An outsider, who did not speak the language, at first, I saw only the surface of life in Cairo. I was thrilled to be in the "land of the Pharaohs," which had fascinated me since I was a teen-ager.
Gradually, the dark side of Egyptian life began to reveal itself. Spied upon by neighbors, my students, my servant and possibly others, as well as the secret police, I began to watch my words, as I taught my students, in a way I had never done before. Still, I felt that I was safe because I had nothing to hide.
Or so I thought. One day, a journalist wrote that teachers were used as CIA agents in countries where the United States had no other representatives. As the Cairo mobs shouted anti-American slogans, I realized just how vulnerable I was.
Later, when war rumors began to spread, my greatest fear was being trapped inside Egypt, with my young son, in the middle of a war. My thoughts and energy were focused on the delicate balance between fleeing too soon, or unnecessarily, and being considered a "hysterical woman" by my professional colleagues, or waiting too long before leaving.