My plan for today was to sleep as late as possible, eat a big breakfast, then head over to Islamic Cairo. Two down, one to go.
Problem is, nine was as late as I could sleep before the htoel guys started their hammering to repair/renovate/annoy. I tried packing my stuff into the suitcase last night – quite a challenge. I have a duffle that I can use too, but don’t want to carry it unless I need to. The Eagle Creek cubes I bought at REI are great – just wish I’d gotten another one or two.
While in Luxor yesterday, I picked up a copy of the Naguib Mahfouz novel The Harafish. It’s excellent … a very human story the rise and fall of a family over generations. It focuses on a particular alley – no location or time is given, but I’m to surmise that it could have taken place pretty much anytime into the early part of this century. The writing is excellent – very crisp but elegant. Egypt’s only Nobel laureate, Mahfouz is a controversial figure. Apparently some of the Islamists consider his writing blasphemous. Apparently his writings are considered thinly-disguised allegory on religious leaders, including the prophet Mohammed. What I like about the chapters I’ve read so far is that it is an innately human tale – people are complex, flawed creatures. Even when we set out to "do the right thing", it is often more complicated in practice than theory. Above all, the characters are alive with feeling : love, longing, anger, jealousy.
Mahfouz loved his neighborhood, often holding court in an ahwa (coffeeshop) called Fishawi’s, near Khan al-Khalili. Conveniently, there’s a recommended walking tour of the area … time to clean up and head out. Only question is whether or not to tote my camera along.