The new normal here is constant turmoil. It’s been a full week since protestors occupied Tahrir Square and though we hope everyone votes on Monday (the elections are still on so far), no one is really happy with the interim prime minister appointment. But I reiterate that Harris and I are fine, and in fact, it’s a sign of the times that though protests continue in Tahrir, life continues beyond downtown—stores are open, services available, and no curfew or unusual police presence marks the area.
|Monastery of Saint Paul the Theban, Keep + Chapel|
We took a short trip sponsored by AUC for Thanksgiving to see two monasteries on the Red Sea, with two nights in a rather crummy hotel that did offer a lovely waterfront. We arrived Thanksgiving morning at the monastery of Saint Paul the Theban (not Paul the Apostle,
|Brother showing us refectory lectern|
who wrote to the Ephesians and Corinthians); this Paul was probably the first true hermit saint, c. 250 AD, who lived in a cave in the eastern desert; his example inspired Saint Anthony, who founded his order based in part on Paul’s example of asceticism. As we waited for one of the monks to return from his cave to take us around, we marveled at the architecture combining mud and stone, with touches of the modern world (like a gift shop).
|Fresco of Paul with lions and ostrich egg|
|Mark and Sarah; ancient refectory dishes|
When the brother appeared, he took us around those parts of the monastery open to visitors, like the ancient refectory (dining area), which displayed dusty ancient dishes and a stand where a brother would read the Bible while his fellows ate; the keep (where monks would hide during Bedouin raids); and the beautifully painted chapel below which Paul’s body is said to be interred. The chapel walls are painted with frescos from the 13th century. Our favorite depicted Paul with a pair of lions who helped Saint Anthony dig Paul’s grave. Notice the ostrich egg pendant hanging from the ceiling. Ostrich eggs were associated with new life in Pharonic Egypt as well as in Christian iconography.
After dinner at our hotel and wine at its Fun Pub (which didn't live up to its moniker), we got up Friday to go to the larger and more opulent (by monastic standards) Monastery of Saint Anthony. Alas, a pair of colliding tankers on the only road blocked it for the day—happily, the drivers survived pretty intact—and we returned to the hotel with time on our hands.
|Tanker accident, so no Monastery of Saint Anthony|
|Screams "fun," doesn't it?|
I suggested to our buddies Sarah and Mark that we charter a boat for an afternoon ride and look for dolphins. Captain Achmed was either confident or nuts, but he gave me the wheel after we left the marina. Luck was with us, as we found a beautiful pod of bottlenose dolphins. My photos are mostly of the water after they dived—but Mark should have some good ones to send me. Harris was dolphin-spotter extraordinaire, and we had a great afternoon. Refreshing beverages from the Fun Pub were enjoyed.
|Dolphins, courtesy of Mark Mineart|
PS: we now have heat in our flat, and Harris gave a great short talk on Hamlet last week at the university. We feel a little like we are fiddling while Rome burns, but hope all goes well. Nothing we do will help here except carrying on with daily life.