Candace Bordelon 02 March at 17:33
The first time I went to Egypt was June 2005. I went with the TWU Dept. of Sociology and the UNT dept. of Anthropology. I brought my friend Rebecca Hardman who is a bellydancer and happened to have just gotten laid off. Her husband Kyle is a fabulous doumbek player and played with Isis for years with Sean, Matt, and others. Anyway, Rebecca and I were the only people interested in dance and music. We found a lovely man who worked as a driver to take us all kinds of places on our own. His name is Omar and he was very nice and protective. He charged us like $10 a day to take us places. He took us to restaurants that were not tourist places that served the most fabulous food, shops, mosques, etc. We ended up giving him a couple hundred dollars when it was time to go and he was just blown away and freaked out. Anyway, he took us to this wonderful essential oil shop owned by a man named Fathy. Fathy spoke very good English. His shop was not on the tourist path where the buses stop. We spent hours there, listening to music, drinking tea and the sweet red hibiscus drink. Omar became like our "uncle." They do this in Egypt--they "create" familial relationships to show others that you are under their protection, that no one should bother you or treat you with disrespect.
So my second trip to Egypt was in 2006, and of course I found Omar right away. He took me to his home (very modest) in his village and I met his mother, sisters, and daughters (his wife was caring for her mother who was ill). I brought his daughter a stuffed animal and gave his mother a bracelet made from semi-precious gems from Texas. I ate dinner with his family and tried to eat as much as his mother could feed me. Later, we went to visit Fathy at his oil shop. I was sitting with Fathy, allowing him to correct my Arabic, and there was a group of 3 elderly men sitting in the corner drinking tea and smoking. One of them had a violin. He started to gently pluck the strings, and it was Inta Omri--you probably know that part. I looked at him and said "Inta Omri!". He was so surprised that I knew the song. I asked him if he could play the song and he did. Then we talked about other Um Koulsoum songs--I told him which ones were my favorite. He told me he used to be a violinist with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. I sat there for 3 hours, the only woman in the place, under the protection of Omar (his "niece") and this man played maybe like 6 or 7 Um Koulsoum songs. Every time he finished he asked "what you like now?" Finally, when I had to leave, I reached out my hand to him and for some reason I just knelt at his feet. I think I would have kissed his feet, really. But I tried to tell him in the most inadequate language how moving and special this was to me.
I will NEVER forget this. This is what Egypt is! This is what will be with me forever. Screw the pyramids.
I was so upset that when I went to Egypt to do my interviews in June 2010 I could not see Omar and Fathy. I was so far from Giza and only there 4 days. So I will go back June 2012, and hopefully see my friends again. Any maybe find someone to play Inta Omri for me again.