In October 2015, I was in Egypt on a three week mission and the trip was a complex maze of emotions, mainly because it was my first time to be in a predominantly Arabic country. I was fascinated by the fact that Egypt has been at the core of civilization and cradle of mankind. Egypt is raw and the country gives as good as it gets. As a tourist or visitor, Egypt will bare itself and will not hide behind tall glass buildings, paved roads and pathways. Once you land in Egypt, you dont need anyone to explain the country to you, it is bare for you to see and make your own judgement. The best way to learn about Egypt is to visit the country and make your own judgement.
I traveled to Egypt after the Arab spring and the atmosphere was tense and political discussions of any sorts were common. Even as a visitor, i could sense the feelings of desperation and need for change. I got the feeling that the people were still in an intense state of emotions concerned about the future of Egypt. I did not focus much on the politics of the country but rather the country generally. Our visit was during the parliamentary elections of 2015 and security was in over drive mode. On the second day of my visit to Egypt, we followed a huge convoy of green armored cars and police vans. We were told they were escorting political prisoners. What was striking was the number of cars escorting the one lorry that was carrying the political prisoners.
The Geza pyramids are a wonderful site and i enjoyed the tour there. They are an engineering marvel. Securing the services of a knowledgeable guide will also pay dividends. Otherwise the pyramids will just be a pile of huge limestone bricks. A passionate Egyptologist will bring the gargantuan limestone blocks to life and summarize rival theories about how they were transported and then lifted into position. Our guide had a huge Arabic accent and his English did not encourage attention as he tried to explain the pyramids. From his 20 minute presentation, we were able to make a few facts about the pyramids. When you visit the pyramids, beware of hustlers and bustlers trying to fleece you money, selling you trinkets and fake artifacts. They can be tiring and overbearing at times. The camel rides on the desserts were superb however the state of the camels was rather concerning.
One part that most people dont know about the pyramids is that you will come face to face with animal cruelty. Browsing through the internet , you’ll understand that the treatment of camels and horses at the pyramids has long upset visitors unused to seeing emaciated animals with festering wounds, saddle sores and scars. The decimation of Egypt’s tourism industry means owners are barely able to support their families, let alone their animals. Many horses have been left to starve.
Staying at the Novotel hotel, i had a view that included a soccer field behind the hotel. The soccer field is always busy at night and i assumed that was so to avoid the afternoon Egyptian blistering heat. On a hot Thursday evening, I was saw fully clothed Egyptians females playing soccer wearing shorts with thick long tights underneath and had their head covered with hijabs. At first, i was shocked at the sight and remembered that Egypt is an Islamic country. Seeing women in Hijabs and shorts with tights underneath playing soccer was an unusual sight for me. Back home, there is a women’s league and women wear the normal shorts and jerseys like males in a premier league, this sight caught me by surprise and i was shocked at first.
The traffic in Cairo is a nightmare and Egyptian driving is less than desirable but the roads are very good. Almost any other second or third car was dented and Cairo is a congested city with human traffic (20 Million people), cars (2.2 Million cars) and the streets can be very narrow. Traffic jams are quite common and traffic seemingly eases up close to midnight and resumes as early as 6 am. The open roads though are a blissful drive with marvelous views as you travel across the country. Most of the roads have no markings and we were advised that it is better to have a local driver due to the number of accidents that happen in Egyptian roads.
I was confused by the organisation of the cities and tried to learn more about the architecture and design of the cities like the Beheira or Minya Governorates. Egyptians still use bricks made of mud and straw. We were told that the ancient Egyptians invented molds to make bricks. The architecture of the homes was different and did not resemble anything i had seen before apart from Madagascan homes.
Most homes have narrow windows to keep out the sun. Homes have very little furniture other than a few wooden chairs and also have Flat roofs which i was told offer a comfortable place to sleep during the hottest months.
Outside of the main cities, Egyptians live in small desert communities clustered around oases (wells or places where water is found) and transport routes, including the River Nile. Villages of mud-built houses and goat-skin tents are found in the Nile Delta. Most strikingly is the close knit communities spread across near water sources.
I saw rail tracks but didn’t see any train during my 3 week stay in Egypt.
I only heard that Cairo’s main train station is rather spectacular and thats just about it.
The one thing that is striking about Egypt is that its a dirty country and one gets the impression that hygiene is not a priority. There is an interesting blog that can give you a clearer picture of how dirty Egypt is and the link is: https://yomadic.com/giza-street-photography/. Personally, i was left dumbfounded why such a beautiful country should be spoiled by “garbage” literally. Countless times, i saw people throwing waste on balconies and windows with no care in the world about the impact of their behavior. Throwing rubbish out of moving cars was common too. Our guide told us that the government hadn’t gone out of its way to stress the importance of a clean environment and the accruing benefits.
I will post 2 more blogs to continue sharing my visit to Egypt, one blog is not enough to share what i saw in Egypt.