61. Near Al Azhar mosque, a man sells live chickens and turkeys, which you buy and then take to a butcher (unless you want to do it yourself). One day, he had two ducks. As we walked by, he pointed to one and said, “This is Mubarak,” and then the other: “This is Bashar al-Assad!”
62. An art gallery sits downtown among mechanics’ shops. There is a stray dog who has been adopted by the mechanics and gallery employees, who feed it and let it sleep under the cars. She has a light brown color, but has grown dark from the car exhaust, and when you pet her, your hand turns black.
63. A taxi to the airport costs anywhere between six dollars and twenty dollars. A micro-bus costs forty cents.
64. Most Egyptians have never been to the Pyramids. Like New Yorkers with the Statue of Liberty, Parisians with the Eiffel Tower, or Israelis with the Wailing Wall, they’ve just “never gotten around to it.”
65. Egyptians of an older generation all remember Dallas. For a decade, they joined Americans in following the ups and downs of the Ewing family on T.V. An senior newspaper editor heard I came from Texas, and said, “Texas! Who shot J.R.?”
66. When my friend was sick, we paid two dollars to get to the hospital and thirteen dollars to see a doctor. We waited thirty minutes and then went to his office, rather than waiting in another room as one would do in the U.S. After a five-minute examination, we went to the in-house pharmacy and paid sixteen dollars for medicine, and then another two dollars to get home. The final sum was 33 dollars. I looked up ‘average Egyptian salary’ and a believable figure is 130 dollars a month.
67. A waiter sees my mother’s postcard, bearing a photo of former president Anwar El Sadat in military uniform. “Put that away,” he says, turning it face down. “He is like Hitler to me.”
Photo: The Sound and Light Spectacular at Karnak Temple, Luxor, by Emily Smith