Thursday, May 28, 2009

Egypt 4

Let me tell you a little about modern Egypt. I will return to the account of my travels in a bit. Life surrounds the Nile. 94% of the country is desert, on either side of the Nile. There are people who live in those areas, but not nearly as many as by the river. Bedouins are nomadic desert-dwellers that the government is trying to get to settle down with gifts of water and homes, but they continue their nomadic ways, leaving their government-subsidised homes to their cattle. Cairo is a large city, with little to no municiple trash collecting. Thus it smells and there is trash everywhere, often in burning heaps. There are modern elements and very outdated elements. Most of the dwellings are brick cubes in large buildings, most of which are unfinished, with rebar sticking out the top. I hear that this is because of taxes on finished buildings are higher than on unfinished ones. Basically every brick structure is unfinished, all are surrounded by trash, and most have laundry hanging out the windows. The water is unsafe for foreigners to drink. Almost everyone in our group got sick notwithstanding our efforts at not drinking the water and taking careful showers. I still feel a little ill after I eat and find myself running to the restroom at random times, and it has been a few days since we got back. Pre-med majors keep prescribing me stuff that sounds iffy, hahaha. I think I will see one of the two real doctors on staff here today, to get my stitches out and see what I can do about my stomach.

Oops, stitches. That happened before Egypt playing volleyball. It was a really good play, but there was a wall in the way of my really good play, and it did not yield to my elbow. Four stitched later, I'm doing great.

Back to modern Egypt. The Nile is really a beautiful river. There are farms running up and down its sides wherever there are no buildings. There are canals all over the place, bringing Nile water to wherever farmers and anyone else needs it. There are hundreds and hundreds of mosques everywhere, and when the call to prayer sounds, there is no escaping the sound. It is a drone over the entire city, and a sort of eery drone at that, because of allof the different mosques all playing different songs at the same time. Individually, they are each very, very cool--I love the system of music they used to create those songs, it is just so different from western music.

The people are generally poor and kind, and generally think of Americans as money bags to be pilfered any way possible. They are still kind, I promise, just trying to get by. The men wear American style cothing in the cities and galabeas in the country areas. Galabeas are basically thin man-dresses. My roomates picked some up. They are not flattering on the white guys, haha. Women cover all of their skin except for their faces and hands while in public.

There are guns everywhere. Every block has bored gaurd in a white "tourist police" uniform sitting next to his assault rifle or directing traffic with a pistol on his hip. Every once in a while, at the most important places, there are either regular army forces or special forces, I am not sure which, standing or sitting next to trucks and behind bullet-proof barriers in their dark green uniforms. THe heat must be terrible, it was tough for me in light pants and a t-shirt.

Egypt is an amazing place that is loaded with history. Around every corner there seems to be a run down building, and they are all important historical markers. I remember passing a random set of ruins on the road, unmarked, ungaurded, and unkept, sitting between a building and a field; a student asked what they were and what era they were from to a guide or professor, and he explained that these remarkably well preserved walls once held government offices . . . three or so thousand years ago. Absolutely incredible.

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