From August 16
From August 16
More of our saga from Today.com….
Author Monique El-Faizy moved, with her sons and husband, to Cairo on August 14. She’s there for a two-year stint while working on a book aboutEgypt, but tensions in the country rattled her nerves enough to take the boys and head to Rome while her husband stayed behind to continue setting up their new home. Read the latest on her family’s progress.
Well…we fled. Temporarily.
I’m still not sure it was the right call, although our friends and family seem terribly relieved. The truth is, our little Cairo bubble was as quiet and safe as ever. I’ll admit — I felt edgy every time I turned on the news or heard about another company evacuating employees, but had I not known about those things, nothing in our neighborhood would have indicated to me that we should get out.
A few months ago, I decided to relocate to Cairo with my two young sons, 8 and 12, for two years. I had hit the mid-life skids and was questioning my marriage and my career choices. The book about Egypt I had been working on was almost impossible to write from my home in New York, even with regular trips to Cairo, because the situation on the ground changed too frequently and too completely. My husband — a Brit and former journalist who believes strongly in the value of living abroad — agreed that the experience would be great for the kids and would be manageable with frequent visits. When we made the decision, Mohammed Morsi was president and Egypt seemed to be in the midst of a messy and bumpy transition to democracy. When we got there, things were entirely different.
We picked one hell of a day to arrive in Cairo.
It’s been an exhausting few days here in Cairo, but, overall, good ones. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday looking at apartments in Maadi. The first few flats I saw were a bit depressing—one was very nice, but too small and too expensive for what it was, and the other two had grungy bathrooms and no outdoor space at all. The next day, though, I went out with a great broker named Monzer, and I liked every place he showed me. He made me feel much more optimistic about being able to find something we would all be happy in. It’s a little too early to be looking, though, as some of the places he thought I would like he can’t show until June 1.
All of the apartments we looked at were within two blocks of the school we applied to for the boys, and a few were right across the street. It would be great to be so close for a few reasons. First of all, the campus is huge and has a ton of places to play, and from what I hear it serves as an informal community center, so I think the kids will spend a lot of time just hanging out there. Also, school starts really early—around 8 am, I think—so being close will make it easier for the boys to get to school on time. T always wants to go to bed later, and balancing a reasonable bed time with his need for sleep is a constant challenge.
I toured the school on Tuesday. It’s an amazing campus, and it seemed like a happy place. It’s so big and spread out that it’s hard to get a sense of it, particularly the lower school. I got a better feel for the middle school, which looked fantastic. The kids are allowed to take electives, and there was one in which they design something on computers for the first part of the trimester and then build it for the second part. I think T will be very happy there.
I’m less clear what X’s experience will be like in the elementary school. I’m sure it will be great, but I am mindful of how upset he is to be leaving UNIS and we have been so happy there that I share some of his sadness on that front. I know the school in Cairo will be a wonderful experience, but UNIS has been a really special place for us. T, on the other hand, will be in heaven at the Cairo school, if only because there are ping pong tables in the recreation area where the kids hang out during their lunch hour.
Monday was a big holiday here called Sham el-Nessim, which marks the beginning of spring and dates back to ancient times. We went to my aunt Noona’s house, where the family gathers every Friday, too. She has a big villa with a swimming pool in a gated community in one of the many irrigated-green developments that have sprung up in the desert outside the Cairo ring road—respite for well-off Cairenes looking for an escape from the pollution and grime of crowded Cairo. I’ve been there a million times with my extended family, but this time her side of the family was there as well. What an eye opener that was. I don’t really know any of them. They were great fun and quite different from my side of the family.
I spent a lot of time talking to S and his wife Y, who I think will become friends once I move here. They were both great. S, it turns out, hung out with my brother when he spent a summer here as a 9 year old. He’s been very involved with organizing the Copts politically and started to tell me a bit about what they’re doing. There’s a great story in there. I didn’t have time to get the details, but will revisit the subject with him when I back in August.
Okay. The driver is here. Time to go back to Maadi with my father and look at some more apartments….