I love you. I fell in love with you on March 2, 2000, when I stepped off the plane in Cairo and smelled the city, felt the heat, and heard the lilting sounds of Arabic. Your history had ensnared my mind from childhood, but you, Egypt, your vibrant colors and your wonderful people ensnared my heart on that day.
I will never forget Abdullah, the guide who took us inside Menkaure's pyramid, who called me Sugar and said Okey-dokey so many times I thought I was visiting my cousin in West Virginia. There was also a young lady named Iman who worked at our hotel and peppered us with questions about American life. We, of course, returned the favor and picked her brain about life in Cairo. She was amazingly sweet, a young 25, and hoping to soon marry her sweetheart. The next day, when Toni and I sought her out to give her some money for her wedding dress fund, she greeted us as old friends with clasped hands and the kissing of cheeks. I hope, with all my heart, that she is happy with a husband, a home full of children, and much love.
I'll never forget the man in Aswan, who, after selling Toni and I a Kit-Kat bar asked where we were from. I replied, America! And he said, with a hand to his heart, No! You are from the sun and she is from the moon! It was at that moment I discovered the extreme flirtatious nature of Egyptian men. Toni went on to receive more marriage proposals than we could count and me? Well, I was told over and over that my blue eyes were magic eyes. It's because of those sweet, amorous men half a world away that I never see blue when I look at my eyes in the mirror. I, instead, see magic and mystery and a spark of something not there before 2000.
Then, there was Mustafa, the Nubian gentleman who invited us into his home for tea and welcomed us like family. There was the guide at the pyramid of Djoser who made sure I didn't fall off the ledge I wasn't supposed to be on in order to get the perfect photo. He wasn't angry, just amused at the funny lady with her old, beat-up Nikon. I'll never forget the waiter at the Old Winter Palace in Luxor who laughed with delight when I showed him he could get ketchup out of the Heinz bottle by hitting the 57. I also can't forget Ahmed, the young man who worked on our Nile cruise boat. He and I discussed American politics (he admired Reagan and disliked America's involvement with Israel and Palestine), cinema (Die Hard was a favorite), and Egyptian women versus American women (In his humble opinion, we Americans are much too thin.). I wonder where he is right now.
My dear Egypt, I came for your pyramids, your tombs, your glittering artifacts, but I unexpectedly fell in love with your people. I want you to know peace, tranquility, freedom, and harmony. Seeing the protests gives me hope that those things are in your future. I only wish for each of you the absolute best and I can't wait to return, someday, with my children so that they, too, may have an Egyptian love affair of their own.
All my best,