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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Living in Cairo: Holidays

As I've mentioned before, one of the perks of the Foreign Service is dual holidays: American Federal holidays, and whatever holidays the host government wants to spring for.

For those of you not aware, Ramadan ended this week.  One of the best thing about Muslim holidays is they all last for a minimum of two days, sometimes three.  This year Eid, the feast to mark the end of Ramadan was scheduled to fall on Friday and Saturday, the weekend around here.  And so we made no plans because there was no work off.

Until the week before Eid, when the Embassy gave up the ghost and gave everyone Thursday and Sunday off because nobody was planning to show up to work anyway.  We had no idea that a four-day weekend was coming up, but evidently everyone else in Egypt knew about it because all beach hotels within a reasonable driving distance were booked solid.

So this past weekend, we had three days of fun to look forward to.  The only problem was that everyone else in Cairo had three days of fun to look forward to also.  Despite what the National Geographic may lead you to think, there isn't much to to in Cairo if one has little children.  There is a mall, but it's a long drive away and everyone else will be there too.  The zoo is... interesting.  Al-Azhar park is pleasant.  If there are no Cairenes.  But of course on an Egyptian holiday, there are Egyptians everywhere.  There are already Egyptians everywhere, but on holidays all of the ones that had been in hiding or put up for the summer come out too.

As a rule, I'm not agoraphobic.  I enjoy large cities, the anonymity that crowds bring, the feel of being part of a huge swirling mass of humanity.  But here in Cairo, the crowds bring less anonymitynot more.  I'm not bothered by having one person nicely ask to take my picture, take my children's picture, hold the baby, scare my girls by kissing them, but having fifteen ask in half an hour starts to grow old.

And so holidays, which on anticipation promise so much fun and adventure, turn into anti-holidays.  Instead of going out, we hole up in our apartment, hiding from the camera and kisses.  The only refuge is Maadi House, and so that's what we did all weekend: go swimming.  The children were perfectly happy, and I suppose that's what counts.  I am, however, looking forward to some holidays in the US again where nobody cares who I am.  Which is the way I like it.


PaulaJean said...

The cameras and kisses do get old after the first 10 or so. Can I hope for no holidays when we are visiting? Al-Azhar part is lovely, minus large crowds of Cairenes.

UnkaDave said...

I know what you mean. I get tired of the cameras and kisses here in Raleigh all the time. The next paparazzi guy that gets in the way, I'm going to ride over him with my bicycle.
That's too bad about the holidays, although as a rule, going to beaches, malls, etc., even around here are not as nice as early AM bike rides, fixing stuff, hitting the pool (before your mother DROPPED our membership), visiting family on long weekends.

Catherine said...

About 2 days after returning back to the States this summer, I took the kids to a park. It was so refreshing for the kids to be able to run and play freely and refreshing for me that I could just sit and watch instead of having my littlest kids afraid to leave my side for fear of all the strangers with cameras in their faces. It is nice to be able to go out in a crowd again and have the anonymity.