It’s a huge city, the most densely populated in the whole world. You would think it difficult to get lonely but I know, if it wasn't for the friends I have made here, I would be (I'm used to seeing and chatting with at least 300 women in class every week back home!!!)
People in Cairo (possibly in the whole of Egypt) are very good at keeping in touch with their friends and family. There is usually something wrong if someone hasn't phoned their mum at some point through the day to see she is ok, even if they live with her, saw her in the morning and will see her again at night. The same goes for the rest of the family and friends. Mobile phone texts and calls are very cheap here and everyone one you meet (even people living in the tombs in the 'city of the dead') seems to have a mobile. Landlines are a different matter- although the call is cheap getting a line in the first place is the tricky bit. It can take up to a year to have a line installed in your house! Oh and then often you share it with someone else- you're not supposed to, but crossed lines are common. The numbers change often too- so it's common to try to call a hotel and get someone's house instead. Makes for some interesting conversations when you are enquiring about bellydance shows!
So, friends are always calling and texting to see if you are ok and to chat. It's lovely (although often hard to get work done) and feels strange when you are used to using the phone less frequently. The society is very community based rather than individualistic and I guess this is just one way that is represented. People do a lot for each other too, not thinking twice about driving someone somewhere or helping them in whatever way they can. A common thing for someone to say is 'ask me if you need anything, anything at all'- of course when you go back to them they don’t always fulfil their promise- but they always say it. It's impolite not to! But then you will get people going totally out their way for you too- like getting up at 4am to drive you to the airport so you don’t have to get a cab. Or as also happened to me, lending you money when your wallet was stolen (2 years ago) On that occasion I had 3 offers of money from people, including the hotel receptionist offering me his visa card and pin number to use as I needed until everything was sorted! Beyond hospitable!
Thank you all my friends in Cairo for helping me feel included and cared about so far from home. And thank you MSN for being such a fabulous invention, enabling me to talk with my own friends and family back home often too! Since I'm doing my Oscars speech here- thanks too for all the emails of support and encouragement from all my friends and students in Scotland- it does really help! I'll finish this blog before I cry..........!