The Loh Life

Egypt 1

Sandra Tsing Loh and her sister travel to Egypt.

I just came back from a vacation in Egypt! That's right. My first choice, Libya, was just too crowded. No no no. Couldn't do it.

Actually, I was SENT to Cairo on a journalistic assignment. But not the kind you're thinking about. No hard-hitting POLITICAL stories a la Christiane Amanpour for me. I was to write a feel-good MEMORY essay for MORE, the health and beauty magazine.

The story would be based on the fact that my family lived in Egypt from 1969 to '72. My SISTER was to travel WITH me. We planned to rent a felucca on the Nile and, wearing matching white muslin gowns, movingly toss my mother's ashes into the river.

Of course, this whole escapade was booked a long TIME ago. Before things got so, well, interesting. My sister insisted that, while the mood in the Middle East can be TESTY at times, Egypt would be absolutely fi-i-ine!

Just one week before we were scheduled to leave though, Cairo protestors, oh, burned that American FLAG in front of the US EMBASSY. Violence spread to Syria and Tunisia and Libya, where horribly, the American ambassador was killed. When you opened the paper, the Middle East was in flames on every page.

Searching the Internet, I found no evidence of cheerful American BLOGGING from Cairo. The US Embassy has a Facebook page, yes, but it isn't a fun one. Commentators were frantically asking: "Does anyone have any news? I'm supposed to go to Cairo in three days and no one can tell me anything!" The Egypt Department of Tourism website was eerily calm, touting some sort of Tunisian women's TENNIS tournament. Typing TERRORISM into the search engine drew only a perky: "Sorry! No Matches!"

Even my SISTER was waffling.

"Oh great," I wailed to her. "You're the one who breezily said, 'Oh, remember when we were there in '71? Nasser died, people were hurling themselves off buildings, and it was fi-i-ine!"

"But I don't like that the violence has SPREAD," she said.

"But maybe it's good that it has SPREAD to other countries, diluting it? Maybe the Egyptians are OVER it now, with the flag-burning. They HAD their moment, now it's back to work. Oh come on, I said. If we wait until things are absolutely calm in Egypt, until the Christmas parade or something, we're never going to go."

We comfort ourselves with getting travel insurance. And opting for the premium dismemberment package.

What could go wrong?

Next week: "This is your pilot Mohammed."


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