||Nancy Jenkins, John Ross
||Holt, Rinehart and Winston
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Shem el-Nessim is an ancient Egyptian festival that goes back at least to Ptolemaic times and probably even earlier, the one feast in the crowded Egyptian holiday calendar that unites in celebration the stark and divisive elements of the country - young and old, male and female, rich and poor, Muslim, Copt, Greek, and Jew. Shem el-Nessim means *the sniffing of the breezes' and that is precisely what everyone does, the entire populace rushing out of doors on the First of May for a last breath of fresh air before the hammer of summer's heat stuns the country into silent, submissive lethargy. The rich desert the city to celebrate the holiday on their country estates and the bourgeoisie dance and feast in the poolside gardens of foreign hotels. But, for the impoverished mass of Cairo's population — those who can afford nothing more than the few piastres it costs for a whole family to crowd on the ramshackle city buses - a holiday of this sort means an outing along the narrow, littered stretch of river bank that lies between the coffee-coloured surge of the Nile and the traffic streaming along the riverside corniche behind.