Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wednesday 16th December 1942

At last I had a half day, and went into Cairo. Flinching from the long, tedious tram journey, we went in, and came back, by taxi. There were four of us, so it was not too expensive.

As we returned, across one of the moonlit Nile bridges, it struck me how blasé we were become, not to recognise the beauty of the scene. The car ran smoothly, headlights dipped; we passed by a 12 storey building – almost a skyscraper in appearance, for it had a small ground area – and came onto the bridge. It was empty, and the pale river flowed quietly below – almost as wide as the Thames in London.

Then the car purred down tree-lined avenues; there were big houses here and there, with lights showing. Next, the long Rue des Pyramides – mile after mile of a double-tracked road, with trams clanking along a separate path in the centre.. The road is banked all the way above the land on either side of Rue des Pyramides; this land is low, and damp and misty and very fertile. A very unhealthy but very profitable tract of country for the people who farm it. Every foot is cultivated, except where there are houses by the roadside, or ditches or ponds of water.

Then suddenly, as always, the pyramids loomed up ahead, ghostly, unreal, tremendous, almost menacing. They dwarf the land around; they seem to dominate Cairo itself, when you look into the valley from a distance, in daytime.

We turned off into Alexandria Road and came to a more homely region – for us! Sand, tents, wooden huts, and more sand! It's funny though, I've travelled into Cairo and back scores of times and never noticed how picturesque it could be, until tonight.
Nevertheless, I don't mind if we go to another country and never see Cairo again!


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