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For Americans in Cairo, It’s Make-Do for Thanksgiving

November 28, 1985

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Since she can’t get pumpkin for her Thanksgiving pie, Mary Ann Meche uses a local squash and gets the same result.

Like others among the 10,000 Americans in Egypt, Mrs. Meche is making do for Thanksgiving dinner.

″I boil sugar and add maple flavoring.″

Mrs. Meche, wife of the owner of a company that services oil rigs, said the Egyptian squash has ″the same taste and texture as pumpkins,″ and the local large-crystal sugar is run though a coffee grinder to give it the right consistency for making pie.

″We’re not going to do without anything for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,″ said Mrs. Meche, from Lafayette, La., who is spending her first Thanksgiving abroad. She last lived in Chicago.

Other Americans in Cairo can have Thanksgiving dinner in some of the city’s first-class hotels, which are offering turkey and trimmings.

Master Sgt. Carlos Jimenez urged his Marines in the U.S. Embassy guard detachment to accept Thanksgiving dinner invitations from American families. Most do.

Mrs. Meche lives in Cairo’s Maadi section, which is heavily populated by Americans and other foreigners, and she is handling publicity for a community dinner sponsored by the Maadi Women’s Guild.

″We were able to purchase some turkeys from the American Embassy commissary,″ said Ann Moore, co-chairwoman of the Planning Committee, which additionally is providing dressing and cranberry sauce.

Mrs. Moore, whose husband works for an oil company, said each diner who pays 5 Egyptian pounds ($4) for the dinner also will have to bring a traditional side-dish or dessert.

At $4, the dinner is a bargain. Turkeys on the black market cost 50 pounds ($40).

A problem this Thanksgiving is a butter shortage, making basting and baking difficult. Not even the best supermarkets - there are fewer than a dozen in the city of 14 million people - have imported butter.

Many of the traditional vegetables that go into a Thanksgiving dinner are available but some can cause disorders if eaten raw.

″I soak my lettuce in Clorox before we eat it,″ said Mrs. Meche.

At the American University, Barry Ford, a special assistant to the university’s president, is working with the U.S. Embassy’s community liaison office to place students with embassy families for Thanksgiving dinners if they wish.

In addition to the students, the embassy’s liaison office also helps find families in Cairo to feed other single Americans and Marines at the embassy.

″The Marines are so popular with families around Cairo that usually you can’t even get one for dinner,″ said Cathy Starnes, the office’s director.

Jimenez, the top sergeant, said some of his Marines will spend Thanksgiving on duty, but he’s encouraging as many as possible to spend the day with American families.

For those on duty, he said, the cook at the Marine compound is be preparing a traditional turkey dinner.

For American travelers in Cairo, several top hotels have special Thanksgiving dinners on their menus.

Hamid Saleh, banquet manager at Cairo’s Nile Hilton, said the hotel’s restaurant and night club both will feature roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. Those opting for the night club will get a belly dancer with dinner for about 25 pounds ($20).

Visitors at the Marriott Hotel have a choice from a special buffet featuring roast turkey and lamb, assorted seafoods, baked apples and pumpkin and mincemeat pies - 11.20 pounds ($9) for the lunch version and 15.20 pounds ($12) for dinner. For about 32 pounds ($26), there’s a sit-down dinner of turkey and dressing, rack of lamb or roast tenderloin of beef stuffed with lobster and crab meat.

For those who prefer to picnic, the Marriott is offering Thanksgiving gourmet hampers filled with turkey and other ″seasonal goodies″ for prices, that run as high as 200 pounds ($160).

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