Friday, November 12, 2010

Visitors from Home and Opera House

Today we had the pleasure of paying a visit to Otto and Diana Stein from our home town who are visiting Egypt for a week.   Diana and I emailed a bit before she came and I told her everything I would have liked to know my first week.  We are grateful to Diana and Otto for being kind enough to offer to bring a couple things from the U.S. for us.  It worked well to have ship them things I wanted for my research here, particularly since a professor told me it would take 6 months for me to get a book shipped here.  (That explains why most of my classes have online readings.)  Diana and Otto are off on a Nile Cruise tomorrow morning, with the tour company coming to pick them up at 3am!  They said they're having a great time.  We wish them both a safe and memorable trip down the Nile.  They'll leave from Luxor which is known as the Valley of the Kings because it has some of the most important archeological sites in the world.

We visited the Steins at their hotel, the Marriot, which Cameron was very impressed with.  It is a bit like a palace with trees with white lights on them, statues in the garden and beautiful marble architecture.

After leaving the Marriot, Cameron and I headed for the Opera House since it's in that general area of Cairo.  It should have been only a 15-20 minute walk to get there, except the guard outside the Marriot told us it was on the other side of the Nile so we crossed the bridge near the hotel, then asked directions again once we got all the way across, only to find that the first directions were wrong and the Opera House was on the opposite side of the Nile.  So we walked across the Nile again on the next bridge down the river.  The whole walk to get there was an hour.  It's a good thing little Cameron is a strong hiker.  He managed it fine.

It turned out to be very interesting to walk across the bridges and along the Nile for a while.  The Nile is a very lively place on a weekend night.  (Here, Thursday night is the first night of the weekend since weekends are Friday and Saturday.)   There were cruise boats with flashing lights going down the river, many people walking on the sidewalk next to the Nile, a lot of traffic, a few cars with sad frustrated stranded people in them broken down in the right lane on the Nile bridge, horse-drawn carriages with drivers trying to coax us into them, street vendors, and many people walking or just hanging out overlooking the river.

We weren't sure how to get to the entrance of the Opera House, but a nice Egyptian who I asked for directions walked us to the entrance.  This is not uncommon.  People are very welcoming.

Below are a few photos of the Opera House that I took during the day a couple months ago when walking by.

The fence in the photo below surrounds the Opera House.

We got to the Opera House just in time, at 7:45pm with events starting at 8pm.  There were a couple different shows that night:  a piano recital and an open air orchestra with Arabic music.  We went to the latter.  It was only 15 pounds for me (about $2.75) and Cameron was free.  It was very interesting.  The orchestra had a conductor and a section of violins, a cello, and percussion, as well as a couple other instruments I hadn't seen before.  The performance started off with a solo performance of a man playing an Oud.  Here's a photo I found online of it.

Here's a link to a few minutes of Oud music I found on YouTube if you'd like to hear what it sounds like:

There was another instrument that looked a little like a dulcimer but seemed to be played differently.  It was played with fingers plucking not hammers.  When I was looking online, I saw something that might be it.  Here's a picture of it.  This is called an Egyptian Harp or a Qanun.  

Here's a YouTube clip of what a Qanun sounds like.

The music played by the orchestra was a wide range, sometimes slow and sad sounding like a song about someone with a broken heart; other times very lively with the tamborine helping lead the beat.  One of the pieces had a duet of a male and female singer doing some kind of flirtatious funny dialogue set to music.  I couldn't understand it since it was in arabic, but the singers acted it out well with smiles and pleading words alternating the woman seeming to play 'hard-to-get'.  The audience found it very funny and gave them a big round of applause.  Here is a picture of the orchestra.  
The wonderful orchestra from Cairo with choir in background.

I went on YouTube to try to find music similar to what we heard last night.  Here's something that is similar in rhythm and tone, but the performance we saw had a more life to it.

While we were at the Opera House, I bought tickets for us to go to the Egyptian Ballet performing in the big indoor hall in a couple weeks.

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