We’ve been in Egypt for four days and its been incredible. We arrived into Cairo airport several days ago. An opinionated cab driver navigated us around the outskirts of Cairo and into the noisy evening traffic of giza to the train station where we boarded an overnight train to luxor. The trains aren’t fancy but the bed was nice after the many hours of sitting on the plane.
For whatever reason the train arrived three hours late even though it left on time. From the train station we were picked up by our hotel and brought to the lovely nefertiti hotel. Its a smaller place located across from the temple of luxor and the avenue of the sphinx. It’s run by younger well educated men with a penchant for laughter. I appreciate the shared opinions and ideas as we sit in the al-sahaby restaurant whose tables line the tiles alleyway and smoke shisha (flavored tobacco) from hookahs and drink strong Egyptian coffee and talk and laugh. O the revolution! It could do so much! And they – the more educated populace – certainly don’t want to be ruled by fundamentalists…. Its obvious that is the road towards becoming like Iran.
With the call to prayer waking us at five in the morning – the garbled often off-key praise to Allah ringing from minarets across the skyline at dawn we’ve had daily breakfast on the rooftop of coffee and eggs and dates and breads and tea at low tables looking onto the morning street scenes below. Donkeys and carts and children and men in robes and old leathery faces and men in suits and nice cars and women robed and covered in various ways.
We went to see all the beauty we could find. We wandered through the ancient ruins of the temple of luxor and the towering pillars, carved with petals and cartouches. The four of us went with a guide to he Valley of the Kings, the tombs of the nobles, the colossi of memnon, the temple of hapshepsut, and the breathtaking majesty of medinet habu. Throughout the trip we saw enormous structures, crafted by the hands of thousands and dedicated to gods, pharoahs, and great events. The delicate patterns, the fine reliefs, writing can carving in the form of hieroglyphics over every surface – columns and walls and statues. And all of hem three thousand or four thousand years old. There is paint in the tombs that is 3500 years old. Yet, the lines are clean, the colors still bright and bold. Now the great columns and statues of limestone and alabaster just stand out there in the desert, riding out the rise and fall of civilizations…
I have found all of the people I have met to be peaceful, kind, holding a great sense od humor. You see – it feels incredibly safe here. Sure you know how easy It is to leave something and have it disappear or get swindled out of your Egyptian pounds by an unscrupulous sales person or horse and buggy driver – some going kid feeling at you hat he Will take you to the camel market for two pounds (the camel market is 100km away!) but that is the case everywhere – that there is someone wanting to swindled you. As a whole – people are genuinely friendly, helpful, kind. Children laugh and call ‘hello’ and old men nod quietly.
After the revolution started 1.4 million tourists fled the country. Now you see and feel the desperation in the sales men trying to entice you into their shops to buy a scarf, a bust of nefertiti, any number of baubles and trinkets. The good deal is for you, today, just come now and see this thing…. And its excessive sometimes – the sales pitch.- because business is tough these days. Streets that we are told are usually bustling lay empty and the beaded curtains sway gently with no one to push them aside.
The people we see and meet are proud of their country and their heritage. Temple guards in their long robes have taken us into inner rooms of temples – unseen by the public – to see chambers that display some of the most beautiful reliefs and painting and hieroglyphics that we’ve seen and there is pride in their eyes. Cab drivers speak of their country men with a sense of pride. You see, while there are differences for sure in ways of dress, traditions, food and drink – these are all surface things. At their core – in their hearts – people are all the same. Where it’s the little old man in the donkey pulled cart bringing his vegetables to town to weigh or the little boys and girls playing in the field or the guards at the gates to the temple… All and everyone wants to be happy. They just want basic happiness and basic freedoms.
Go visit Egypt of you can. It’s safe. It’s friendly. Its inspiring. It’s beautiful.