Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We're back

Well, we made it.

Another marathon journey;
Up at 5:30 am
To the bus station to catch the 7am bus.
Five hours on a bus from Jerusalem to Eilat
Taxi to the border
Security check
Duty Free :-)
Leave Israel
Enter Egypt
Passport control
Taxi to the hotel where we left the car
Drive five hours back to Cairo.
Arrive at 6:30pm

Here's some snapshots along the way...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Holly lost her tooth

Just like Jesus must have done, although it is mysteriously not recorded in the gospels, Holly (number one daughter, aged eight and a half) lost one of her teeth here in Israel. Hooray!

Walking through the Old City

Today's adventure was a great big walk.

We started at the Mount of Olives, looking back over the Old City with the Temple Mount smack bang in the foreground. We walked down the hill, past the tombs of the prophets to the Dominus Flevit Chapel. This is a beautiful, peaceful chapel built on the spot where medieval pilgrims reckon that Jesus wept over Jerusalem (see Matt 23:37-39 & Luke 19:41-44). What a wonderful place to just sit and pray, with the view of the Temple Mount framed in the window. A very gruff Franciscan monk gave the girls a postcard each.

We wandered further down past the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox, closed!) to the Garden of Gethsemene and the Church of All Nations. Again this was beautiful and peaceful, guarded by a monk, and with a small garden of ancient Olive trees just like it might have been when Jesus kept his prayer vigil, the night before his arrest.

Next stop was the Tomb of the Virgin - an underground tomb accessed via a magnificent flight of steps down into a very shrine-like cave with the stone shelf where the disciples are supposed to have laid Mary's body. A very mystical atmosphere with three or four old ladies dressed in black worshipping at the shrines with weeping and chanting, surrounded by icons and other paraphernalia.

Next, we walked up the hill and entered the Old City through the Lion Gate and walked into the Arab quarter along the Via Dolorosa. We then wound our way through the souks and markets, very similar to the Khan El Kahlili in Cairo, and eventually popped out at the top of town by the Jaffa Gate. We bought beads for the girls and poked around in various funny little shops, and became very skilled at parrying the various trader's sales pitches, again, just like the Khan.

Tonight we're taking the family out for a meal somewhere nice. Really looking forward to it!


Well, we made it. A thirteen hour trip to get from Cairo to Jerusalem. No problems except where to park the car in Taba - none of the big hotels were particularly helpful, something about issues with car bombs in the past...

Anyway, it's been wonderful catching up with Felicity's cousin and his family here, getting to know their kids and revisiting old haunts in the old city.

Something new though was to visit Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum. The building is incredible - a triangular shaped concrete corridor which you cross and recross as you make your way through the series of rooms to the sides. The guide book says you need two to three hours to go through, but I think we took about four. It is harrowing and horrifying in the extreme. Close to tears most of the way round, I found myself not being able to cope with the experience from time to time, particularly when looking at the Auschwitz reconstructions.

There was an Auschwitz survivor taking a group around, and to hear his stories first hand and to see the tattoo on his forearm made the exhibits much more than just a museum. Here was a guy who lost his whole family and yet survived himself to educate the next generation on this terrible episode of European history.

After the concentration camp exhibits, the corridor starts to slope uphill and the triangle widens out until it almost feels like the building expells you from the museum and you find yourself on this cantilevered parapet overlooking Jerusalem, at the mouth of the triangle. What a sense of hope and yet responsibility to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Going to Jerusalem

Tomorrow we're setting off on a big adventure. Five hours by car across the Sinai to Taba, who knows how long to cross the border in to Israel, and then a five hour bus trip up to Jerusalem. We're going to visit Felicity's cousin and his wife and four kids who have lived there for five years now. We're really excited because none of us have met the kids before, and we don't know Bonni very well either as we only met her the day before their wedding, and then we waved them off as they sailed off on their honeymoon adventure to Jerusalem, with an amazing firework display as a backdrop, and then they never came back!

We've been to Jerusalem before, ten years ago when we were back-packing around Israel, Sinai and Jordan, and we loved the place so much. Despite the military, ethnic and religious tensions in the city we felt such peace there, and the strangest and strongest feeling (for a country boy from Worcestershire) of coming home. We'll be back in a week, hopefully.

Friday, October 20, 2006

True International Worship

Just finished our third weekend service, and Africa Live is about to start in about 20 mins. The worship was fantastic this week - we really felt that God was with us in a powerful way. In our team we had people from England, Wales, Holland, USA, Germany, South Korea, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Nigeria, Congo and Egypt! How amazing is that? And by the way, we rocked! It's great to have my guitar back - God is so good.

Larry preached about having a healthy self image, seeing ourselves the way God sees us, and not succumbing to the unhealthy images that the world imposes on us of how we should look. God loves us just the way we are, and wants to free us up to be the way he intended us to be.

Now if I could just lose those extra 10 kilos...


That's amazing!! Click on the little map, bottom right of this page under "Where do you come from". How incredible that you guys are spread so evenly around the world. There's a big hole though - got to make some friends in Russia and China!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's arrived!

This is the first guitar I ever bought. A Yamaha Super Flighter 500, and now it's here with me in Cairo. I bought it from Music City in Worcester (that's the original Worcester in England) when I was eighteen and I have played so many gigs and worship services with this guitar. It's been with my mate Chris in Liverpool for the last three years and now I've finally managed to get it out here. Can you tell I'm excited? I'm going to wheel it out for church this weekend.

These are pretty rare guitars - I can't find any real information on them. There are a couple of reviews in Harmony Central, but that's it. I didn't buy it because it's rare though, I was only eighteen, and not that bright(!). I bought it because it sounds great, plays great and looks cool. I love the funky steel scratchplate.

It's solid mahogany with a solid mahogany bolt-on neck and twin humbuckers. The neck one is original, but I bought the guitar with a really bad EMG Select humbucker in the bridge which I swapped out about five years ago with a Kent Armstrong that I found on ebay. The guitar sounds really nice - full and rich and with great tone, but as you can imagine with all that mahogany I need physiotherapy on my shoulder after each service.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ramadan traffic is nuts

My office window overlooks a busy street here in Maadi. It's Ramadan at the moment which means that from about 1pm the traffic hots up. Everyone is trying to get home early in time to prepare and eat the evening meal (Iftar) to break the day's fasting. No-one has eaten or drunk anything since dawn. Most of those who smoke have also abstained from nicotine since dawn. As you can imagine, people get a little tense and impatient. This state of mind does not help their driving, to put it mildly.

A lady has just overtaken a long queue of traffic on the wrong side of the road, with her hand on the horn the whole way past. Who knows if anyone else was coming the other way? How does she know they would back down before her in today's game of chicken?

Me, I like to wait for the Iftar call to prayer at about 5:30pm and cycle home on the deserted streets when all you can hear is the chink of cutlery on crockery.

First time blogger

I've been thinking about this for nearly five months. To blog or not to blog. A tricky one. I'm still not sure if this is the right answer but how can you tell without jumping in? Hopefully with both feet.

So I will start as all good blogs start, with the caveat that this is an experiment. I may not stay the course, I may spout nonsense or just pure trivia. If I do post anything that I consider profound, you may well consider it puerile. I may not know you now, but this could be the start of a long and meaningful relationship, or possibly not. We'll see eh?