Ritualistic Divan, 2006
Some day I hope to go to Egypt. I don’t know exactly why I feel so compelled to go there. I’ve felt drawn to Egypt in a way that I haven’t felt pulled to other places. Asia, for example. I’m sure I’d find much to love there. But just based on my gut reaction, Asia will probably go on without me.
Egypt, on the other hand, has the Nile and the pyramids. It’s a country with wonderful music, light and history as old and colorful as you could imagine.
I grew up poring over an ancient set of encyclopedias, especially the “D-F” volume, which in its coverage of Egypt included a series of photos—they called them “plates” in 1941—of the pyramids along the Nile. These old encyclopedias were printed long before the Aswan high dam was built. So all the pyramids and temples were still in their original places. Historians and archaeologists of the day probably didn’t have half as much about them as we do today. But the story of what I saw and read in that encyclopedia was still enough to hook me for life.
Through the years, I’ve had to get my Egyptian fix through literature and motion pictures. Most of the latter are pretty contrived. Last night, though, we watched Cairo Time, a movie that came out last year starring Patrician Clarkson as an American woman who comes to Cairo to meet her U.N. aid worker husband for a vacation. Only he’s delayed and doesn’t show up until the last five minutes of the film, by which time she’s fallen in love with an Egyptian man who was formerly her husband’s work associate.
The love story’s pretty predictable and the movie’s actually very quiet for a film shot on location in such a noisy city as Cairo. (The quiet amidst the chaos of the city turns out to be a metaphor for the woman’s loneliness.) The director took a little creative license here and there. And it’s not quite the love letter to Cairo that David Lean’s Summertime is to Venice. But Cairo Time is still a wonderful movie for someone who wants to get a taste of the life of Cairo.
My wife isn't keen on the idea of Egypt. She's hung up on the squalor, the poverty, the political turmoil, the noise and a language neither of us understands. Needless to say, she didn't grow up with her nose in the "D-F" volume of the 1941 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. The beauty of Cairo Time didn't make her any more interested in visiting Egypt than Slumdog Millionaire made her want to go to India. So I guess this might have to be a journey I'll do on my own. Mind you, I haven't taken the first step to arrange it. But some day I just might.