Last night I went to Samantha’s house for iftaar dinner. I was picked up in a taxi by one of the girls working in the same theater. Naomi is Romanian, a dancer, actor and assistant choreographer for the show in which she and Samantha work.
We took a yellow cab down Pyramids road. As always I thought I was going to die – the guy drove so fast and trucks were swerving here and there as we passed rows and rows and rows of stacked-together tenements, a hotel or two, and a department store. People were trying to cross the road and almost getting hit. I had to shut my eyes when we took the same underpass where when I was here in April the taxi I was in almost slammed into the back of a man changing a tire in the bottom of the tunnel.
When we were about two-thirds of the way there a black-and-white taxi came screaming around a u-turn and we had to brake suddenly, the tires squealing and our taxi jerking to one side.
I don’t mind taxis downtown. The traffic is always moving far too slowly for anything really horrible to happen, though I’m sure that I can’t stay here for six months without getting into some kind of accident. But riding any length out of town on the highways and bypass roads is horrible because the driving is just as bad and A LOT FASTER. I have a deathly terror of getting in an accident with an overloaded freight truck while I’m in Egypt.
Obviously we made it through on this occasion, but I could feel my palms sweating as I watched the buildings whizzing by on my right. I would’ve done better to look in the other direction because when I finally glanced over that way what did I see?
The pyramids at sunset. Oh. Hello.
Then suddenly we got off on a smaller road and they disappeared, but they are visible from Samantha’s flat on the top floor with a beautiful wide balcony. We watched the Pyramids Sound and Light Show do its razzle-dazzle and then sat for hours on the balcony, talking mostly about the show Samantha and Naomi are involved in and a boy Naomi wants to get involved with.
Samantha’s husband and son were also there and it transpired that Sa’eed, her husband, had done all the cooking. We ate iftaar in the living room before retiring to the balcony, whereupon the men disappeared leaving us three women to gossip and giggle and bitch as we liked. Oh – Ted the fat, happy golden retriever also stayed with us.
Naomi and I got there around 6:30 and didn’t end up leaving until nearly 2 AM! Those are fairly standard hours for those participating in Ramadan, plus of course Samantha’s clan is all involved in theater and music so they keep odd hours anyway. There was actually quite a lot of traffic along her street into the wee hours and I got a good shot of the road full of late shoppers with a pyramid lit up in the background.
I had a cup of Egyptian-style tea and showed myself up by accidentally drinking up the leaves when I got to the bottom. I always try to drink tea the way it is habitually prepared in the place where I’m staying. In England I have it with milk and sugar, and here in Egypt with lots of sugar and no milk, the leaves loose in the bottom of the cup.
Samantha told us that the evil black cloud my roommates and I saw the other day was in fact a sandstorm; they’d seen it rising from the desrt on the other side of the pyramids and had to shut all the windows when it came. It’s not the season for it, but as we all know weather patterns around the world have been odd lately. Apparently sandstorms get black for two reasons: one, when it reaches the smog in the city that makes it all sooty, and two, the sand cloud blocks the sun in the sky so there just isn’t enough light bouncing around inside for it to look tawny yellow.
Eva, my partner in asthma, and I agree that we’re both still feeling the effects of the storm two days ago. Even though the air looks clear and bright now it still feels hard to draw breath. We agreed that if this happens every week it’ll be hard for us to get out and about, because our lungs still feel it even a few days later. This is downright worrying as it’s going to be awfully hard for me to do research if I can’t leave the house.
But on the small victories front, I found out what the mysterious, giant square block of a building with no windows up on dozens of concrete stilts with a mesh portico on top of it over in Mohandiseen is. It’s a water tower!
I think my favorite moment last night was when we were sitting on the balcony all together and the accent lights on the pyramids had been turned off. They were still barely visible as dark, yellowish outlines against the purple-black sky. A few wispy clouds moved lazily overhead, and a single airplane sailed silently over the pyramids in the night, winking out briefly when it passed behind the tip of the largest one.