Journal: Friday 17 October 1997
The next morning I had a message to say I had been summoned to the West Bank by my friend Haga Omm Mohammed who lived at Kom Lolla, near the temple of Medinet Habu. She had a gift for me. I was greeted with the usual smiles of welcome and invited to stay for lunch with the family, an informal meal with the women and children that took place in the kitchen at the back of the little house. We sat on mats on the floor around a big metal tray and shared delicious dishes of rice and vegetables, salads and freshly baked bread. It took me a while to get used to eating Egyptian style. The dishes were set out in the centre of a circle and everyone helps themselves. There were no separate plates and no knives and forks. The food was scooped up in folded pieces of bread – a technique which takes a bit of practice and a lot of mine was lost before it reached my mouth. The ladies thought this was hilarious! One Egyptian speciality dish which Haga is famous for, was molokhiya, something I usually try to avoid, but this time could not politely refuse. It is made from a green leafy plant which is stewed with spices until it becomes a sort of green soup with a rather slimy viscous texture. It is not my favourite Egyptian food but I had to admit that this was tastier than I’d had before. It is the texture that is off-putting. We ended the meal as usual with glasses of sweet tea and Haga brought out my present all wrapped up in tissue paper and tied with string. It was one of her beautiful brightly coloured crochet cloths. I was very touched, knowing the work that goes into producing these.
Afterwards I went with Haga’s son Nubi to see his new house which he was building himself near the canal by Medinet Habu. It was almost finished and Nubi and his wife Zeinab were working on getting the garden in order, planting rows of vegetable seeds in the red sandy soil. I sat with Nubi for a while in the shade of a tree talking about his archaeological work. It had been a lovely afternoon.