Updated: Aug 25, 2022
May 16, 2022 at 11.00 am, Fiumicino, Italy
Ashraf's radiant face speaks for itself: a longtime travel agent feels at home only at the airport!
Unlike the difficult November departure for Cairo due to Italian restrictions, this time the check-in clerk does not hide his skepticism in looking annoyed at our "Green Passes" (why "Green?" To distract us from the word " pass "and make us believe that they are also good and ecological ???).
The flight with Egyptair is pleasant, comfortable and wide (other than Ryanair!), You don't even feel the take-off and landing!
Gamil and Georges, two of Ash's close friends, came to pick us up at the airport in Cairo; they are tired and hot but go through the rush hour traffic in the city and take us to Shobra, where Ash's mother is waiting for us.
Ash and Angele have not seen each other for five years, one was, after the loss of her husband, almost 4 years in the US, the other was "stuck" for years in Italy, which has become an open-air prison.
I am excited for their meeting, I would like to fly and leave them alone: when they see each other they hug as if it were a normal day, holding back tears so as not to embarrass me.
Shobra is the most populous neighborhood in Cairo, with almost five million inhabitants between Christians and Muslims: it is central, full of shops, stalls, concrete; I look at these people in the depths of their everyday life, with their traditional clothes (the “galabeya”), the women most of them dressed, covered up to the eyes. They say it is not a place for Europeans, Shobra, but Ash's maternal home soon becomes a familiar place, in which to "take refuge" a little from an outside so foreign to me.
During the first night I fall asleep with the noise and smell of smog from the street below, people never sleep here and all the shops are open until 4 in the morning! I manage to fall asleep, very tired, but I wake up with a start: I am in the midst of three mosques that call with loud speakers at the first prayer of the day. What a fright and what a dark voice! I get up early, I feel the heat rising, I do my daily body training, I look out of the window and I see a single woman, covered, a black spot hastily crossing an intersection where cars are parked in a double row from the night before, again unscathed, despite the night traffic.
It seems late in the morning, because at 8 the sun is already very high; I put on a "total block for the sun" cream, we go shopping at the local market, where they look at me as if I were a Martian. The market is a babel of colors and people, of animals, of goods arranged in the best possible way almost on the sidewalk. At times it reminds me of the vivid rawness of scenery that I found many years ago at the market of “La prima Feira de Lisboa”, the Monday market in Lisbon. From many quarters they speak to me in Arabic, offering me their very fresh goods, and their slightly toothless smiles placed on their dark faces.
We then pass by Ash's greengrocer "El Maalem", the Master, who sees us again with joy, in the midst of his colorful fruit and vegetables!
Ash thinks of taking me to his Church, not far away; we arrive and a caretaker offers to open it on purpose. Their Coptic Christian Easter has recently ended, there is still the statue of Jesus raised high for the Resurrection. Man puts in our hands the "Light of Bethlehem" which, he emotioned says, made Jesus resurrect and makes us see moved by a fragment of the cross of Jesus from Jerusalem.
Ash's birthday is in those days, so his friends manage to organize a dinner together before Nader, the life of the party, returns to Canada. Ash, already drunk from his house, is not in the skin: it was so long that he did not spend his birthday at home, with his people.
The day after we will visit the Studio where our first DANCE TO LIVE METHOD FOR DANCE THERAPY Workshop in Egypt will take place: it will be a 50-hour journey that will constitute the first step of our program and will take place in New Cairo, in the desert area surrounding the city, now divided into compounds.
The first day of the workshop is really special: it is Ash's birthday and early in the morning we are informed that Aurora, daughter of our niece Lucrezia, was born. Niccolò replaces us to help out at home and turns, when I'm not around, into a perfect little adult!
We are happy that we will soon meet Aurora, we feel it as a sign of joy, prosperity and continuity: we open our greetings with this personal news and the young faces in front of us open up in a big smile!
We know the students who will stay with us for more than a week, several hours a day: Heba, Racha, Ali, Nada, Mona, wonderful, highly trained guys who allow us to give life to the First Continuing Training of Dance Therapy in Egypt.
The days of work go by, the trips are demanding and a bronchitis makes everything more tiring.
At home the air conditioner broke, we try to survive with fans. When I tell Angele with gestures, because I don't speak Arabic or French, she doesn't speak Italian or English, that I'm hot, she replies with resignation: "Batykh!" (watermelon) or "Shèi" (Tea).
Here, in fact, the heat is fought by drinking hot tea, but as a good Westerner I would prefer a cold drink! I eat with them a 17 kg watermelon which cost 2 € (here it will cost about 30!).
The days go by, I find myself drinking hot tea in a bath of hot and cooling sweat and unimaginable doses of chilli pepper in all dishes: my body must have found itself displaced and must have wisely chosen to rely on those who have been able for millennia to survive those temperatures and the hood of heat that emanates from every pore this boiling and noisy megalopolis!
Sahar, who helps Angele in the kitchen and at home, prepares us hot and succulent dishes of popular Egyptian cuisine, which after some initial hesitation (a nice fresh salad is fine for me!) I find to support me in the tiring daily work of dance. Sahar is super dressed, she works for hours at home carrying objects on her head, her posture is perfect! I am at home in a light dress and I feel guilty: what it is difficult for me to accept in this country to see the effort that women do for everything, to see them sweat literally buried in their clothes. But despite everything, they smile.
There are many conditions in which women live in Cairo: of whatever religion they are or are not, some are covered, others are dressed like us. But not in this neighborhood.