Ahmed takes us back to the summer of 1956, before the Suez invasion. Her family rented a beach villa—and it was about to be the worst family vacay ever.
It was miserably hot and the family seemed to be on edge. To complicate things, her oldest bro brought his new English wife to Egypt for the first time—and she wasn't digging it.
A big issue for Doris: the crushing poverty around her in Egypt and the fact that her in-laws didn't seem bothered by it.
Ahmed says that they faced poverty especially at the beaches since beggars hung around the entrances, looking for charity from the wealthy people with beach cabins.
Because the rich and the poor could actually be seen together at the beach (not so in town), the contrast between them seemed especially sharp.
But Ahmed, who was a teenager, didn't understand why Doris was so mad at her family for the poverty.
She didn't yet see poverty as an issue of social justice, as something that policy could fix. She helped them with a coin or two, but what else could really be done?
But when the revolutionary government took power in Egypt, Ahmed really got into the idea of social equality—even though her family didn't like the new government at all.
Poor Doris suffered culture shock in other ways, too. She didn't approve of the amount or variety of food being forced on her all the time.
She was used to rationing and food shortages in England (during World War II and in the reconstruction period), so it seemed to her that Egyptians were just too cavalier about food waste.
Of course, Doris began to settle in by the end of the summer, and things were cool with the fam. But the tension of the first few weeks made things very miserable for Ahmed, who just wanted some peace.
Her uppity older brother, Karim, didn't help matters, either. He wanted to show off his new engineering degree by disagreeing with their father about the Aswan High Dam.
Karim didn't believe his father's predictions about the ecological apocalypse that the dam would cause—until he looked at the evidence. Karim couldn't help but agree with their dad in the end.
Mom and Ahmed's sister Magda also fought a lot that summer. Magda wanted to push her boundaries by claiming her right to marry a Christian. Their mom wasn't having it.
In the end, Ahmed couldn't stand the constant fighting and would seek refuge at Aunt Aisha's cabin or back at Siouf.
She could discuss things with a woman called Fatma, who did the sewing for her family. Whenever she felt conflicted or troubled, she felt she could open up to Fatma, who seemed more receptive than her mom.