Flower blossoms in Egypt
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Although she hasn't coming close to spending as much time in Egypt as did the Biblical Joseph's extended family, Russellville native Karen Flowers has taken tourism to a higher level. She has spent six years visiting this country by the Nile, and she has developed a deep fondness for its people.
"I'm a retired grandmother who found it cheaper to live in a country whose cost of living is about one-third of what I had known in the United States," she said during a recent visit home. "I live among the poorest people outside Cairo-- about 70 percent of those who live across the street from me have no running water. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
"Yet I have found my neighbors to be very hospitable. It's the most hospitable culture in the world. Visitors are welcome."
Flowers went to Egypt briefly in 2001 as guardian/chaperone for a dozen college students. They came home shortly before America experienced September 11. She returned to her home in Phoenix, Ariz. where she had retired from being an interior designer. "In Phoenix, I felt an emptiness. Now I live among people who are happy and have nothing. Their lifestyle is reminiscent of one that my family visited in rural Kentucky during my childhood in the fifties. Seeing this makes you realize what a wasteful life we Americans lead."
Cairo is the dirtiest city in the world. Noise pollution may be even worse. "The sounds is like having a lawn mower running next to your ear 24 hours a day," she says. And, still, she loves being there.
Flowers leads quilting gatherings in a village in upper Egypt. Her mother, the late Ann Flowers, was a quilter, and Karen owned a quilt shop in Illinois before moving to Arizona. She not only is teaching the women patch-wrok quilting but also how to market their creations. She brought 10 quilt with her back to the United States for sale, and her group has sold three of them to a store in Cairo. They hope the storeowner will order more. The transplanted Kentucky native has also developed a great interest in photography, a hobby that grew out of her taking pictures of a beloved grandchild. She has digital images of countless people and events in Egypt, including sand-boarding, a rare sporting event that found men and women playing together, crossing age, gender and relgious barriers. Her pictures of the ground-breaking event were carried by a national news organization. She also photographed one of the saddest events in Egypt's recent history, grief and outrage over the murder of seven young Coptic Christian men this Christmas Eve. Thirty of her photographs were carried by the national news dispensing organization Demotix. She wrote: "Tempers flared as Coptic Christians protested in front of the High Court Building in Cairo on Saturday. The Christians gathered to show their dissatisfaction in how the government was handling the clashes in Nag Hammadi, after 7 youths were killed. The youths were shot as they left Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve. Riots followed in the next days, with many Christian's homes burned, Christian businesses destroyed and looted and cars damaged."
Her pictures can be seen at http://www.demotix.com/news/221013/coptic-christians-cairo-protest .
Egypt's population is about 80 percent Islamic. Most of the other 10 percent are Coptic Christians, an Angelican Orthodox group which traces its history back centuries. Other religious groups are basically not welcome.
Karen Flowers grew up attending First Baptist Church on Russellville's Main Street. She credits a youth minister for her willingness to talk about her "best friend, Jesus." She remembers him saying about those who tell the story of Christianity:
Instead of 'why me?' they say 'why not me?'" In Egypt, women ask her how she knows so much about the history of their people and of Moses. She tells them she read it in the Bible.
She has published two books, one about an Arabic grandmother and the other called My Name is Su Su. She is working on a pictorial book based on Isaiah 19.
Flowers comes back to the United States during the months of January and February, and this year she's staying through March. She visits her daughter, Carrie Persinger, and granddaughter, Michaela Taylor, in Bowling Green, her son Kelly in Phoenix, and her family here-- dad Bill Flowers, brother Mike Flowers and sister Vicki Page, all in Russellville, along with sisters Marjorie Flowers in Owensboro and Mary Snyder in Indiana. She is the niece of Bill McGinnis of Russellville.
She also goes out West and often speaks to church groups around the country. She would be available to speak at churches in Logan County in March if there is an interest in hearing about Egypt. She's ready to tell the story in words and pictures.

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