Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

January 10, 2010


Filed under: BONUS! — Kaddee @ 6:32 am

For those who have been to Cairo, the traffic is… utterly indescribable.

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(**Previous picture of Cairo traffic deleted at the request of its owner** Above left: from http://www.stanford.edu/group/ccr/blog/2009/10/traffic_in_cairo.html; above right: from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/444/eg13.htm)

Between the pedestrians, the blackandwhite taxis, the other drivers, myriad delivery scooters, the police “directing traffic” (often while sleeping), the occasional donkey carts and bread boys (who carry pallets of bread on their heads while riding bicycles) and complete lack of or, at least, lack of attention to anything that resembles “rules of the road” it makes Cairo a very interesting place.

It is not unusual to see 4 or 5 cars abreast on a (nominally) 3 lane road.  Some of them may be driving in reverse, to get back to the exit or side street that they missed.  And even MORE interesting is how NORMAL all of this seems after having been there for a  while.

Seattle’s “traffic” is laughable after Cairo.  And, more to the point, it is difficult to understand or navigate.  People stay in lanes.  People stop for pedestrians.  Jay walking is a ticketable offense.  No-one uses reverse on the highway.  Sidewalks are not for parking, and pedestrians in the street confuse Seattlites.  One would think that these rules would make it easier – but, in my view, they prevent actual forward progress from happening.

When I see Seattle “traffic” I see this:

whereas when I see Cairo traffic, I see this:

We are modified by experience, and you can never TRULY go home.  I think my views of traffic may reflect this.

Kullu zahma. Ana mabsoota, awy!

December 22, 2008

Christmas in Cairo means…..

Filed under: BONUS! — Kaddee @ 2:35 pm


Cairenes will recognize this name. Others will need to be informed. Garagos is the name of a small town outside of Luxor that is renowned (at least in Egypt) for their pottery.

Just 25 kilometres outside Luxor lies the small town of Garagos. It is the heart of a thriving pottery industry started by two French monks in the early 20th century. The pottery that comes from Garagos is very charming and in high demand. And getting it at the source means getting the best price! Always nice eh?

At the site of the pottery workshop – also a monastery and built by the renowned architect Hassan Fathy, by the way – we get a guided tour showing us the process from start to finish. And then we dive into the shop and the storeroom, a real treasure trove of ceramic goodies.
From: Travel to Egypt

I was not introduced to the Garagos pottery exposition/sale until my second Christmas season – but I have not suffered from that set-back! Two years of going to the exposition has filled my cabinets with beautiful pottery.

These are my purchases from this year!

July 2, 2008

Unusual opportunities

Filed under: BONUS! — Kaddee @ 10:36 am

One of the “draws” for coming to a place like Cairo, and a large(ish) university like AUC, was the access to unusual events and opportunities. I’ve been calling these posts “Bonuses” because in the realm of my life in Cairo, that is how I view them. They are unexpected and wonderful additions to my experience here – and are not readily available to all who visit.

A few days ago, I received this e-mail:

My dear colleagues,

I am going to play a short, informal recital on the harpsichord this Monday, June 30, at 8 p.m. in the Falaki Studio Theater (in the AUC downtown campus, room 312 of the New Falaki building, at Falaki and Sheikh Rihan Streets). The balance of the concert will consist of music for harpsichord of Scarlatti, Bach, and Couperin. Gala El Hadidi will also join me to sing a few arias of Monteverdi and Vivaldi with harpsichord continuo.

The harpsichord in question dropped out of the sky about three weeks ago, on loan from an extremely generous benefactor. Since then I seem to be spending most of my time playing it, as opposed to getting any actual work done. That being the case, it seemed to make sense to invite you all to a recital in order to better acquaint you with this marvelous instrument.

I hope you can join me and Gala on Monday evening.

How often does one get invited to a harpsichord recital? And then, being joined by a singer to “sing a few arias of Monteverdi and Vivaldi”?

I have to admit, I’d never heard a harpsichord being played. I’ve seen them in museums, but to have a friend actually PLAY one was fantastic. The selected pieces emphasized both the strengths of the instrument, and the versatility of the musician. The singer had an incredible mezzo-soprano voice that filled the small venue with sensuous sound.

June 26, 2008

Jazz Masters @ Giza

Filed under: BONUS!,NSTIW — Kaddee @ 10:14 am

15 February 2008

Along the lines of “I can’t believe it!” NSTIW- sitting at my desk at AUC, when an e-mail pops up (GOD I hate Outlook) saying that one of the Uni offices has FREE tickets to see the Smithsonian Jazz Masters playing an outdoor concert IN FRONT OF THE SPHINX in Giza! Yeah – REALLY!

So I texted Jack, did not bother to wait for his response, and headed over to the office to get tickets. The were “First come, first served” so I went quickly! When I got there, they had a HUGE stack of tickets, but only allowed one person to get 4 tickets – so I got 4. (I had contacted AJ on the way over, and she asked for tickets, if I could get ‘em).

I got tix for all of us! (Unfortunately, a significant number of our friends did not manage to get tix – Sorry Guys. Apparently “important” people were allowed to PHONE IN ticket orders, even though the e-mail said you had to go in person.) The concert was the day after Valentines. It was a mixed day, weather wise, with breaks of bright, hot sun and clouds threatening imminent rain. Luckily for us, the rain never came.

The concert was OUTSTANDING. A marvelous collection of classics (Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald etc.) as well as more “modern” classics (Quincy Jones).

I managed a couple of pics with the point-and-shoot, and a quick video of the piccolo piece which many of you may recognize. Sorry for the quality :)


Sorry for the head in the way

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THE VIDEO WORKS!!! This is my first attempt at video on the blog, and…..I’m not convinced it will actually work!

June 24, 2008

“Off the beaten path” tombs at Sakkara

Filed under: BONUS! — Kaddee @ 12:43 pm

16 February 2008

Another BONUS was a recent trip to Sakkara, where we DID NOT go to the Step Pyramid of Zoser. Dr Alain Zivie, an archaeologist and visiting professor at AUC, has been working on the “Lesser-Known Tombs” of Sakkara. His discoveries have included the (potential) tomb of Maia – the wet-nurse and governess of King Tut, and the “cat tombs”, a series of tombs that were re-used in New Kingdom times and after for the burial of mummified cats.


We began the trip with a stop in the Sakkara museum of Amenhotep. Although we have been to Sakkara a number of times, this was the first trip to the museum. Unlike the Egyptian Museum, this is a wonderfully planned and executed museum!

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It was a very cool trip – and not the kind of thing that one can do on one’s own.

Dr Alain also brought us to the site of the Dutch Mission, who were finishing up the season on several 18th Dynasty (Akhenaten-era, Amarna-style art) royal tombs.

These guys figure out which pieces of alabaster go together and reassemble ancient jars and vessels!

The buckets of bones were my favorite, but I’m sure, no-one is surprised by that!

We wound up the trip with a stop in Memphis – the ancient capital of Egypt. Not much is left there, but there are some spectacular statues – including a limestone colossus of Ramses II lying on its back inside a visitors shelter.

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April 4, 2008

Lucky Girl

Filed under: BONUS! — Kaddee @ 6:46 pm

4 April 2008

Frequently one has opportunities thrust upon them, merely by chance, right-place right-time, connections, whatever.

I realized today that I have had a number of these while in Egypt, that seemed “normal” due to the circumstances, but really aren’t. I’ll eventually catch up with posting some of them, but I’ll start with today.

Jack is doing some weekend volunteer computer work for the Giza Plateau Mapping Project / Ancient Egypt Research Associates. This group is under the direction of Mark Lehner – “THE GUY” when it comes to the Sphinx and much of Giza Plateau over the last 30 years.

Mark Lehner showing how the sedimentary rock “dips” in the region of the Sphinx

Today, Mark did a “Giza Quarries” tour for the group members – and I was able to go along (Thank You, Jack!)! We walked the site, by each of the three main pyramids and looked at “each hole for each pile” (quarry for pyramid).

Mark showing us the “Hole” for the pyramid of Khufu (not in shot)

We were out walking hiking (hard) for about 3 hours, in the midday heat (I think it was about 25 or 27 deg. C and brilliant sun). During the entire tour, Mark Lehner was striding off in different directions, explaining over his shoulder what he and other eminent archaeologists/Egyptologists think, or thought, or were completely wrong about at some point, in regards to the geology, carving of the blocks and building of the structures. It was incredible!

Mark IN one of the lateral channels used for carving out the large foundation blocks
Mark indicating the square “lever sockets” used to “snap” the stone blocks out of the formation – note the lateral channel just to the right of the line of lever sockets

I won’t look at the plateau and its features the same way EVER again. Whole vast areas of “uninteresting waste” now have meaning in the history and building of the necropolis temples. Even after all the tourist trips to Giza – today made me slack-jawed all over again.

I am a lucky girl (I won’t discuss my intense jealousy at the last one of these tours that Jack got to go on – WITHOUT ME! You’ll have to read about that on Jack’s blog)