Regarding Michael Ross' article (Sept. 15), "Before Dawn Frenetic Cairo Savors Its Calm," I, too, roamed Cairo's streets at dawn. Unlike Ross, looking for his cat, I was looking for photographic opportunities I could not find during the day.
An American woman, middle-aged and alone, I was as much a curiosity to the Egyptians as they were to me. And during the day, aggressive peddlers and services sellers pestered me constantly, making it impossible to take shots of the city and Nile that I wanted.
When I was with a tour guide, I was pestered less, and I did take some photos; I was especially fascinated with the public transportation--a bus or streetcar with people riding in it, clinging atop it, hanging outside the windows, clutching the back, the front, like ants on a dampened Good and Plenty nib. Or traffic stopped completely at a multi-pointed intersection so that a camel owner could lead his three-camel caravan through.
Inquiring about the smoke wafting from the cemeteries, I was told by the tour guide that relatives of the dead buried there had come in from the countryside to pay their respects and had stayed overnight. I was tempted to give the tour guide the old saw about looking at my swamp land in Florida, but American cliches tend to linger forever in Cairo. (Several times I heard from shopkeepers, "See ya later, alligator.") I kept my thoughts and refrained from comment.
But at dawn of the morning I left Cairo, I, too, "explored my neighborhood," from my Egyptian hotel to the Nile Sheraton, across a Nile bridge, and back. Ross was right, the city was softened: the Nile bullfrogs had ceased their wooing--all was silent; the light muted the imperfections--as if seen through a diaphanous veil. The only life I encountered was a policeman on foot patrol, wearing khaki and puttees, like a military man.
The result for me was not only photos I wanted but a contrasting view of Cairo--plus a strict reprimand from the tour guide whom I, in my enthusiasm, made the mistake of telling about my solitary stroll. I was put into a taxi for the airport and told, severely, not to emerge from the taxi until a representative of the company, wearing a company badge, came to get me. Unlike Aminah, from "Bayjn al-Qasrsayn" by Najib Mahfuz, my venturing out was worth the risk.
DELORES M. HOLLAR