Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Expat Quilter

My husband and I moved to Egypt in October 2003. We actually live in the suburb of Ma'adi, altho Cairo is so huge and sprawling it feels like one big city. When we arrived we had zero cats. But being here with all the pathetic, needy strays made my biological cat clock go off and we eventually ended up with four of them, but that's a story for a different day.

I belong to Quilters in De Nile along with other Americans, Canadians, Brits, an Aussie, and our lovely part-time resident Dane. It's actually amazing how many expats live in Cairo, esp here in Ma'adi, working for oil, construction, and AID companies. I think some of the women are geographical quilters (far from home, may as well be doing something to get out of the house) while others like myself would be quilting no matter where we live. We get together once a week, at least usually. So many families bail out during the summer that the two of us who were left took a couple of weeks off.

Good 100% quilting fabric is non-existent in Cairo. Thin, solid cottons are available but that is about it, at least that I have discovered. Now an adventurous quilter could go to the fabric souk and start working with all sorts of polyesters, nylons, and interesting fabrics. I wish I could be so bold myself. I look at the quilts the women of Gee's Bend make out of corduroy, denim, and whatever they have and marvel. I admire them, but that's just not something I'm interested in doing. As Bonnie would say, my train just doesn't stop at that station.

So it's hard to start quilting here, much better to have a stash that comes with. Haven't found high-quality thread either. Now we can get DMC embroidery floss, all kinds of buttons and the most beautiful, inexpensive silk floss that you can imagine. I brought home loads of turquoise and cobalt scarabs and carved camel bone camels for my embellishing friends in the states. So there are always trade offs, just like everything else in life.

For an excellent look at what everyday life is like here in Cairo, check out quilter Jenny Bowker's blog called Postcards from Cairo - the link is in my sidebar. Now her situation in the country is completely different than mine - her husband is the big cheese at their embassy and she does all sorts of diplomatic functions. So ignore that. But stories about walking on the streets because the sidewalks are all in disrepair and built too high, that I can relate to.


Lisa, Procrastinator Extraordinaire said...

Hey, I can really understand what you're going through. We lived in Bahrain from 1997-1999 and the lack of cotton fabric was amazing. Why do they want to wear polyester which makes you sweat?

Anyway the best solution is to find an American military friend in your area. They can order from catalogues in the US and the military delivers it relatively fast and no extra $$.

In the meantime build up your stash whenever you can and take time to experiment. We had a blast using cleaning supplies to discharge fabric. It works great in the HOT Middle Eastern sun.

Tonya R said...

ooh, I wasn't very clear was I. I have a great stash - 17 years worth. The problem is for new people who've never quilted before starting from scratch.
Yeah, I agree the whole living in the desert covered head to toe in polyester just doesn't make sense to me.