M Y O B

The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

RETURN TO CAIRO

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Cairo Location

Cairo is located at the start of the Nile Delta

My three months in Ecuador passed quickly. I was always busy, either tramping around on horse-back in the mountains, or riding the G&Q (and the Cuenca branch, in a rail-bus), or carrying-on in El Ejido park. The work turned out to be entirely for nought: when the seismic team arrived in Ecuador, shortly after I departed, they took a look at plans and exclaimed, “You’re going to put a dam on the Boca and create a reservoir at the foot of an active volcano? You’re out of your minds!” The plan was scrapped in its entirety, and other sources of water were found for Quito.

One thing amused me: I had been studying Arabic while in Alexandria and Cairo, then suddenly found myself surrounded by Spanish. In Arabic, the meaning of any word is conveyed by its consonants: vowels are just connectives and can generally be “whatever works”. But in Spanish, vowels are vitally important! Soon after arriving in Quito, someone was describing some fracaso in which his brother had become embroiled. I intended to say, “Que pena” (how sad, what a pity…). But I came out with “Que pene”, which literally means “What a penis!” This broke up everyone within earshot. I decided (knowing I would return to Egypt) to learn Spanish on another trip!

I spent another year in Cairo, and generally found it quite dull. When I needed some “action”, I took the train to Aswan and spent my excess per diem on the local fellows. I was on a felucca with several of them the night that Anwar Sadat spoke to the Knesset: all agreed this was a good thing for him to do, but of course Sadat was too close to being a true statesman, so he had to be eliminated: this occurred shortly after I left Egypt for good.

My last assignment in Cairo involved working seven days a week for nearly four months. This wore me down, and when it came time to depart, I had planned to fly to Nairobi and take the train to Mombasa, just as a recreational trip. At the last minute I decided I was too tired to even enjoy that, and a Filipino engineer working with us suggested I go to Manila instead. Since I knew a couple who were working there, I sent off a letter to them and re-routed myself to Manila, via Athens, Bangkok, and Bombay, arriving late afternoon at the old Manila International Airport. The place was thronged with people, among which there was no sign of my friends. A taxi-driver found me a place for the night—a brothel, as it turned out—but I was exhausted, so that didn’t matter. I found a nice hotel the next day and called my friends, who were astonished to hear from me: my letter would arrive a week after I did!

It did not take me long to decide I had died and gone to heaven: there were more gorgeous boys per square unit-area in Manila than in any place I had been, and I looked forward to sampling as many as I could. But that is for another page. Meanwhile, here are just a few photos taken in and around Cairo. Most of the time there I was too busy to take many pictures, and Cairo is not really a photogenic place.

Cairo 1As long as you were far enough from it to be able to ignore the “floaters”, the Nile was quite beautiful. The floaters included entire dead animals and all sorts of other flotsam!

Cairo 2Cairo traffic was horrendous. You’ve heard of the “horny Arabs”? The only traffic rule was to sound the horn as often as possible!

Cairo 3Another view of Cairo’s traffic problem. Too many cars, too many pedestrians, too many everything!

Cairo InterurbanThe train-sets in use at the time had been built in Japan: maintenance was scarce and riders were plentiful, including chaps seen here clinging to the rear of a moving train.

Cairo PanoramaTaken from some high spot, this panorama covers about a third of greater Cairo; the estimated population then was 13 million, but no one really knew how many people lived there.

Ebonet 1This ebonet allowed me to ride Cairo busses without having to speak a destination. I rode them a lot, but only during “off-peak” hours, when they were actually quite handy and fast.

Freight TrainThis beat-up freight train was photographed on the outskirts of Cairo.

GizehA view of the Sphinx and Cheops Pyramid at Gizeh. I spent many hours trying to imagine building these monuments. To this day, no one is certain how it was done.

LicenseMy Egyptian Driver’s License.

Old PalaceThis derelict old palace in Cairo attracted my attention: I thought it would be fun to restore it. I doubt it has survived.

Pose at SphinxThe “Gang of Four” at the Sphinx. Of these, I am the only one still living.

Road to GizehThe main road to Gizeh, and to the Desert Highway to Alexandria, about 230 km distant.

Friends who have been back to Cairo say it is a much-changed place since I left it in 1982. So be it: I have no interest in returning there! Especially after spending time in Manila, which quickly became my favorite place in the world (even though there were no steam trains there). I’ll see if I have any photos from Manila to include on my next page. There may not be any!

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July 25th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

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