Egypt
Tuesday, 24th November 2009

GizaGizaGiza

A dirty building site. Unfair but that would be my one sentence summary of Egypt. Most of the country is sand, and the wind blows the sand (and rubbish) everywhere. Half-finished buildings with cement staircases going nowhere are everywhere. Drivers don't worry about such niceties as lanes, or even staying on the road. In a traffic jam vehicles slew randomly off road, across the rough ground beside the road, and force their way back on. Pedestrians dice with death - our coach stopped to help a man who had failed to cross a 5-lane motorway on foot. Sheep and goats destined to die in the Festival travel crammed into the back of tracks. Donkeys pull laden carts to add to the mayhem. By the road vegetable stalls sit well into the night.

It was a long long tour from Port Said to Giza for the Pyramids and back. Made longer by the prolonged misguided lecture on Islam we had - I did know of how Islam's founder had revised the Bible to suit the sword he found. Hawkers were nearly everywhere, a constant threat. Despite multiple warnings people still found themselves trying to buy back cameras, or disputing change with wily Arabs. While I could see how poor most of the people were, and understand why they were the way they were, I was very relieved when we had run the gauntlet to get back onto the ship. Our guide was harsh on her own countrymen - their situation is dire, serious overpopulation, widespread poverty, has coloured their existence. I'm not sure if Brits were raised in such conditions that they would not be worse (given that many young Brits rate getting smashed out of their brains as life's goal.)

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Our goal was to see the Pyramids, and this was achieved. Our first sight was the Pyramids looming over the Giza cityscape, and that strangely was the most impressive. They seemed then alien, like a 2001 monolith or an Independence Day starship, something from beyond. Seen in the traditional view, isolated in a sea of sand they were massive, yes, but just massive. It wasn't possible to stop and think around the pyramids as camel drivers, and postcard vendors, were ready to pounce. The Sphinx was surprisingly small, the normal views one sees are deceptive. We had a stop in a Papyrus shop for a demonstration then sales pester - one such place had the odd title of "Atlantis Papyrus Museum"!