Monday, 11 May 2009

Knowing Where To Look...

Walk down the right back alley in Cairo, and you can find anything.

It's just knowing where to look...

My week here in Egypt has taken on quite different feel than times past,
And while going into this trip I expected some needed healing, as well as a chance to dive into the refugee community again,
The latter has been very true,
Old friendships have been rekindled as I've spent every day with the students and teachers of 'Found',

However, the healing surprised me.
Cairo was a place in which I invested a lot of my life,
Some of my most profound growing experiences, both spiritual and emotional, took place here,

It is also a place where I dated and later, before my leaving, became engaged.

Months after leaving Cairo, for various reasons, I called the engagement off,
Which in turn lead to a period of both very emotionally and spiritually conflict,

Since then,
Through the wisdom and care of friends and family,
The grace of God,
and very little of my own input,

I feel I have never been stronger,

All that said, I thought coming back to Cairo would bring a flood of memories,
That perhaps, visiting and spending time here, would give me some sense of healing that I may have been missing.

I was wrong,

Wrong in the sense that, God had already allowed the wounds to fully heal,
Instead, He had something else in store for me,

Enter the Khan el-Khalili,
The open air market in the heart of Islamic Cairo,
A place of narrow alleyways, jammed with everything a tourist could ever need,

Pushy sales men, with lines like "I have what you're looking for," and "How can I take your money?!"
Stores entirely devoted to scarfs, shisha pipes, and statuettes,
Partnered with the shoulder to shoulder experience of it all,

Wide eyed tourists are often lead astray, paying upwards of ten times the Egyptian price,

Bartering skills are key, and a little Arabic will get you far,

This is the Devils playground,
This is my favorite place in all of Cairo,
Is that wrong?

One could say my self indulgent side in conjunction with my quest for the seemingly elusive Egyptian healing brought me back here,
I prefer to say God did,

Upon snaking my way through the familiar alleyways, I ducked out of the crowded streets and into one of my favorite stores,
Instantly the shop keeper remembered me and greeted me with a hug,
We went back and forth, sharing forgotten memories and recent ramblings,

Apparently buisness has been less than booming for him,
The sheer number of tourists has dropped astronomically since the recent bombing here,

The violent and isolated act of a single person has had a devastating affect on so many,

As the hours ticked on, I had only one item left to find, and my trusted friend told me just where to find it,
So onward we marched through the narrow alleyways, twisting and turning out of the shopping area,
And as I followed him into the depths of Egypt, I tried to memorize the way out,

"No tourist ever comes here, too far, too hard to find,"

I began to think of those words as I walked past the poverty which ensued,

Apartment buildings which appeared to have been standing since the creation,
Children and cats, together sifting through piles of garbage,
The broken and the weary line these narrow streets,

Perhaps no tourists come because it is hard to find,
but would they come if they knew where it was?

This is not the Cairo that is published in travel magazines,
It is far from the fancy hotels, no tourist bus will fit down these street and there is no view of the pyramids here,

We stopped for tea and shisha along the way,
A tiny alcove with an old, wood framed awning,
Weathered chairs and rusty tables,
The green glow of the minaret from mosque across the alley,

As we passed the pipe, the deafening call from the minaret bounced echoed through the narrow streets,
And I excused my Muslim friend as we went to pray,

As I sat alone, I thought of how I ended up here, tracing the last few months and thinking of the privilege it has been,

My friend returned, and sitting as cockroaches fell from the rotting fabric above, we spoke of family, the power of money, the corruption of government and the influence of religion,

He spoke of how we were like brothers in faith,
And I spoke about the vast differences,

The opportunity to talk so freely here is one that should be coveted,
And as I spoken of things unknown, of Salvation assured, I prayed that seeds may be planted,
Tiny seeds perhaps but with God as the gardener...

We continued on through the streets,
His familys house,
His brothers shops,
Greeting childhood friends,
This is his neighbourhood, and I am welcome anytime,

On the cab ride home, I reflect on the journey that has brought me here, and while it is for a short while, I plan to invest,

I can't quite figure out what the draw to Cairo is, but it's nights like these that help define it,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

1 comment:

The Smith's said...

Very moving blog today! If we close our eyes we can almost picture walking down those roads with you.