Clorice had the distinct honor of being served personally by the head bartender Bishoy, with whom she had shared past adventures in archaeo-espionage. Bishoy, a Coptic-Christian bartender, oversaw his world from behind the half-circle mahogany bar which had been burnished by a century of those in need of a bit of liquid and other types of comfort. Bishoy never missed a thing that went on in his domain, and was always a great source of information and hard to obtain items.
Bishoy spoke impeccable English with a slight New York Queens accent, a result of his parents sending him and his siblings to stay with relatives in New York for school vacations during the tumultuous Nasser years. The Nasser years had ushered in the ever increasing obstacles, discriminatory and restrictive government policies, hate crimes and physical violence against the 1900 year old Coptic-Christian community in Egypt. The growth of both Arab nationalism and increasing Islamic militancy in Egypt heralded the beginning of a significant Coptic diaspora from their homeland or in many cases politically convenient conversions to Islam.
On the other hand, it was ironic that the Coptic Christian community, who had sided with the Muslims in helping expel Egypt’s ancient Jewish population in the mid-20th century, were now reaping the same rewards for their societal contributions as their victims by being themselves victimized by the Muslim majority.
Bishoy had once told Clorice that the only reason he did not leave Egypt was that despite the growing state-supported and tolerated persecution of his people, he still loved his country – the land of his ancestors. In fact, the Copts were the true descendants of the ancient Egyptians – the muslim conquest of Egypt being relatively recent, in the 7th century. Furthermore, as Bishoy and his wife Marina had been unable to have children, though of course they would have dearly loved to, they did not have to worry about the next generation. Each time Clorice came back to Egypt, the intolerance for non-Muslim Egyptians appeared to her to have increased. Clorice based this impression on her personal observations that since she first visited Egypt with her family as a young teenager, more women were wearing head scarves (though some would argue it was a fashion rather than a religious statement… fear has many faces), and she received more unwelcome catcalls and other verbal assaults when she went out alone. Bishoy’s observations had challenged and continued to change the way she saw this country that she too loved.