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DISPATCH: Cairo, Egypt
May 15, 1997

Salaam aleikum from your faithful Egyptian correspondent, missing each of you ever more the closer I get to coming home. With Toshiba in the lotus of my lap, I sit eight floors above the cacophony of downtown Cairo: John Cage on horns, Zappa on snares and neon, and sixteen million inhabitants of this monstrous town on nicotine, caffeine, grease and sugar: the four major food groups of the Egyptian national diet. When the muezzin call out at this altitude it is in SurroundSound, an auditory hallucination of mystical proportions, fervent prayer for deliverance the only humane and immediate response.

My spacious room is in the northeast corner of an old deco building with ceilings fifteen feet high. The two sets of tall French doors are propped open wide, urban tree-house style: an expansive view of the ever-changing light is mine with the movement of an eye. To the immediate east squats the local synagogue. I look down on its dome and the white-uniformed guards shouldering big guns, uneasy reminders of godless global fears. The floors are swathed in my as yet un-shipped Siwan kilims (a logistic and economic nightmare) and a cool breeze ruffles the papers on the other two beds.

This city is beginning to remind me of some Egyptian men: initially irritating with their aggressive, loud behavior, questionable hygiene and ever-present clouds of smoke, they eventually exude an exotic charm, appealing unpredictability and sense of humor that approaches the irresistible. In fact, Cairo's soft underbelly turns out to be the people who live here. The more of them I get to know, Egyptians and ex-pats alike, the harder it is each time to leave.

<<This continues in the Oases Dispatch...>>

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