We arrived via New York City and Rome the afternoon of January 20. It had been a good flight. It was so good to see Dr. Sherif Hanna as we exited the old Cairo terminal. The hardest part of the trip was yet to come! We would take over 3 hours to go only 45 cm as the crow flies. It was stop and go the entire way (typical of Cairo traffic) and there were a sufficient number of traffic bumps. It was so bad that even poor Dr. Sharif got travel sick from the trip.
It was good to enter the Harpur Memorial Hospital Compound in Menouf. Mary-Lou Hanna had prepared a flat in the guesthouse, fed us a nice supper and then we absolutely crashed!
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I rounded with the team here, gave some lectures and scrubbed on a few cases. I enjoyed being back in the OR again, seeing patients with the residents in the clinic and teaching on rounds. It was also very good to get to know Dr. Sherif and Mary-Lou better. Sherif left Egypt about 45 years prior to returning two years ago to work as the Assistant Program Director for the PAACS program here. He had become thoroughly acclimatized to Canadian culture and is still having some adjustment issues. In this area which is 99% Islamic, life is by its very nature somewhat constricted by the nature of that culture. However, the warmth of the Christian atmosphere and the lovely Egyptian Christians make up for much of it. I was warmly welcomed back in the OR and in the hospital, despite the fact that it had been almost two years and we had not been here very long the time before.
Ever since we were here two years ago, we had been talking about taking a vacation with the Hannas to the South of Egypt. Despite being born here, Sherif had never been there and it was a long held dream of mine to visit the ancient areas of Egypt. It finally came to pass last week. The Hannas have been working here alone for much of the past six months and definitely needed a break. We certainly had no trouble justifying it for ourselves as well. It was one of the most remarkable weeks we have ever spent.
We went to Cairo and stayed at the Anglican Guesthouse on Zamalek Island, next to the Anglican Cathedral. I spent a few hours with an architect from the team helping the ABWE hospital in the south of Togo renovate. Sherif and Mary-Lou met for a few hours with a boyhood friend. It was a good start to the week.
The next morning, we flew on Egypt Air to Aswan. We were repeatedly told how warm it would be – but it had a temperature of only 5o Celsius (41oF) and a stiff north wind. It would remain cold until later in the week and it never got what I would consider hot. We had only one or two warmer outfits for each of us and we wore them day after day. By the end of the week, it would finally reach 70o F at mid-day.
After landing and finding our guide who would be with us the entire week, we saw the famous Aswan High dam and some other sights before we boarded the Nile cruise boat. At the peak of tourism before the 2011 Revolution, there were 300 of these boats plying the waters of the Niles; now there are only 50. They have a very shallow draft and have about 70 guestrooms, usually two decks of cabins with a sun-deck above it. We would visit four cities in our cruise (Aswan, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Luxor) and the Nile was breathtakingly beautiful for the entire length of the cruise. The cruise was also very restful (and of course we ate too well!)
After returning to work at Harpur for another four days, I am continuing on to Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon for two and a half weeks where I will attend the WACS conference in Yaoundé as well before going on to the SIM-Galmi Hospital in Niger.
Please pray for traveling safety and stamina as I spend the entire month of February on the road.