By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Egypt Update 12/3/2013

with one comment

Text: Another dispatch from our friend and correspondent, Virginia Papadopoulo, living and teaching in Egypt.

Photographs: © William Carter 1964: Amid profound changes, has Egypt’s inner spirit survived?

Nile-(v)-2I wish I had good news for you from Cairo, but things just keep getting worse. The word is that the American School in Maadi, where I live, had  a number of students leave [see below]. Most of the U.S. Embassy families had to leave and they are closing the U.S. Consulate in Alexandria. Our school out in Sheikh Zayed did not suffer much of a loss, because most of the families are very wealthy Egyptians. Out by our school life goes on as usual – shopping malls are popping up like mushrooms, and the restaurants are open and full. The reason I left the desert [see below] after my first year was because It was not Egypt. Could have been any wealthy neighborhood I have visited in the world.

What does worry me is the incidence of attacks on fellow teachers. One wonderful Dutch couple were mugged twice in the last several months. They are now looking to leave, and they love Cairo.  Local Egyptian friends were stopped at check points  during the curfew and harassed, threatened, and taken to jail. Two teachers went through very humiliating luggage searches coming from the airport. Small incidents, but they end up being the topic of conversation. There are more demonstrations in my town, but I don’t usually go out on Friday. The town of Mohandiseen where a lot of teachers live is becoming unbearable for many because of the constant demonstrations, and they are moving out near the school and not returning next year.

I am sitting here in my apartment and there are horns blaring, gun shots, and packs of dogs barking, but it could be from a wedding — it is hard to tell.

I am not out and about at night unless with friends, and even that is pretty local. I walk to and from my bus on the same route every day and I know my neighborhood. I greet and am greeted every day and feel perfectly safe – maybe being 70 has something to do with that. Or, maybe I just want to believe everything is ok, to give me another reason to keep doing what I love so much, and to stay here.


Just spoke to a colleague whose husband works at the American Embassy. She was told not to come back in September, but her husband stayed in Egypt. She had to put her three children into schools in the US, but finally returned this week. Her children go to CAC. Her words to me were, “The school had approximately 1,400 students before the first revolution, and they are down to about 900 after the 2nd revolution.” So somewhere between 1-2 hundred have not returned this year. There are several other international schools that have shut down completely, but to be fair, people are returning. Who they are I don’t know. The important thing is that these returns do not significantly improve the tourist trade—it is dying a slow death. It is absolutely the perfect time to “See Egypt” —no crowds.

When I say the desert, I am talking about an area called Sheikh Zayed, and it is in the larger area of 6 October. It is southwest of the pyramids, (which we see twice a day, and still bring tears to my eyes) and probably 25 miles out. Initially the drive was through farmland—beautiful. There were compounds near the school, but mostly sand four years ago. The view from the front of my school was truly nothing but desert. There were no restaurants in our area and only one huge grocery store to shop in a few miles from where we lived, which you had to take a taxi to. That was four years ago, and the reason why I wanted to get out of the desert and move into the life of Cairo proper. Today the sand is gone and all you see for miles and miles are huge walled compounds and shopping malls. The beautiful farmland is vanishing, and it seem the reason is because there is no control on building. I should have invested in cement and construction equipment four years ago!





Nile 1


Above: Pharaoh-like statue of dictator General Gamal Nasser outside Supreme Military Headquarters, 1964: in six decades of change, does a need for strong-armed authority persist?

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

December 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

One Response

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  1. bill and ulla   the best thing the us of a can do is to get out of the middle east for 20 years so that the arabs can forget about our misdeeds. what a sad tale does ginny tell.   hugs   jon r



    December 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm

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