A day in the life of...Mahmoud Marei

18th October 2013 at 01:00
Although life in post-coup Cairo has many challenges, one science teacher finds time to unwind between prayers, school and tutoring, but only if he drives like he's in a Hollywood car chase

"Mahmoud, Mahmoud, it is time?" my wife, Reem, whispers at 4.30am. I struggle to get out of bed at this hour of the morning, for the fajr prayer. I don't usually manage to make it on time, but this year I am determined to be disciplined.

I get up slowly, perform the usual washing - wudu - and go down to the nearby mosque. There are tanks in the streets; Cairo is still living under the military curfew, from 11pm to 5am. The soldiers and officers are half- asleep, but high-spirited, and always give a smile as we pass by.

At 5am we return and I crawl back to bed for another quick nap. At 6.15am, Reem wakes me up again, this time with a cup of hot cinnamon and another cup of tea with milk. We try to enjoy it by drinking as slowly as we can. I know this is the only relaxing time we will have for the rest of the day.

After half an hour, I wake our children, Loujine and Nour. I have a quick shower, shave and get dressed.

We jump in the car and drive towards school, stopping briefly to grab the kids a breakfast of traditional Egyptian food - sandwiches of ful beans.

Driving in Cairo is an ordeal, chaos in the purest sense of the word; there are no rules. I live in Maadi and my school is in New Cairo, nearly 17 miles (27 kilometres) away. It should take no more than 20 minutes, but often takes well over an hour.

Loujine and Nour are very excited, because this is their first day in their new school. I decided to move them to the school where I work and I enjoy their company on the way there.

I drop them off and make my way into the British school where I teach physics and chemistry to 13- and 14-year-olds.

Work is horrendously busy. I started here only last year. I like the place and have to admit that it's the best school I've worked for. The school day finishes at 3.15pm. The trip home usually takes much longer than the journey there, because almost every other school finishes at the same time.

I arrive home between 4pm and 4.30pm, and have the chance to catch the middle - asr - prayer in the mosque. I have a quick lunch and then head back to Nasr City where I teach evening classes. In Egypt, it is virtually impossible to survive on one source of income. I am usually forced to accept these classes to make extra revenue.

Sometimes I run desert expeditions to help support my family financially, but I can do them only during school holidays. And recently Egypt has become a tourist-free zone, because everyone is afraid to visit us, so I haven't conducted a tour for about a year and a half.

On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays, I teach a number of evening classes; on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I attend classes for my diploma in teaching adolescent learners at the American University in Cairo.

Today, I taught for five uninterrupted hours and didn't finish until 10.30pm. It doesn't leave me much time to get home before the tanks block the streets, so I have to drive like Jason Statham in The Transporter. The roads are empty of traffic, and I see the tanks rolling out on to the streets.

I manage to make it home at 11.10pm and I am totally knackered. I creep under the sheets for the short night. Tomorrow is another day.

Your day

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