ADVENTURES IN ALEXANDRIA AND CAIRO

While working as Senior Researcher at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (1976/8), I was asked to attend the European-Arab Dialogue on Oceanography in Alexandria, Egypt, together with the official Kuwaiti designate, Dr. Kasem Behbehani, then Dean at Kuwait University but subsequently Director of KISR, and also of the WHO.
After the ceremonial opening meeting in Cairo, Kasem more or less authorized me to substitute for him since I had made all preparations. I was staying in the Cairo Hilton, and had noticed a shy blonde girl with backpack sitting in the lobby when I left to attend the dinner. When I returned, after midnight, she was still sitting there, so I asked her if I could be of any help. She burst out in tears and said that she was so scared of the Egyptian men who might rob and rape her because they followed her around everywhere. I asked if they had actually touched her or accosted her. "No," she admitted, "but ....." and trailed off in Norwegian.
Since she did not appear to have a place to stay, I offered to share my room, which had two beds. She accepted on the condition that there would not be any "sexual favors." There were not, I just admired the sweaters she had knitted herself and taken along to sell to pay for her living expenses further along on her planned tour of Africa...
The next morning, I was picked up by one of the leading Egyptian Profs, and the receptionist asked me what I was going to do about the girl in my room. I told him to let her sleep and do what she wanted, because I would be gone the whole day. The Professor nodded understandingly, though he did not really understand anything (or maybe I misunderstood).
In (wicked) Alexandria - (known for Anthony and Cleopatra of the Society for Inimitable Livers vying to give the most expensive dinners, topped by Cleo taking an expensive pearl, dissolving it in vinegar, then drinking the "solution" - try it yourself sometime!) - I was shown through the Marine Chemistry Lab. of the Alexandria Institute of Oceanography. This constituted the biggest contrast with our Lab in Kuwait. Here they boasted numerous staff and chemists but hardly any equipment or instruments, we in Kuwait the opposite. Their most sophisticated test apparatus were a booklet of litmus paper and some colored vials of a color comparator. Nothing electronic.
Their library was equally poorly equipped, with old magazines and journals in the reading room, the most recent being a two-year old "Scientific American." I thought of the time two millennia ago when Alexandria boasted the World's largest library. Walking through the shelves, I noticed that the oceanographic literature of the 1930's appeared better represented, I then noticed some old wooden storage boxes along the back wall, and asked my guide what was in there. "Oh, just old books to be thrown out," was the reply. I opened one and found many copies of the "Challenger" report, some 50 volumes which were the beginning of Oceanography.
I thought back of 1966, when I started the Millersville Oceanography program, and a visiting salesman urged me to "put Millersville on the Map" and buy a set of offprints of the Challenger Reports, which he could offer for a mere $ 2000!. I withstood not only that temptation but also the new one: to offer the Alexandrians an electronic pH meter) in exchange for the boxes of old books. By now, some 30 years later, it is probably too late, and I presume a less conscientious or more sensible scientist or operator must have yielded to the temptation. But, as I showed above earlier, I was very resistant to temptations.
By the way, at the work session of the European-Arab Dialog, Europe was represented by a Dutch oceanographer. Since Arabia had been delegated to Kuwait which had been delegated to me, that particular dialog was held in Dutch, and was likely one of the most efficient examples of cooperation - although I never heard any more about it. Perhaps we had submitted the minutes in Dutch?

BLO fecit 20060114 - stories

P.S.: Google results on January 14, 2006:
19,900 for +European Arab Dialogue, +Oceanography