Jul 10, 2009

From Alexandria

Called "Alex," scene of the famous Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, home of the poet Constantine Cavafy, site of the famous museum and library burned and then destroyed by earthquake--no telling how different the texture of history might have been had all the volumes of papyrus survived--site of another famous seven wonder of the ancient world, the lighthouse at Pharos--well, there is a lot of history here in this seaboard town, the Mediterranan sea pounding against the stones and concrete, umbrellas by the seashore so closely packed that no sun penetrates. Millions on the beach and millions walking the streets, riding the trolleys and the minibuses that go everywhere and no tourist can tell where. The coptic church in the sun--where the women are not covered by a hijab. Cavafy's house in the shade of the small street, the view of the old Jewish Synagogue--but we cannot visit, and "No Camera" the instruction from the white-uniformed antiquities police.

The library has long gone, but the new spectacular Library, a large cap of concrete with incised and molded characters from all languages, Arabic, Greek, Latin, looks out over the old Harbor toward the entrance of the harbor,signified by crosses, an unexpected item. From the parapets of the fortress built on the traditional site of the lighthouse, you can see the fishing fleet at anchor in the late afternoon. From down the street, the smell of fish carefully stacked and laid out by the fishmongers.

And yet now not really as a tourist, here on a mission, twiddling my mental thumbs and walking in the sun in this interesting city as I wait to get into the vehicles, still standing about as we wait for the final release, and then on through the hot delta, cross the Suez Canal, head to al Arish where the rest of the medical supplies and the other members of the convoy who have been procuring them join up with us.

The lodgings are uncomfortable and red bites on my arms, despite the DEET, suggest that I may be the freshest meat for mosquitoes and flies; or worse, fleas, or worse than that, perhaps bedbugs. A good friend who had been in Alexandria caught dengue fever here, so I hope the bug spray keeps working. At any rate, it is hot and you live for those moments in a shady passageway when the breeze flows by and brings wanted relief. Hot, but not to the point of unbearabliity. Today on a balcomy we consumed kalamata olives, local green olives, sardines, pita bread, fruit juices and non-alcoholic beer, and a lovely ripe melon.

Inshallah, as they say here, and I am learning, very quickly, why they say it, we will be in the vehicles and heading out of Alexandria soon in the direction of the Sinai. From there, the opportunity to post to this extent or even to check emails will be limited, and I hope therefore, within a few days we will be able to deliver to those who need it the braces and wheelchairs and walkers and medicine. Inshallah, of course, always inshallah.

No comments: