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Out of the Mystic


Alexandria. Sept. 12, 2006:

 We have moved into new digs. The buildings are more majestic and although basic, more akin to what we are used to. For days now Ben has been camped out with customs agents, papers in hand, to push on with the long process of having our vehicles released.  

Bens major in… and love of art history, wouldn’t let him miss our mid-day interview with  Salah A. Soliman. He is a doctor of chemistry and toxicology and the Chief Advisor at the world renowned Alexanian Library.  For this, (and everything else we do), we required the scheduling and accompaniment of a member of the Egyptian Press Centre, (our government babysitters). Egypt does not wish to be portrayed in bad light. Ben earlier asked for their approval for Shaunna and Khairoon to do interviews with Women on the street for our Women’s issues series and was told point blank that the press centre would have to select the Women because they couldn’t guarantee what the average woman on the street would say. (!?) Kind of defeats the purpose eh!? The interview with Dr. Soliman, as with most everything we are doing here, involves multimedia for multiple venues, (photos, video, sound-bites and story). The library is a huge place, so, as is our usual routine on these assignments we divided in order to conquer. Ben led the personal interview, Shaunna and Khairoon ran down the background story, (the library) while shooting some stills and I recorded video segments. We split up. It’s a natural thing for a North American team to do but apparently quite unacceptable here because we were not being controlled. This very much upset the government representative, who by the way was taking plentiful notes while the good Dr. was speaking to us bluntly about Egypt’s pollution problems. I think the government rep. was trying to intimidate the good man but it wasn’t working. He was quite impassioned and engaged with a topic that is obviously close to his heart and on his mind.

Ben and Shaunna left early today to continue their customs careers. Khairoon worked on her next school board piece while I snuck out on my own today to try and get a few shots of the Sewage treatment plant, or lack of, in a slum and industrial area called El Max but ran into tall stone and barbed wire barriers and soldiers with guns at every turn. Two of them got so upset I thought they were going to take the camera.

The ramshackle conditions in the slum shook me to the core but apparently there is hope here. One dilapidated residence was decorated with colourful paint and the words El Max… dreamland…live…dreams… opportunity. The only opportunity I saw was fishing.

Other than old boats the predominant transport vehicles in El Max were horse and mule drawn wagons. A mule almost slid into me on one slippery hillside because the poor animals must use the “Fred Flintstone” method of braking. His eyes were frightened and wide and so were mine!

 We’re back to Cairo late today for interviews tomorrow with CIDA, the Canadian Embassy and a visit to the Pyramids of Giza. They are about forty two centuries old and the only thing still remaining of the original seven wonders of the ancient world.

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Mike Swarbrick.


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All content copyright 2006 by: Mike Swarbrick