April 15-August 2, 2014
We related our continuing visa problems one night while drinking lemonades on the corniche with Michele and Nanette. Michele had already put us in contact with Ahmed and this time she had another idea. In Australia, Michele had worked as a hairdresser. Occasionally she would cut hair for some of the local expats. Recently, she’d cut Pam’s hair. Pam and her husband John are Americans who had recently relocated to Aswan after spending some years living in Khartoum. Perhaps Pam knew something we could do.
I sent Pam a text message. She replied and suggested we meet at the McDonalds at the end of the week. We later learned that she’d suggested it as a prominent landmark, not realizing how long we’d been in Aswan by that time.
As the only foreigners in the place, it was easy to spot each other. Before relocating to Khartoum, Pam and John had lived in Missouri. What a huge change from Missouri! In Khartoum, John had been the head of an international school and Pam taught English there. They moved to Aswan when the Sudanese government had forced them out.
We loved hearing their stories of living abroad. Pam has a gift for spinning tales and any event into a humorous narrative. Even better though was the tip they gave us for my visa. Visitors who otherwise had visa troubles nearly always managed to get them via the Acropole Hotel in Khartoum. Armed with this great info, we felt sure to succeed this time.
Pam and John lived just outside the center of Aswan in a small Nubian village. With their daughter, Aria, visiting during her university’s summer break, they were headed out to the Red Sea for some rest and relaxation. Before leaving they invited us over for tea. We spent the afternoon enjoying cold drinks and nibbling on snacks. Pam entertained us with stories of Sudan life and Egyptian life and we shared some highlights from the road.
Their apartment is beautiful. It looks out onto the Nile and has a very well-equiped kitchen.. We watched the sun go down from their porch. As we were leaving, Pam offered us the keys to their place. Even though this was only the second time meeting them, they were prepared to let us stay in their apartment while they were away. It was beyond generous.
We decided to keep our hotel, the room was too good to give up, but every day we cycled down to Pam and John’s loaded up with fresh fruits and vegetables. We relaxed, enjoyed the view and cooked up a storm. It was great to have somewhere that felt a little more like a home again, even for only a few days.
We wanted to thank Pam and John for the use of their home while they were away. Scott’s birthday was coming up so we proposed that we come over to cook dinner for them. It would be both a celebration and a thank you. Michele joined us for dinner that night too. We cooked far too much and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.
After dinner, we played a round of Time’s Up, a game Scott and I enjoy playing in France. All that’s needed to play is some pens, paper and a timer. It’s a game where you have to get your partner to guess clues without using any words in the clues themselves. I still laugh when I think of how Aria described John’s clue, “Jimmy crack corn,” as “He breaks grains!”
The summer seemed to be full of guests and someone was always coming or going. Pam was kept busy organizing all sorts of excursions and visits. She also invited us on almost all of them. After nearly three months in Aswan, it was embarrassing how few of the sights we’d seen. We jokingly told her she should start her own tour company. She had already thought of a name, Mumkin Tours. (In Arabic, mumkin means “is there any”.)
With Pam, Aria and one of Aria’s friends we visited Philae, a fairly stunning example of an Egyptian temple. It had been relocated from another island in the Nile when the Aswan Dam had been built and the island was going to be submerged. Pam had been there enough times to be able to tell us all about the carvings and history without needing a guide.
In order to get to Philae you must first buy your ticket and then you negociate the price of a motorboat to take you there. Aria studies Arabic and Pam is fairly fluent herself. We were lucky to have Arabic speakers with us to lower the price of the boat. As with everything, the first price is always outrageously inflated.
We also tagged along for an evening cruise and dinner in one of the Nubian villages just down the river. Another chance to see parts of Aswan we hadn’t discovered yet. The houses were whitewashed and filled with colorful paintings. We reclined on cushions, watching the camel tours pass by the window, until dinner was served. The night finished with a long cruise along the Nile. We watched the city lights slowly pass by.
The times we spent with Pam and John were some of our most treasured moments during our layover in Aswan. We were sad to say goodbye to all our of our friends there, but especially Pam and John.