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Valentine's Day

I have had an extraordinary day. Our shipment arrived yesterday. We had been warned the night before that six or the large boxes (all of which held a lot of smaller ones) were damaged, possibly by a forklift driver. They also looked as if they had been wet.

None of this was good news. I had a fortune in fabric in those boxes - and although it was insured - I knew that I couldn't replace it here. We had bought fifteen cases of Australian wine as wine orders take such a long time that it weemed wise to bring enough to cover six months of entertaining. I also had a lot of my precious quilts and could see Arabesque coming out of the boxes drenched in red wine or mouldy from rain.

All was well. The delivery arrived and was in cardboard boxes, the wooden outer containers were gone, in two trucks. A mob of men - well, five, but they were all moving fast swarmed into the house and stacked them in the entrance hall while we ticked numbers off on our lists.
All were present. They then shunted them into rooms to match the rooms we had labelled them in in Australia.

We will unpack them slowly over the next few weeks. About a quarter are already done. We hve had some minor breakages, but the quilts were fine, and all fabric boxes look dry. One bottle of red is a small libation for the gods and we were happy to lose only that.

Last night the Marriot gave a dinner for the diplomatic corps at the hotel on Zamalek. It was Valentine's Day - a huge thing here. Every shop with anything for sale which was red has for weeks been putting these things in the windows. all the dress shops are featuring bright red dresses, often evening gowns weighty with beading and fringes. The flower shops have nothing but roses and babies breath, confectionery shops have heart shaped scrlet-foil-covered boxes in high stacks on the display plinths.

We walked into the small ball room at the Marriot to find ourselves floating in space. The rooms were dark, with only the walls really lit. They had had a local artist paint the most amazing backdrops which covered the walls and windows - planets and moons - in closeup, with craters, and all on a midnight blue sky scattered with thousands of tiny light stars.

Every table (for eight) was a mass of glittering points of blue light which flowed down over the sides to the floor. They were covered with very deep blue cloths, then a deep covering of tiny Christmas lights all in blues - but with varying shades, then small glass chocks on the corners of the tables held a thick sheet of glass above the lights, and the table was set up on that. Deep blue glass plates allowed the lights to shine through, so it felt as if the superb food floated.

We ate a carpaccio of beef with rocket and pamesan, capers and oil gleaming on the surface, the most sumptous mushroom soup I have ever tasted, fillets of sole rolled and served in a cream sauce studded with prawns and served with multicoloured pasta, smoked lamb cutlets, tiny and totally lean, served with asparagus and potato, and then a large soup plate with a half inch deep creme brulee, faintly almond flavoured and strewn with fresh redcurrants, and wild berries.

It wa nice to meet so many Ambassadors in such an informal setting where we could talk freely about the region and its assets and drawbacks. I will now know faces when I walk into cocktail parties.
These are usually my very least favourite thing, as they mean that Bob leaves me at the door - he is working - and I have to break into groups of women I don't know and who are often speaking a language I am not good at.

More later - I have unpacking to attack and my helpers have just arrived.

Reader Comments (9)

So glad all your goodies arrived reasonably safely and hope everything will soon to arranged to your satisfaction. Regards, Dorothy Karman, Canberra.

February 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy

Jenny, I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blog - very envious of your wonderful opportunity. The dinner sounds fabulous. So pleased that all your quilts arrived safely, too.

Margaret Robinson
Wellington, New Zealand

February 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hi Jenny,

Ditto the comments about the safe arrival of the quilts anfd fabric - but don't forget the wine!! How could one cope without our great Australian wine.


February 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Needle

I'm in awe of your photos, Jenny, I feel I'm right beside you as you've taken them. What an amazing looking place,(the tentmakers souk, I'm meaning specifically) please tell us more about their purpose.
Warmest wishes,

February 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Wow Jenny, that dinner setting must have been awesome! Glad that your stuff (and you) has arrived safe and sound...mostly! Am really enjoying your blog!
Dorothy in Stratford, NZ.

February 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Wow Jenny - How do you manage to keep a good figure! and how do you manage to find the time to write so much. Fantastic. Thank you.

February 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBar Price

Jenny, Didn't realise we could elave comments. Have been following your journey from the beginning. Great stories and wonderful photographs. Thanks
Ann Bacchus Marsh, Vic.

February 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Jenny, I'm so glad that my quilting librarian friend from the States forwarded your blog info to me. Now that I have devoured all your wonderfully evocative impressions, I'm just too delighted that we're living in the same country. Many of your observations made me chuckle and reminded me of some of my own here in Luxor. Just wait until you see the tomb ceilings and borders on the West Bank. They're just crying out to be rendered in quilts!

Keep up the wonderful reporting!

Chicago House, Luxor, Egypt

February 17, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

My sister, an Army wife, has many tales to tell about moving -- so I held my breath. They've had a lot of wter-damaged things. But yours are OK - very glad.


February 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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