one hundred eighty


August 2015

The Pyramids of Giza from 180

From above, small squares are etched into earth’s surface on the left bank of the Nile. The pyramids appear like a mirage through the thicket of smog.  En-route, their peaks dodge and dart out of view, sneaking between high rises, donkey carts loaded with prickly pears and mattresses, camels, tea stands and date palms.  Continue reading “The Pyramids of Giza from 180”


Dusting off the Books

No matter the years, the night before the first day of school is restless. As a teacher, the checklists get longer but the anticipation of meeting fresh new faces and the challenges ahead doesn’t lessen. My mom reminded me of my first day in a Zulu high school, when I attended the wake of the woman whose job opening I filled. Today was an easier introduction, peppered with names like Youssef, Ho Yung, Samr, Thomas and Cheyenne. Some names I could pronounce, others hitting my tongue for the first time. The students were shy and well-mannered and the introductions revealed a series of complex nationalities I had never considered – British-Iranian, Tunisian-Saudi, American-Filipino. Continue reading “Dusting off the Books”

Wandering through Old Cairo

Armed with a tiny tourist map highlighting Coptic Cairo, Jackie and I set out for the north-bound train. The Metro promises a 1 LE ($0.75) trip one-way and the addition of women-only cars to curb the verbal harassment experienced here. Wooden shutters clad the windows to take the edge off the sun, although the ride was steamy. In my knee-length dress, I felt inappropriately dressed in comparison to the women in their assortment of layers and limited presence of skin. I had heard a joke naming Western women’s naked limbs as “whore sticks,” which felt comically appropriate as we waved off the opportunistic paparazzi men, eager for photographs. The ride dropped us into Old Cairo, different to our protected suburb of Maadi. Observing the dilapidated buildings leaning across the horizon and the Friday morning prayers in full swing, we walked in circles through an empty bazaar, a blazing hot formal French garden and, finally, into the cemeteries of the Copts in their protected enclave, built on the foundation of the fortress of Babylon. In addition to stumbling into a funeral, this is what we found in Coptic Cairo:

Continue reading “Wandering through Old Cairo”

Ceremonious Landing

Painted flag on a side street in Maadi
Painted flag on a side street in Maadi

A circle of armed guards surrounds a plane– belonging to the Prince of Kuwait. Squeezed into a bus parked on the hot tarmac, we pour into the blasting, festive Arabic music of a rushed hall. I look for my name on a placard. Within minutes, as I wait for an agent to clear the entrance visa on my behalf, the hubbub is clarified: Egypt is celebrating the opening of the new expansion in the Suez Canal. Continue reading “Ceremonious Landing”

Adjustment: Part I

Airfield at Cairo International Airport

Entering the airspace above Egypt, I keep sliding open the window on my left to catch a glimpse of the landscape. With each turn, the fierce bright light prompts me to immediately slam the plastic shade. Prior to landing as the plane dips lower, the city emerges like an architectural model crafted in clay, all one shade of brown. Continue reading “Adjustment: Part I”

In Transit

Skies of Emirates Airline
Skies of Emirates Airline

Before leaving South Africa, I passed an “Emirates” labeled Boeing 747 shining fortuitously. The extended journey to Cairo via Dubai formed many first impressions. Star-studded ceilings clad the aisles, novel apparatus like water fountains, and warmed face cloths bestowed accentuated attention to detail. Beads of light stretched into darkness above the UAE, featuring intricate, rectilinear compounds laced with minuscule lights. Rushed security queues in Dubai spat me into a plethora of perfume, excessive scarf displays and a capsule of never-ending movement. Continue reading “In Transit”

The Woods

Rietpan Farm, Free State

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…” Chapter Two

Continue reading “The Woods”

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