Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crying with Obama in Cairo

Was lucky enough to spend a few days in Cairo , for a seminar. My third brief visit. I was told that this tower was built by Nasser and funded by an American bribe in return for not building the Aswan Dam, which of course he eventually built anyway. Other than to look attractive (it also lights up at night) it serves no apparent purpose. Early Wednesday morning, this was the view from my hotel window. But most of my attention was on CNN and I found tears running down my cheeks during Obama's victory speech. The Egyptians, like nearly everyone else, were heartened by his victory

There are an estimated 20 million people living in Cairo - a quarter of Egypt's population. 100,000 of them live in the cemetary. Noisy, congested and dangerously polluted, Cairo still has the buzz of a great city. Forget about pedestrian crossings. To cross the road, you have to wade into six lanes of honking old cars and hope for the best.

Food is brought in by employing a variety of integrated transport systems.

Found this beautiful old Pontiac (alongside a Morris Minor and a 1950s Jaguar all well preserved) not far from the hotel.

The Manial Palace (now a museum ) is said to have been built for Prince Mohammad Ali between 1899 and 1929. The palace was given to the Egyptian nation in 1955. Prince Muhammad Ali was the first cousin of King Faruq and the younger brother of Khedive Abbas II Hilmi. So now you know.

Casual conversations in Cairo revealed, worryingly, that Mubarak's regime is disintegrating and no-one knows what's going to happen when he exits the arena. But no-one seemed overly perturbed. The Egyptian people have been around for a long time and stoically and cheerfully survive everything their chaotic country throws at them. As long as the the Nile flows undisturbed through Cairo's heart they will somehow survive this hiccup in their history too.

On my last night in Cairo I went to jazz concert supported by various European embassies. These Nubian frame drummers from Aswan played with a great Cuban band.

No comments: