The Wandering Astrologer: Cairo, Culture Shock and Travel by The Stars

To those wondering why I haven’t blogged in eons, I’ve been traveling all summer. The good news is, I’ve not only traveled, I’ve astro-traveled too, so there’s much to report. From Italy, Belgium, South Carolina and now, Cairo, Egypt. Geeh-za! (that’s a joke) Eclipse season has been no joke, though. It’s been a rocky summer of unexpected changes for many of us, so I do send out heartfelt blessings and gratitude to every person on their journey – on behalf of my own, and others who are fumbling through an amount of darkness and uncertainty. Now, without further delay…my first dispatch in over a month (settle in, it’s long)…

I write this from Cairo, Egypt, a city of juxtaposition. The old and the new, traditional and modern, water, no water, internet, no internet. Developing country, soon to be first world? Hard to know. It’s also hard to imagine Netflix delivering to address: City of the Dead (which due to population growth of recent years, is also City of the Living, as families have taken up residence in the front house, and tombs are in the rear. City of the (Living and) Dead looks just like a slightly quieter neighborhood in Cairo – but with crypts). Interestingly, Astrology played a role in Cairo’s founding. Founded in 969 AD, a Shi’ite General wanted a new city built created after his conquer. Moorish astrologers were asked to decide the founding moment of the new city. The astrologers would ring a bell, and the area would be designated. Instead a Raven landed on the ropes and rang the bells – and this was both an ominous and befuddling moment. There was no denying Mars, the God of War, was rising on this new founding chart, not the most auspicious planet for a city, so it’s said they named the city after Mars (Al-Qahir) or Cairo, as a sort of astrological juju, to protect the city from misfortune. As a visitor you might feel the warrior energy in the way Cairo thrusts itself on you all at once, in the military police that pepper every other street block, or driving, where the battle between life and death takes place every moment. Yet for a more personal experience of a city, you can roll by your own stars – or travel by the stars, as I did.

Traveling by the stars, is something I enjoy immensely (If you’re interested, I offer this as a service to my clients). If you’ve observed an underlying synchronistic presence at work with individual, relationship, health etc…astrology, travel is just one more way in. I like the astrology of travel especially, because in a field of study that quickly grows complicated, your experience is often refreshingly straightforward: in my experience, the archetypes appear fairly immediately and they’re instantly recognizable. My Mercury line runs 90 KM close to Cairo, which means my personal Mercury experience, as measured on a scale of extremes (which is how any person measures Cairo!) is extreme. On this line, it would make sense to be living, or visiting here as a student, writer or carrier pigeon, or as I experienced it, a witness. I travel to Cairo with my professor husband, and we’re staying in the University guest house. My Mercury (planet of learning) is in Cancer (the sign of hospitality), angular on my Descendant (the angle of other people, partners and marriage). Voila. That’s how it works.

It’s important to remember, as with any astrology, astro-travel is always an interaction between the individual, and the place – my Mercury line interacts with individual barriers, and abilities. Up until now, I’ve traveled only to cultures with European roots. I have been a lily white Virgin to culture shock. In Cairo, and intimately familiarized the un-familiar, thrust outside of my comfort zone, I am officially now deflowered. Shock withstanding, I can anticipate the basic flavor of my experience: on a Mercury line, I’ll have to be quick on my feet. Change, adaptability, speed, learning will comprise my time here. I will probably not get to slow down. And I will meet Mercury through others (DSC). I’ll need to be culturally sensitive, and my nervous system and sensitivities will be jostled (Mercury in Cancer). Since my Mercury, rules house 9 and 12, in a wide square to Uranus, new experiences will be introduced into my worldview, and things about my self I hadn’t previously been aware of, come to light. Honestly, I learned more about my own western attachments and judgments – and it wasn’t an easy lesson. I grew cranky with what wasn’t familiar, the “changeable” taxi fares, the heat, the ordeal of negotiating and bargaining for just about everything. I grew impatient when the paradigms I didn’t yet understand piled up and judgments began creeping in, ie what was inconvenient, or inappropriate by my own standards. Basically, with Mercury on my DSC, everyone and everything I see, are outside of or “not me” making me ripe for the phenomenon of projection! In short, I was in my own face, and it’s been extremely hard to find the appropriate level of objectivity and sensitivity to even write about it. Yet, just when I began to feel like your typical spoiled American totally overwhelmed and wondering why I was here (appropriately, on Full Moon in Aquarius Eclipse night, I had a full scale meltdown after a very stressful, frustrating day) everything switched. I was broken down to be re-made.

I do believe this neurological-physical experience is full scale culture “shock,” perhaps intensified by a Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius. Adaptation into a different culture is a huge challenge, reinforced by the actual and factual -that you really just don’t know the how, or why things work the way they do. Yet you’re trying to get your basic needs met functioning within this chaos of unknowns. Left to your own devices, this could take all day, along with lots of what I’ll call “educational opportunities” in a city like Cairo. But luckily, Mercury is a connector, so we have helpers, guides and educators. AND so much more. Mercury is a paradoxical planet ruling salesmen, cons, tricksters, guides, hustlers AND education, the mind, movement and learning AND day to day activity, journeys and conversation so said “shock” will be all-encompassing, transparent even. This is where my journey begins.

“Do not worry, Doctor.” -as said by numerous many to my husband.

Any connection with this location is likely to be lively whether you travel here or simply communicate via modern technology methods. You need to ensure that your colleagues are meticulous in their communications. Misunderstandings could emerge. Nevertheless you learn much from your experiences here. (Mercury line, from Solar Maps report)

Upon arriving in Cairo airport, we are met by a”representative” of the University with androgynous beauty. I am not surprised: Mercury shape shifts everything, including gender. Mercury charges messengers of all form. True to Mercury’s “ambassador” Mercury nature, we’ve had ambassadors at every juncture. If we don’t know what to do, we know someone within cell phone range, who does. Our first ambassador spends the next hour negotiating my lost luggage (returned a day later) and while waiting we overhear a fellow traveler, say: “generally, the Egyptian people are very welcoming and friendly…it just takes them awhile to get things going.” This happened over and over again. We were reassured, waited, lost hope, then were reassured when said item, or task materialized – as if out of thin air. That’s Mercury the Magician.

We arrive at the University. There is usually no internet in the guest house we’re staying, but by special arrangement we have it…sometimes. It comes on intermittenly. So we kind of have internet. Same with water for bathing. When we politely ask for help, a team of men arrive, and one woman. I’ve learned that even if invited in, no man will enter a single woman’s room without another female. Helpers and repair people appear, and dissappear, to reappear, sometimes hours later. It’s clear they’ve been working on a solution, and in this we see just how well-intended and helpful Cairoans are. The problem is, a new variation of the same problem pops up fairly immediately, which says less about the guest house and more about the everyday type of problems experienced in a developing nation. Funnily, it goes something like this, repair person turns on the tap and the water flows effortlessly; he leaves, water stops. We have theories about why this is but never really know. Same thing with the internet. And so it goes. That’s Mercury the Trickster.

Most misunderstandings are linguistic. We do not speak Arabic and the majority of people we meet speak little English. We learn the word for Arabic coffee, awhar turki, but our pronounciation is poor, so the attempt is moot. Some misunderstandings are cultural, and can be resolved by what I call “being taken to school.” Today a hotel attendant inquired about me. She asked if I was Christian, did I have children? I want to reply: I am a Californian (which leaves me with the question: how does one translate my amalgam of faith as magic, metaphysical thinking and new thought?). This would be the wrong response. I nod, okay yes, I’m Christian. So why would I visit a mosque, her face asks quizically, when I just told her I was Christian? I attempt to explain that I’m a stepmother, and my three girls are my husband’s from a previous marriage, but realize I should have simply replied: I have children. It’s hard to interpret her net response to all my apparently confusing answers, but it is similar to the cab driver’s on the first afternoon we arrived. I had affectionately pecked my husband on the cheek only to see flashing white of the cab driver’s eyes who flipped up the rearview mirror in what I interpreted as disapproval. I was right (later I read: PDA’s are strictly discouraged – and only married couples can hold hands in public). Even though I think our conversation is a complete and irrevocable disaster, she wants to come visit me in California. Will I invite her?, she asks. She brings me a gift and calls me before we leave.

-There are no free (camel) rides in life-

Mercury can be a first-class hoaxster, or at least that’s the Roman Mercury. In ancient Mesopotamia, Mercury was a holy scribe – an objective communicator, the messenger and channel of God-Spirit. How Mercury then became attributed with salespeople and then logically, thieves, I’m not exactly sure. It probably only took one King-God with nefarious motives to send the Messenger with a wicked or falsified request to get that ball rolling, but this is just my own Roman-logical conjecture.

We have our first experience of the con, thieve and hoaxster at the Giza pyramids, where John is taken to school. At the Middle pyramid a Turban’d man adopts my husband. How are you sir? Where are you from? Do you have kids? What do you do? Ah, sales techniques are universal: common ground is struck. Now that we know each other well enough to speak of our families, allow me to give you a gift. No, no, just take it. My gift to you. Man shoves porcelain scarab beads into John’s hand, John tries to give them back. He won’t take it back. Now sir, what do you have for me? It doesn’t matter if you never wanted the “gift” to begin, once you have it, you’ve accepted it. Gifts don’t seem to be gifts, more like the ancient form of negotiated trade. You give me one thing, I give you another – the advantage going to whomever ends up with the greater value. John reaches into his pocket, and of course the first bill Mister sees is an egyptian pound note equivalent to 50 USD. He pulls out all the stops by pulling out what look like a cheap Islamic turban Halloween headdress from his pocket and putting this on John’s head, as another gift. John protests, man shoves the turban on John’s head, sold. Cha-ching. Mercury rules twos. So it happens again as we exit pyramids, this time by a hawk-eyed Bedouin who ups the heart strings ante by pointing to his small son sitting on the Camel. I want to protect John by now, and I’m telling him no. “Lady, let me give it to you…” and attempts put it on my head. His pushy, physicality bothers me. I raise my voice “I DON’T WANT IT!” and he walks away about as mellow as a time bomb. Legs shaky, we leave the pyramids – which were fascinating. It is this exchange that most stands out in my mind.

Education also plays an important role for you along this line. You may benefit from attending conferences or learning new skills. You will enjoy these activities more if you share them with colleagues or loved ones, rather than pursuing them on your own. An exchange of ideas with others is more important than being left alone with your own thoughts. (Mercury line, from Solar Maps report)

You are likely to be busy whenever you visit this location. (Mercury line, from Solar Maps report)

Touring abroad isn’t your typical “vacation,” and on one’s Mercury line, movement is the rule – not the exception. Never is this more true than in Cairo. With the sheer amount of history, we chose to do tours with University degreed Egyptologists as guides. Compare their 4600 years of Egyptian history, the several hundred years of American history we learn in school seems paltry. These guides were unflappable, addressing more obscure questions (and John asked) with ease. It was like being at university every day, a real treat for my 9th house Sun! Here was our itinerary.

Day One: Giza Pyramids, including Cheops pyramid (only surviving “seven wonders of the world”) Papyrus Institute, Sphinx Light Show (11:30 PM)
Day Two: Cairo Museum, Citadel Salah el Din Park
Day Three: visit to Saqqara Pyramid (oldest Egyptian cemetary), Memphis (oldest capital of Egypt), Egyptian Perfume Shop, Dinner Cruise on the Nile River, the Scarabee
Day Four: Islamic Mosque Tour, Khan el Khalili market, Sufi Dance Performance
Day Five: day off (I request these days off!), dinner with Egyptian Doctor’s Family
Day Six: Three hour ride to Alexandria, Egypt; Pompeii’s pillar, Alexandria lighthouse (site of seven wonders of the world), Roman Catacombs, Alexandria library
Day Seven: day off, dinner with two Egyptian women Doctors

Our tour guides’ name is Russia, like the country, she tells us. Her Arabic name is too difficult for the English tongue, so like many we’ve met, she’s chosen a name for herself easier on the European tongue. Russia gives us an invaluable bird’s eye view on culture, emphasis on invaluable. We not only get the straight story from Russia, we get candid ones, striking modern day experiences of life for an Egyptian woman that I will remember for the rest of my own. As it is, there’s so much to learn, my mind moves from alert & curious to exhausted, daily. We learn the difference between the Sunis and Shiites, Islamic or Muslim. We learn about Egyptian burial rites, the second life, the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Roman catacombs, Egyptian pyramids, modern day mausoleums in City of the Dead. Q: How many coffins does it take to get to the tootsie roll center – a mummified King Tut? Answer: 6. The difference between what I see on the streets, and the legacy of wealth and achievement in the artifacts, museums, tombs, is striking. The fact that we’re admiring ancient Egyptian technology, for example, pyramid-building that still inspires modern invention, and the fact that city water isn’t deemed safe to drink by any person today, contrast sharply. For all their dynastic shifts, and more changes of power than we can ever imagine, Egypt is still a developing nation.

So what about astrology? Did I learn anything about Egyptian Astrology? Okay, yes, I was hoping to see some astrology. A few temples to the Gods, perhaps. Maybe a calendar? Scant evidence seemed to exist in Cairo, nor Alexandria. We did visit a Roman tomb where an Egyptian calendar once existed, though no trace currently remains. Maybe next time…

Noise, stimulation, and overload

Like clockwork, we’re awakened every morning by prayers and horns. There are prayers announced from minarets on loud megaphones five times a day beginning at 4:30 AM, and since we’re also staying next to a military institute so we hear at least three additional morning songs. The prayers are male human voices, and they fill the city with a reverent and holy wail. They’re beautiful, and long-sufferingly sad both at once. It’s also the one thing I do not have to understand to deeply know. Prayers, prevailing over the din of honking horns, carried by the wind across a city bursting at the seams- imagine it!

Horns and driving. In addition to Arabic, Heiroglyphic and the many other languages here, honking is a form of communication. Everyone honks to say hello, to say move out of the way, to say I’m here, to say what were you thinking? The horn is neccessary. As “the one rule on driving is: there are no rules,” as said by our tour guide, who also said, “rush hour is 24 hours a day.” All true. Driving in Cairo is like no other place in the world. I should have brought sedatives. There are laws, but they are not enforced (in Alexandria, they’re just beginning to be ticketed for traffic infractions). Here’s a typical conundrum: three cars, two lanes – what to do? Make like Moses parting the Red Sea – create a third lane. Every rule you think is true for western drivers goes out the window: cars head down streets in the wrong directions, tailgating is the rule, and it’s hard to tell who has the right of way, pedestrians or drivers. I’m not sure if I fear for my life more, or for the people on the streets, narily missed by a hair as they walk headlong into 60 mph traffic. I think to myself credulously, this reckless behavior would be deemed a suicide wish in the US court of law. It seems, for the cab drivers at least, it’s a game of chicken right up till the last possible millisecond. Out of self-protection, the only way I learn to stop anticipating accidents every other second is by willing myself to watch the passing scenery instead of the road. After more unnerving taxi rides, we return to the hotel in one piece, and I assume the fetal position to gather my wits. This helps.

Big Fat Islamic Wedding(s)

This is the Honeymooners’ line. All personal relationships benefit if you travel to locations along this line, however; your marriage takes on a particularly new bloom. This is the ideal line if you are wanting to take a romantic trip with your partner. You will feel a sense of peace, harmony and pleasure as you seek to share intimate moments with your loved one. This is also a good line to move along if you want to create a new and beneficial relationship. In other words a holiday or move along this line could produce happy results for single people. Even if you do not meet someone new, you will enjoy sharing pastimes with other people. (Solar Maps Venus line)

Ah, pleasure! Since Venus joins Mercury by 5 degrees in my chart, I’m also on my Venus line here, though it’s a little weaker than Mercury (the Venus line runs closer to the Libyan border). When I consult clients looking for love, Venus lines are the most coveted. And if you have a fairly good relationship with Venus in your chart, Venus Descendant lines are doubly delicious. Yet how would this play out for me, a married woman? We joke that my husband could find his 2nd, 3rd and 4th wives here. Yes, Islam allows multiple wives – though there’s a loophole in the Qu’ran- the first wife must approve. I do not! However, it wouldn’t be difficult to arrange a ceremony – seeing as there’s a marriage garden right outside our hotel window. Where there’s been a wedding. Every. Single. Night. In total, there are three reception gardens on the grounds, and every night of the week, they’re all in constant use! I once read that weddings bring out the best in Egyptians, and it’s not hard to get invited to one. That’s an understatement – when you’re on your Venus DSC line, the wedding comes to you! The Egyptian “reception” is similar to American one; ie a gathering celebration, after the official mosque or church visit. There’s dancing and visiting, but that’s where the similarity ends. When newlyweds arrive, women folk make a trilling sound with their tongue to communicate excitement – our equivalent of “whoopping it up.” Then the couple are serenaded in the middle of the dance floor and presented with glasses of bright red liquid, a sweet fruit drink (no alcohol is allowed for Muslims). The couple proceeds to take their place on the two chairs set up on stage when exceptionally loud music with everything from middle eastern, to Ricky Martin, to Kenny G (now playing) begins, so loud, we learn, this prevents everyone from having an actual conversation. Every night come midnight I think, one more of Ricky Martin’s “baile amor” will do me in. Yet I’m marveling at the Venus-line synchronicity.

A second form of Egyptian hospitality, it turns out, is quite sweet. And far more enjoyable than the form of “Egyptian hospitality” first encountered at the pyramids. The Cairoans we’ve interacted closely with are constantly looking out for us. One person calls to check up on us, another to take us to dinner. Dinner…as with everything here, is so different. Dinner is often not until midnight, or later, 2 AM when the whole city really comes to life (as I said, Cairo never sleeps, which like every travel experience, is hard to really understand until you experience it). This is partly because it’s so hot during the day, so it’s more pleasant to visit at night. Lunch is the main meal of the day, which happens at 3 PM or so, and breakfast is usually just a cup of tea. Dinner is very light, often bread, cheese, fruit. When a car arrives to pick us up for dinner with a lovely family it’s at 10:30 PM. We’re served sweet hisbiscus iced tea, various grilled and spiced meats, including kofta, tahini, tomato-cucumber salad, stuffed grape leaves and peppers, pita, and for dessert “oriental” sweets and tea. Oriental is not asian, as we think of it in the U.S. but a style or adjective, describing music, food, and is an oft-used word in Egypt. Dinner concludes at 1:00 AM, we are in bed by 2 AM. So, does one sleep? From what I’ve gathered, a typical nights sleep lasts anywhere between 2-4 hours!

I’ve been told I’m beautiful, by the few women I’ve had opportunity to have discussions with. This has the effect of making this farm girl from Ohio feel awkwardly exotic. I insist, it’s impossible to feel exotic surrounded by these mysterious beauties. Venus is of course the patroness of love, beauty, and women – and my experience of these people and things also wear the clothes of the culture. I look around me to see Egyptian beauties enrobed with head scarves, only their kohl’d eyes peeking through. What is the fashion? Head to toe coverage is all the rage! Egypt is Muslim and Coptic (Christian). The Muslims are almost all fully covered from mid-arm to ankle, more traditionally in the long robe and scarf. The younger generation wears the more colorful scarf, to cover their head, sometimes jeans, even t-shirts or tank-tops, but always with a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath to conceal. Since I know you’re dying to know what I’ve been wearing here – I wear what any girl would wear in 100+ F heat; long-sleeved shirts and loose cotton pants! By day five, I am so thoroughly tired of being covered up but as our guide, Russia, explains: if a man can see a woman’s body, they will think it’s theirs for the taking. I willingly swelter.

I do believe my Venus line helped soothe my more Mercurial experience, here, though I question if whether were I were single, that I would find a marriage partner on this line. Really, the differences are too vast. Of course, I had many other types of Venusian experiences here. One of our new “friends” bought me a pair of pajamas when my luggage went missing, and everyone close to us presented us with flowers, gifts and trinkets to take home. Within busy lives led, Cairoans made the time to be gracious and hospitable to us as visitors, but we noted they also make time to spend with each other -leaving work early to spend half the day socializing with family and friends is common, and acceptable. Socializing is central in modern Egyptian life, this makes me wonder whether there’s much to improve in this area, here in America. It’s clear that connection is vital for everyone to thrive in an environment that requires much adaptation. At this I’ll sign off. I’m endlessly ruminating on all the differences I’ve encountered in Cairo, astrology was certainly a wonderful and synchronous lens to sort my perceptions through!

Comments

  1. Hey, Hello & Hi from Egypt
    Well, i guess that’s me driving the car up there…. xD
    My First Astrological blog to read & surely not the last.

    Bye

  2. wow what a holiday!!! – thank you for writing all that… so amazing to get a wee peek into other lands/ cultures – how exciting…. (yes i have had those meltdowns travelling too!)….thanks again xoxxo 🙂

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