Dear Folks: Well, here I am settled in my new surroundings somewhere in Egypt and about ready to go to work. Got in yesterday noon with a couple of overnight lay-overs on the way. How's that for traveling?
It was really a swell trip -- an experience worth an awful lot. And after riding that far in a plane I can see why some people go for flying in a big way. It's surely a nice way to travel ... We stayed at Casablanca overnight. It was our first glimpse of a city that was really foreign. We got in after dark and were back at the airport the next AM before it was very light, so we really didn't get a good look at the city -- but we did get our first glimpse of the lower class African natives -- going along the road in their little two-wheeled carts hitched to a donkey and wearing ankle length dresses (men, women and children all the same), and turbans around their heads -- no shoes on their feet. A few of them had camels -- and for the first time we saw camels outside of a zoo.
Just before we hit the coast of Africa, an hour or so out, we had a heavy cloud bank between us and the ocean. It was perfectly clear above but we couldn't see a thing below except once in a while in a break in the clouds we saw the blue of the ocean. Finally as we neared the African coast, the pilot began taking the plane down through the clouds and for several minutes we couldn't see a thing either way, up or down. Then all of a sudden we burst out of the clouds (below) and saw Africa below us. It was quite a sight, especially since we hadn't been able to see it as we approached. There, near Casablanca, the ground was quite flat and desert-looking from the air, and every now and then we'd see a little habitation of some kind, a couple of stone shelters, some kind of animals and a small area fenced off with stone. Probably some native's pride and joy. ... From the air Casablanca looked like quite a city -- several large buildings, any as big as our own small skyscrapers, but on the ground it seemed to be much more backwards, quite dirty and quite smelly, as all these North African cities are.
Bengasi was our other overnight stop. Due to a little radio trouble the pilot didn't want to tackle the next leg of the journey at night without it. We didn't get to see the city but did get a good night's sleep and saw one of these beautiful African moonlit nights. It was even nicer than the one we saw at Bermuda.
After we left Casablanca, the terrain became very rough and mountainous and was that way all the way to Tunis. Practically all waste land, and we could readily understand when we saw it how tough it must have been a little over a year ago for the allies to push out the Germans. After Bengasi about all we saw was the desert -- and I mean desert. It was a clear day most of the way and as far in any direction as one could see was desert, flat and sandy, with no vegetation, no roads and no sign of habitation except for a native dwelling of some sort once in a great while. ... And then, all of a sudden we saw a very distinct line ahead which looked almost like the shore of a large body of water but which turned out to be the Nile delta. It was surprising how the desert waste could turn so suddenly and completely into a very green, well planted, thickly populated area.
Ahead we could see Cairo and between us and the city the Pyramids. The pilot was very cooperative and circled around the Pyramids completely, giving us an excellent birds-eye view of the whole scene. It was really quite a thrilling sight and surely brought out very well the great size of the Pyramids. we were several thousand feet up and everything else looked very small, but the Pyramids actually seemed to come up to meet us! Very large. The Sphinx, on the other hand, looked very small in comparison, smaller than I had expected. In fact, we had a hard time finding it from the plane.
While in Cairo, we toured what is known as "Old Cairo" and I can't begin to explain or describe it. It's really old and is filled with the dark-skinned Arab type of native. There are buildings there built before Christ -- in fact we went in a church, called the St. Sarguis church and supposedly the oldest church in Egypt. In the cellar of it they claim the Holy Family lived during the Flight to Egypt. It's supposed to be in the same form as it was then -- and looks it. None of these old buildings are kept up like museums but are merely standing there, still used by the natives and quite dirty and worse for wear ... But the way these Arabs live is the sight! They sit around in the streets in the old, dirty, torn dresses and turbans, usually not clean shaven, and very dirty. They don't wear shoes (that is, most of them don't ) -- and what a smell! The whole town has a distinct smell -- but Old Cairo is much worse. They stick their food in piles on tables right in the dust and dirt of the street -- some kind of pastry stuff and some spoiled looking meat -- and sit around on their haunches and eat it. Some of the women are veiled and some not, but all of them wear heavy black clothes when on the street where people can see them. Their diet must be deficient in some way (which I can readily understand!) because practically all of them have very poor eyesight. Lots of them have one eye shriveled up and almost out of sight -- and several of the children I saw had one eye all white in the middle. Lots of them, especially the old people, are missing teeth and they surely aren't what you'd call a handsome bunch of human critters.
In the newer part of Cairo one finds the rich Egyptians. In Egypt the people are either very rich or very poor. The rich ones are quite well educated and live in nice looking places, although inside I imagine we would still consider them a little backward.
Saw a caravan of four camels today, and one constantly sees Arabs with a donkey pulling a very ancient looking and quite small two-wheeled cart loaded with rock, or fruit, or baskets of stuff, or maybe his family, walking slowly along the road. I'll bet they could step on glass and not feel it -- their feet look that tough.
As far as beauty is concerned, probably the nicest part of the trip was the takeoff and seeing Miami and Miami Beach from the air. And the ocean -- I always thought it would be a grayish green. At least it always looks that way along the shore. But from the sky, it's perfectly blue! And I really mean blue. Sometimes light and sometimes very dark, but always blue except where it is very shallow and then it becomes very green. The clouds are very beautiful from the air also. A person could write a book on them alone. We saw so many different kinds from the thin, very light ones to the big fluffy white thunderheads, with the thick dark rain clouds in between.
We went through rain and sleet part of the trip, and at other times there was hardly a cloud in the sky as we could see.
We spent one night on the plane in the air before we got to the Azores. Just stretched out on the floor or on the seats along the sides wherever we could find room. The seats were the "bucket" type of seats -- you sit along the sides facing in -- the kind the paratroops use.
I have all my money in Egyptian money now, piastres and pounds. When at Casablanca we used francs. A piastre is four cents, a franc two.
So far the whole trip has been very enjoyable and I think I'll like my stay here quite well. --Love, Wilbert.
Advice to a Bride
(Especially to Hope's Ruth)
A brand-new husband is like a shoe --
He must be well "broke in,"
And your future wedded life will be
Just as you begin.
You must be firm from the very first,
Though smiles will help along.
But see that he hangs his coat and pants
On hooks where they belong.
Put onions in his soup, my dear,
And pepper, too, a lot.
A man's heart is in his stomach,
So keep it plenty hot.
Make him wipe his shoes off good
Before you let him in.
These things may not seem important,
But is just as you begin.
Make him get the breakfast,
And let you "beauty nap."
And soothe his injured feelings
With a tender little slap.
Mend his socks with binder twine,
Patch overalls with tin,
For as I've said before, my dear,
It's just as you begin.
--Blossom, South Dakota.
Though troubles help to make us strong
Every time they come,
I find it hard to think of this
When I am having some.
(From Cheerful Cherubs by Rebecca McCann.)