Saturday, May 22, 2010

Slogging down to Egypt

A friend (and colleague) suggested that those of us who have blogs but rarely seem to manage to update them should call the genre "slogs" rather than "blogs". Given that the only occasion I seem to write "creatively" these days is when I'm travelling, I should, by all rights, be able to produce something during my current expedition. Still, it may prove a "slog" anyway, but perhaps for unexpected reasons.

I'm off to Alexandria to participate in a conference at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. I think I'm one of four "keynotes" but I'm not really feeling up to that billing. I may try to keep a low profile. I haven't lectured much in the Muslim world during my career -- in the mid-80s in India (okay, so I'm even having to take a broad definition of the "Muslim" world) and once in Carthage in the mid-90s. The latter, a gathering celebrating an esteemed French colleague to which I was honoured to be invited, was a difficult event due to my inability to lecture in either Arabic or French (I was told by a young man afterwards that it was very "impolite" of me to have used English). This gathering in Alexandria is definitely in English (and Arabic, I imagine) so that's not so much the issue this time as it is that I will be talking about the Qur'an from a historical and scholarly perspective (which is what I was asked to do). I am uncertain how it will be received. Watch this space for an update in a few days!

But that's hardly the biggest issue facing me about this trip, although I admit it is a rather mundane factor that's currently troubling me. I'm flying British Airways (and enjoying the BA Lounge while I write this -- unlimited booze [not that I'm drinking] and snacks) and there just happens to be a cabin-crew strike starting 40 minutes before I land in Cairo. Okay, so maybe they will be charitable and prepare the plane for landing before we get there, but I can only imagine that the crew will be grumpy at best (surly at worst, let's hope) not only as we get to Cairo but likely on the way to Heathrow too. I've already been told not to expect my special meal. But again, that's only a minor issue, really. It's more the fact that my return flights have already been cancelled due to the strike. So, I'm flying to Cairo not really knowing how or when I will get back. My hosts booked my tickets (Business class, if you must know; thus the lounge) and it seems they must make the necessary adjustments. And that can't be done until Sunday -- when I'll already be in London.

So, like I say, this could be a slog. But it might just provide some time for writing.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Nothing like waiting in airports to get your creative juices flowing, eh? and I would love to be stuck in Egypt!