with stories of his recent adventures abroad. After dinner, I went back to his place to see his photos, and I met my mother in law for the first time; she was the same age I am now.
I left for Europe the following autumn. Hart came with me and we travelled throughout Israel together for three weeks. Hart returned to work, and I hopped a boat to Greece. I spent two months crisscrossing Europe, meeting wonderfully interesting people. There were two Australian girls who seemed vaguely familiar. Once we established our landzman connection, they asked me whether I was feeling “Jewish company starved”. I hadn’t been away long enough to miss the company of other Jews, but the idea of it stuck with me. In those pre-Chabad days, one went to synagogue on Friday hoping to be invited for a Shabbat dinner. European Jewry was on high alert because of the recent attack on the Rome synagogue by Palestinian and I wasn’t allowed inside the Antwerp shul. A kind man invited me home for dinner without checking with his wife, and we communicated in Yiddish. Connecting with an older couple on the strength of being a fellow Jew in a strange land was a profound experience which I try to encourage by hosting visitors at our Shabbat table.
When I returned to Israel – to write the LSAT, of all ridiculous things- I went on a jeep tour of Sinai and met Danny, an American student who agreed to travel with me to Egypt. We took an Egged bus from Jerusalem and arrived in Cairo 12 hours later. I slept through most of it, but was awake for the crossing of the Suez Canal.
Hart had loaned me his red satin Canada travel jacket, guaranteed to prevent Europeans from mistaking me for an American. Egyptians called me “Hey Canada “ or “Hey Canada Dry “ for the three weeks I was there. This helped me make a career decision on the train from Cairo to Luxor. Danny and I were dozing in first class, (they would only sell Americans first class train fare), when we heard someone whistling the Old Spice jingle. Suddenly, Eugene from Detroit materialized, as surprised to see us as we were to see him. Our chattering woke up the locals, and to mollify them, Eugene led the train car in a rousing rendition of the Coca Cola song. Sing along with me! Coca Coooola (clap twice), Pepsi Cooooola (clap twice), Royal Crown Cooooola (clap twice), Schwepes Coooola (clap twice), 7 Up the Uncooooola (clap twice), Canada Dry (finished, no clapping). Soda pop ruled the world, and I was hooked on brand marketing.
We three travelled from Cairo to Luxor to Aswan to Abu Simbel to Alexandria with side trips to places I can’t remember. People were friendly, curious, and forward. Mysterious fellows in business suits chatted us up on trains, peppering us with questions. Horseback riding at sunset by the pyramids, with the tour guide whispering “Arab men ride like stallion” the entire time. Don Juan didn’t own the horses, and we ran away when the owner showed up and began shouting. We toured the Valley of the Dead on mules with an American couple from the South. At one point her donkey spooked, and the boyfriend drawled “Wow, Jane’s ass is really moving” as her donkey vigorously trotted away. She did have a big bum, and it was jiggling, but I still thought it was exceptionally rude of him to comment on it. Months later, I realized he meant her donkey was really moving, not her bum.
Conan the Barbarian was showing in Alexandria. The manager unlocked the doors, and pulled us into the theatre to wait for the movie to start, leaving the other patrons standing outside in the January mist. He showed us to the best seats in the house, and I used the cleanest woman’s washroom in Egypt.
Not savvy to local customs, I was constantly menaced by roving hands, and remember the bus ride from Cairo to Giza. The bus driver pointed to the tiny space behind his seat where I was to stand so I wouldn’t be groped! We wandered through the sound and light show at the Pyramids as though we were in a scene from Moonraker. Egypt was wondrous. The poverty was eye opening. The lack of sanitation was surprising. The noise in Cairo was unrelenting. The colour, sights, smells, and sounds were exotic, and I was intrigued at how the modern and ancient lifestyles existing side by side. Women squatted on the sidewalk in jalabiyas, begging, as western-dressed women in high heels walked by oblivious to them. I had the most intense, exciting three weeks, and was constantly reminded to be grateful that I was a Canadian woman with access to modern dentistry and social mores.
My 8 months away were magical. I was exposed to new people, new ideas, 25 pounds worth of new cuisine, new customs, new languages (donde esta la stacione?) and the conviction that sane people are pretty much the same the world over, even if our clothing and food are different.
I hope the situation in Egypt settles down soon; I want to share my trip with Hart and the kids. I want them to eat pigeon (tastes like chicken), sail down the Nile on a felucca, watch the sun set slowly and then suddenly drop like a stone and suddenly it’s pitch dark, eat at Felfela in an alley with a monkey on a chain who helps himself to guests` dishes, explore the Pharoahs’ tombs, take in the camel market at Daraw, and fly back to Israel on a secret Air Egypt flight.
Going through my photo album, I cannot believe how time flies.
 
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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