Kerrie Guy, a Queen without a Throne
An interview given to and narrated by Mahmoud Mansi
All photography and captions by Kerry Guy
We always know close family members, distant relatives or friends who have left the country, and sometimes never came back. We all know the reasons behind that, and at most times we support them, at other times we wished we were with them. However, life manages to overwhelm us. Why do we find foreigners leaving their lives and living in Egypt, while lots of them do not do it for money?
I found the answer through the eyes of the Australian writer and photographer Kerrie Guy who has been living in Egypt for more than ten years.
Her days were not financially better than the normal Egyptian, but she didn’t leave although she had the chance to have a luxurious life in her own home. But, apparently she knows that Egypt is her real home the moment her plane landed for the first time she felt the bizarre rapport, as she said, “As our plane circled Cairo airport waiting to land, I immediately knew that I was home – in fact involuntary tears ran down my cheek as I saw the wonderful lights of Cairo for the very first time.”
Kerrie’s mysterious love story between her and Egypt started in 1991 when a friend bestowed upon her a trip to Cairo as a gift. She was very nervous and never even dreamed of visiting this land. However, her wisdom answers the mystery of our question marks when she said, “I didn’t choose to stay in Egypt – Egypt chose that I stay here!” When her trip ended she felt devastated yet knew that she could return again someday, however she still had her well-earned Egyptian precautions when she stated, “Somewhere deep within me I trusted that would return, but just to play safe I made sure that drank some Nile water!
Through her short trip to Egypt and its shores she managed to make her new collection of seashells, when each shell whispered a different piece of wisdom. One of those wonders was the strange bond uniting Egyptians of which she described the strength of this bond as “almost tangible”
that she never witnessed among her country.
And so it happened, she returned to Egypt and started a totally new life. She ventured things that Egyptians themselves never did. She slept in the street, socialized with the poorest of all and named the children of the street as “angels”. She worked, saved money, spent more, fell and always found a way to recover. Her philosophy totally changed as she delved into the core of life through the spirit of Egypt. The most vital job that fitted her was being a tour guide, because this gave her more chances to connect with the original core of Egypt, and to deliver her philosophy to the guests. She made them see Egypt from a totally different dimension. From Kerrie’s experience in the field of tourism and art, she stated that before the revolution tourism in Egypt was booming. What attracted tourists to visit Egypt varied from one person to the other, however Kerrie’s group chose to venture Egypt through her own distinctive way, as she says, “Mixing with average Egyptians and having an Abydos adventure and either a desert or Sinai experience. We do of course visit major Temples and Pyramids with which the tourists are duly impressed.” She then justifies her vision by adding, “Honestly, the greatest memories most people take home are related to the Egyptian Spirit – to the people and their hospitality – and the things that most tourist books don’t mention. Egypt has a heart like no other and when a tourist’s heartbeat pulses in harmony with Egypt’s heartbeat, the bond is eternally cemented.”
When the revolution reached its peak on the 25th of January, Kerrie was already on a tour with one of her groups in Siwa Desert. She describes, “The desert which I’ve only ever seen calm and peaceful was anything but peaceful on that day as if it was in harmony with the energy of Tahrir Square. We were in the midst of a rain sand storm while Cairo was in the midst of an unprecedented emotional storm.” Soon after sharing the celebration, fear started to find its way through their hearts and veins same as danger deceived its own way through the paths of the country. Kerrie mentions through her story, “Phone lines were cut and police disappeared from view so we had to make decisions quite blindly apart from the guidance of radio news updates and hope that they were correct.” Kerrie was the one responsible for her group, yet she confesses that they wouldn’t have done it to safety without the help of Egyptians. Their plan was to reach the airport in Cairo before the curfew. She completes her story, “As we approached Cairo the curfew hours had been lengthened and so we knew that we had no chance of making the airport. Shock overcame everyone in our vehicle as we drove into Cairo. Army tanks were everywhere. Looters with and without donkey carts were everywhere. Vehicles were overturned and burnt out. People were in a crazed frenzy.” In the end her friends made it safely to their homes, while she stayed in Egypt, yet she ends the story of this day with a very powerful sentence that should be considered by not only us, but the upcoming generations of future Egyptians too, “This was an Egypt that none of us who lived here had ever seen before or envisaged ever seeing and never want to see again!”
In the current state of Egypt Kerrie is still endeavoring to accomplish her mission, and she still believes in her Egypt. Before the revolution she had her own website and tourism plans. She wrote several unpublished books about Egypt too. She states that in order for Egypt to recover from the tourism drop it faced, “Patiently with some forethought about how it could be done in a new revolutionized way. Some of the issues Egyptians died for in the revolution did extend into the Egyptian business sector and that of course includes tourism. This country is so special and millions of tourists come here because they sense this and some tourists save for almost a lifetime to make their journey to Egypt.” Kerrie agrees that Egypt whatever happens will always be a place where others would love to experience, but the vital key is in making this easier for them, so that nothing would separate such admirers from their passion. She highlights an important point that should be used as a direct and free piece of advice granted to tourism businesses and to the people who care in general by saying, “Not every tourist is wealthy and able to afford unexpected costs and excessive tipping, and this issue I think should be remembered and addressed in the Egypt’s tourism recovery plan.”
On the other hand, Kerrie Guy is now working on writing a new book, aside from all the activities she is already doing. She explains the project, “I’m working on an E-book on the subject of life being perceived one big living God Dream within which we are each role players constantly creating more individual or joint dreams either in harmony or disharmony with God’s Life Dream.” She says that this was not her original dream as she witnessed a robbery of which she lost most of her previous writings. Yet, she is still happy as she explains, “Life doesn’t make mistakes it instead leads us progressively on our life journey.”
Kerrie believes that writing and photography enhances one another. , thus they are always related in a way that provides circular inspiration. She enforces her theory by saying, “Some days I have absolutely no clue what I will write about until I see a picture that sparks a string of thoughts; while other days I jump out of bed filled with inspiration and then spend hours looking for the right picture to accompany my words.”
As to Alexandria, it has always been a mystic source of inspiration for Kerrie. She explains that “There are many mystery echoing destination points throughout Egypt.” She reveals more about her Alexandria, “She whispers echoes to me as no other Egyptian city.”
Kerrie leaves her poetic words and perception of Alexandria to unearth to its natives the true beauty, as she says, “Alexandria leads me into her calm nurturing heart energy with every Mediterranean wave that washes upon her glistening shore. Her memories are many and varied and she is willing to share them all with me and all those who take time to sit in silence on her mesmerising misty shores.”
She speaks further and tells us about her favourite spot in Alexandria, the one that makes perfect rapport between the questions of the present and the glory of the past, “The tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular always captures my attention and enlightens me more of days gone by and how the past when we allow it blends right into our present now. Maybe this tomb speaks so eloquently to me as it was Egypt and her North Coast that hosted my grandfather for some time during the Great World War. Alexandria is a city with many wonderful voices all echoing their own lyrical tunes to present day life.”
In the end, Kerrie Guy does not search for a throne in this mystic land, instead she searches for better ways to serve and guide the ones who are in need. By this she leaves her own Egyptian brothers and sisters with a final message, “Be Proud, Be Patient, Be Open Minded, Be Strong, Be Forgiving and Never Give Up Hope.”
Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Alex Med Newsletter – Issue 24