November 23. Gaza.

Mohammed wakes me up at six, and I go to the bus with a disconcerting feeling of insecurity. Will I get into Gaza? Will I be searched? Questioned? Will I get stuck in Gaza? Hit by an Israeli bomb or bullet? I cannot risk too much since the success of my journey is strictly dependent on my surviving it – I want to make it to that tv show where I can tell other potential travelers about this.
Thus pondering the bus crosses the Sinai once again and takes me to Ariche, where I convince wondering taxi drivers that I really want to go to Rafah, and on to the border crossing with the Gaza strip.

So I arrive at the gate and a tactless officer eloquently elaborates the state of this border crossing: “closet closet”. Of course, what did I expect? Do I want to be persistent and wait a few days here, possibly without result, or to I chose getting back to Cairo and take on my causes there? I decide to do the latter, and turn my back on the border guards. I meet a young family from the US, that want to enter the Gaza strip for a family visit. It has been seven years since I saw them the last time, the father tells me. His father died in that period and he couldn’t go to the funeral. Now they have paid a lot of money and made an arrangement. I ask them to take pictures for Charity Travel and give them my card so they can send them to me by email. That way, I might be able to publish some footage from Gaza on my website. I take a photograph of a traditional Palestinian couple waiting at the gate, walk to the gate myself and put my hand on it, just like I had done at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. “I am sorry” I say, “but I will be back. I will not forget the people of Gaza and will do what lies within my power to support you.” I feel very sincere and all ritualizing my failed attempt to enter Gaza.

I am shocked by the inhumane situation here. When I think about the January 2009 war, the bulldozers, the settlements, the restrictions, the torture, the human tragedy, all inflicted on harmless Palestinian people who just want to live, I feel tempted to say something I perhaps should not say. “Who are those pigs that cause all this suffering?”

On the way back the taxi driver [on-site ad: buy a taxi-driver DVD now starring Robert the Niro] offers me a cigarette and I accept, I reckon its lethality is nowhere near that of Israeli shrapnel or teargas grenades. I feel gooood even though I didn’t complete my mission in Gaza. I hope other travelers will be bolder and braver and venture into the strip, opening it to the world community whose task it is to pour critique into the holy land stronger than the Israeli lead [disambiguate ‘lead’].

Back in Cairo I dream of that young woman from Gaza who had to pay 1000$ to crawl to Egypt through the dangerous tunnel in order to buy her wedding dress. She had to pay another 1000$ to get back to the Gaza strip to make it to her wedding. What is the name of the motherfucker leading this abhorrently inhumane nation again?

November 23. Gaza. was originally published on Meandering home

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Caritas Egypt

Caritas Egypt, Cairo

November 28th, 2009

Caritas Egypt does community outreach in empoverished areas of Cairo. They provide cheap healthcare and vocational training for marginalized and mentally challenged children.

We visit one of their centers in Cairo and make a modest contribution for the education of mentally challenged children.

Name Caritas Egypt, Mataraya center
Aim To help the poorest in Mataraya and its suburbs with medical aid, education and social programs
Since 1976
Staff over 35 workers
People reached over 1000 people are reached each year
Contact Ebtissam Kamel
ebtissam.mina at gmail.com

Donation 100 USD
Caritas Egypt operates a number of centers in greater Cairo. In Mataraya there is a compound center that serves the neighbourhood and its surroundings. The activities of this center are divided into five sections.
Basic clinical services like general medical checkup, oculism, ENT, dental care, among others are provided here.
They have a professional workshop where artificial limbs are produced along with other assisting equipment for the disabled like pairs of shoes with different heights to compensate for legs of unequal length.
The checkup is free for the poor and costs seven EP for others.
Woman development. This section offers a literacy program and second level education for girl that dropped out of highschool. They learn a craft, often against the will of the family who wants them to work and earn immediately. There is also a library free to use for everyone in the community.
A section for the mentally handicapped. There are cases of Down syndrome and autism. A training program is put in place that teaches the mentally disabled a craft. For 2-3 hours a day they visit the center, accompanied by their mother who learns about dealing with her child from the experts so she is able to apply it at home. Caritas has a specialized center that trains professional workers and mothers to pass on experience. They give special attention to child rights, and connect families so that they can assist each other.
Nearly 25 children live in the center’s orphanage.
The Motherhood and Childhood program is the first station where they check everything and often find out about a mental handicap or issues like malnutrition. The center offers lectures for the mothers, and even distributes milk and food.
Susan Mubarak, Egypt’s first lady, organized a contest and the center is proud to announce that three of the winners were trained here. The Christian girl who won the drawing competition had drawn Cairo’s most prominent mosque.
I think Caritas Egypt does very good work by running these centers, and they could use every support they can get.

Caritas Egypt was originally published on Meandering home

November 21.

I get back to downtown Cairo today, have a good breakfast, and work in a nice café. In the evening, some very nice guys take me out and tell me about the soccer tragedy that is going on between Algeria and Egypt. We have some tea together before they take me to a youth hostel where I spend yet another comfortable night under a heavy blanket.

November 21.

I get back to downtown Cairo today, have a good breakfast, and work in a nice café. In the evening, some very nice guys take me out and tell me about the soccer tragedy that is going on between Algeria and Egypt. We have some tea together before they take me to a youth hostel where I spend yet another comfortable night under a heavy blanket.

November 21. was originally published on Meandering home

November 21.

I get back to downtown Cairo today, have a good breakfast, and work in a nice café. In the evening, some very nice guys take me out and tell me about the soccer tragedy that is going on between Algeria and Egypt. We have some tea together before they take me to a youth hostel where I spend yet another comfortable night under a heavy blanket.

November 20. All our presidents are underground.

The jagged contours of the mountainous Egyptian coastline reflect the bright sunlight that is waking me up. I am one of the many passengers that lie scattered on the carpet floor of the bar in hull of the vessel. There is no passport in my pocket, just a piece of paper that says I have passport number one. Of course I am worried. This is the last thing that can go wrong and there is bartalk law that says it will go wrong. But it doesn’t. I get off the ship and have a friendly smile stamped in my memory by the immigration official. Then I walk off and get a ride in a red jeep to the center of Nueba. There is a roadside restaurant with Korean letters on it and I am curious enough to enter it. It turns out there is no Korean there, they live in Cairo. In broken English, I order a hamburger which I eat on the terrace, listening to powerful Islamic evocations that play very loud on the tv. It takes me only about ten minutes to catch a ride, or technically a minibus for which I pay a good price, that takes me 500 kilometer up the road to Cairo. I sleep most of the way, but on the stretches where I am awake I gaze at the sandy desert and the electricity poles that stand parallel to the highway. The sun sets beautifully when we arrive in the province of Cairo. We drive like madmen, passing cars left and right, claxoning constantly to find the smallest possible gap between two big fuel trucks. Arrival in Cairo, a crowded bus station, just like what I’m used to.

The reliable Cairo metro system takes me to “Mubarak”. I see there are also stations called “Sadat” and “Nasser”.
“Yes”, says a passenger, “all our presidents are underground”.
So I hop off at Mubarak and explore a side street that turns out to be a huge street market. I indulge in a delicious Egyptian drink made of chick peas, something very spicy, and a twist of lemon. Gradually, it becomes clear to me what I have to do: orientation. A tourist map from the train station, some helpful passers-by, a metroride, and a short walk later I sit inside a café and read my email messages. There are fewer than expected, not so many have replied my newsletter. I call a couchsurfer and there is a place to crash available. Happy that the money can go to the children’s cancer hospital and not to the condo, lawyer-bill, facelift, tailored suit, Mercedes-Benz, or gooseliver paté of some rich hotel owner.