Trip Start Jun 14, 2005
3Trip End Jul 12, 2005
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It's a beautiful and clear Saturday morning in the Zamalek section of Cairo. This is an island in the Nile with old embassies and a sense of slightly run-down elegance. There is a cool breeze, since it hasn't reached noon yet. Yesterday afternoon, the temperature at Giza was 102 F.
I have seen the most unusual things since arriving here Tuesday! The city is densely populated, and full of sights, sounds, and smells that I have never seen before, whether it's the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from distorted loudspeakers on minarets throughout the city, or the continual beeping of traffic on congested streets. If you drive here, you take your life in your own hands.
I can tell you that roasted pigeon stuffed with wild rice is delicious. There is a lot of mutton eaten here, and also mystery meat, identified by the servers only as "meat." (One hump, or two?) The people are generally friendly and helpful, and the children are curious. I think I must have been an amusing sight comparing brands of shampoo in the supermarket, known here as 'supermarket'. You can imagine a large, bearded white man looking truly puzzled over prices and brands. People will walk up and help, however. You can tell they are just as curious about us we are about them.
Prices are very inexpensive, because the standard of living is so poor here. I was in a village yesterday where the predominant form of transportation is the ass, and you can see the farmers working in the field (all of the work is done by hand, rather than farm equipment), and the crops are brought in to the villages on donkey back. Quite a few people ride camels, also, and I have seen policemen on camelback at Giza.
The comparison between the dark alluvial soil of the river valley and the stark bleakness of the Sahara is beyond comprehension. It is literally the difference between Paradise and Nothingness. You can see why the ancestors of these people worshipped The Aten and counted on yearly flooding. The land is incredibly fertile (black volcanic soil washed downstream from central Africa).