Saturday 15th February
Today was market day in Menouf and it was busy; very busy.
Menouf is a town some one and a half hours North of Cairo and situated within the Nile Delta; that very fertile region of Egypt where the world's longest river after a journey of more than 4000 miles divides and re-divides into an array of watery fingers which finally reach north into the Mediterranean.
The purpose of my journey however was not to test my negotiating skills in a Middle Eastern Souk but rather to attend a special event at The Episcopal School Menouf. This is an establishment currently educating 850 children and young people between the ages of 3 and 15. Although operating under the auspices of the Anglican Church in Egypt this is a Mixed faith establishment with 80% of the students Muslim, and 20% Christian. Staff are more or less evenly divided between Muslim and Christian.
The event I was attending was in connection with an ongoing interfaith initiative know as 'Together Planting a Tree of Hope'. The stated objective is to cultivate hope and love between children of the two main religious communities in Egypt. (This is a project that CMSI supported through its 2017 Children's Resource, Crossing Bridges).
Today was a celebration of the ongoing achievements of the programme, participated in not only by the children of the Episcopal School but also the school associated with the local Al Ahzar Mosque. Children from both schools took part in a programme of singing and poetry. The mayor was present as were other leading members of the community, Christian and Muslim alike. In a region, which like our own small province, has been bedevilled with division and strife, it was heartwarming to witness the events today.
Before heading back to Cairo I had the opportunity of visiting the famous Harpur Hospital founded over a hundred years ago by Frank Harpur, a doctor from Moira. Newly extended, it treats 1000 patients a day and has facilities for carrying out major surgery.