PrevNextTop85-04-09Letter to Alan from Israel - Cairo, Egypt

April 9, 1985
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Alan,

Business first. In my notebook I read:

Alan owes me: 12 Sw Fr
I owe Alan: 380 Fr Fr + 2.5
Alan owes me: 11 English pounds

Using the rough measure of 3 Sw Fr, 10 Fr Fr, and 1 English pound to the dollar:

-12/3 + 382.5/10 - 11 = -4 + 38.25 - 11 = $23.25 that I owe you

The exchange rate changes daily but 4 or 5 days ago I saw this in a bank window in Jerusalem:
Fr Fr92.0990.95
Sw Fr331.28327.20

Assuming the rate we'll use is the average of the sell, buy rates:

I have no calculator and none to borrow at the moment (now I do!). I know how you like to calculate and estimate. Please check my figures if you wish.

So I owe you exactly 22.56 Dollars. The estimate of $23.25 was pretty good. I'll round it up to an even $25. I'll tell my parents. The check should arrive soon. Nice doing business with you!

I've been travelling too long. I've lost my thirst for seeing magnificent, ancient, beautiful, wonderful, exciting, different amazing things. Tomorrow I return to Tel Aviv, pick up a ticket, go to airport, fly to London at 5:15 am. Stay in London and with Elliði, Ráðhildur, Tumi & perhaps with some people in the north for about a week, then to Mexico, Cuernavaca where I can sit. For 2 months. In addition to learning Spanish I intend to make many friends and learn the city well. Make it home.

Cairo was painful. I saw the pyramids, the Egyptian museum, the Cairo tower, the open air markets, several mosques. I made some friends, met some locals (2 young boys - got their Arabic addresses), and found the people to be very kind and welcoming.

But the city was so crowded, confusing, dirty, traffic incredible, map useless, streets unnamed, everything is broken or failing in some way.

Reaching the SERVAS people from Cairo proved impossible and too expensive so I split to Tel Aviv with plans to return to Egypt to another part (Luxor or Alexandria or Aswan) but after being in Israel for a few days I decided to not return to Cairo even to pass through but to fly from Tel Aviv to London directly. Arranging the ticket proved difficult and I had to settle for returning early - earlier than I had planned. I decided to assert my wealth and buy my way out of having to return to Cairo. $135 ticket and I should get some refund on the other.

I really haven't “seen” Israel. I didn't go to Eilat, Masada, Ein Geti (sp?), Jericho. I stayed a week in Jerusalem, stayed with a SERVAS host here. SERVAS people in Galilee were nearly impossible to contact by telephone. When we finally connected it was too late and they had never received my letter. Oh well. I will write them again and perhaps we can become friends by mail. I've “seen” the Old City in Jerusalem fairly well, the Jewish, Muslim, Christian parts. Went to two excellent lectures on being Jewish in Israel entitled “The many faces of the modern Jew” and “The Israeli, The Jew and their moral dilemmas”. Out of room! Heck. I'll use another page.

I'm sure your parents have been to Israel and shared their trip with you but I'll give you a few impressions. Jerusalem is a strange mixture. Jews of all kinds - absolute orthodox to completely irregirreligious. Muslims with their characteristic dress, prayer callers over loudspeakers calling people to prayer 5 times a day. Christians of many different kinds in all manner of robe. This is a very holy city for 3 major religions. The “holiness” is spoiled somewhat by the throngs of tourists and tour groups which results in lots of tacky trinket sellers.

The Old City (and much of the new) is built in limestone. This common building material gives a real unity to otherwise different architectural styles.

Saturday (actually sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, yes?) everything shuts down and a blissful quiet descends. Israelis work 6 days a week and on the Sabbath they rest rest.

Everywhere one sees soldiers (not always in uniform) carrying their assigned machine gun. In Egypt policemen carried big rifles mainly for intimidation purposes I hoped. I asked about the soldier's guns and apparently they are totally responsible for them and so they take them everywhere they go. Sort of like a mother and child.

How did Mary like the tea set, and the perfume? Did you tell her what I said, “There's only one thing she would like more.”? Have you sent the book to Garret?

We had quite a time, eh? Didn't we have fun?! So many places. Such contrasts. The old and the new. The high and the low. Hot, cold. French, German, English, American. My jabbering, my stuttering, my silence. Being together. Being alone. Worrying about petit monnaie. Spending lots of bucks. Being lost, knowing exactly where we were. In retrospect I apologize for my grouchiness at times yet I can understand why. (Did I choose my words carefully enough?)

I am sitting under a tree on a big block of limestone outside Jaffa Gate in the Old City. I was just offered a hard boiled egg and a matzoh cracker by a family sharing a Passover meal behind me. I refused, then accepted when she explained that it was Pessah and they wanted to share their meal. Nice tradition. Yesterday I was asked if I would join a fellow in “some Hebrew word”. He explained that Jews pray 3 times a day and always with someone else. Always together. I didn't know this.

Jusquá Fresno,
Au revoir mon ami,

[[ I also should have included 'Shalom', huh? ]]

[[ Visited Bethlehem and a fellow named Mohammed offered to walk with me and show me the way to a Greek Orthodox monastery called Mar Saba.


PrevNextTop85-04-09Letter to Alan from Israel - Cairo, Egypt