Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt, 10 years ago

Watching the news is always depressing, but even moreso now. Egypt is erupting into a civil war.

My only visit was in November of 2000. It was on a cruise of the Middle East that embarked out of Greece. Here are just some thoughts I had over the weekend about my experiences there..

One thing that stood out to me was the class structure, even back then. There really did not seem to be any real 'middle class'. And that is strange because most tourist destinations at least have some semblance of middle class 'merchant'. Even in places like India.

I also was a bit 'put off' by all the safety seminars required on the cruise. You would think that Isreal or Yemen back then would have been the place to be wary, but this particular cruise line focused and inordinate amount of time on our safety in Egypt. Which was not unfounded, as the country had come off 8 years of 'terrorism' that culminated in the killing of 62 tourists! So by the time we got there, they had that place locked down.

You see police EVERYWHERE (back then ) and they all carried menacing looking automatic weapons. Our 'tour guide', an upper class Egyptian woman, explained that the police carried no ammo. Only the military had the ammo. It was pretty much a 'dog and pony' show for the tourists..But as far as the 'military' we saw them, too. ALOT, When we boarded our buses in Alexandria, for each bus in the convoy ( prolly 25 buses or so )had a jeep on either side of it, with a 88 cal mounted gun and 4 soldiers inside. Each bus had one armed Egyptian soldier on it. And these guys did not like us. AT ALL. We were the reason they had to drive 2 hours into the desert and back...

No matter where we went, once the bus was stopped a veritable pack of people would descend upon us. In every stop. All wanting $$ or to sell you something. I've travelled the world, and these hawkers were the most aggressive I've ever seen. Every 'tour operator' had a cane with which to beat about the head and shoulders of the 'crowd'. Every movement in country to anywhere 'tourist related' had this experience. After a while, you stopped being shocked by it.

Because our tour guide was a 'woman', and an upper class Egyptian, the lowest of the low man on the street could give a sh*t...She could wail and use her cane, but the dudes over there weren't having any of it. This sucked for me because while she was a good tour operator, she was the only female and we got stuck on her bus, which was always last.

And speaking about buses, and traffic over there, it is absolutely the most terrifying ride I have ever encountered, anywhere. I am not a particularly devout man, but I confess I has some pretty desperate 'negotiations' with God on that bus. There are no 'rules of the road' over there. Well, that is not entirely true. They have one rule: the biggest and loudest vehicle gets the right of way. Stoplights, yield signs, 4 ways be damned. On the horn and right through the intersection scattering people and smaller cars everywhere.

The other thing that stood out to me, in terms of the Middle East, was the lack of Mubarik pictueres everywhere. In Isreal, in Turkey all over the place you saw thier leaders pictures. Hell, in Thialand the image of the King is god-like and omnipresent. But I dont recall seeing Mubarik posters anywhere. Maybe that 'splains why his peeps are so pissed off at him, that and his dictatorial ways.

Egyptian food was prettyt good, but thier beers sucks. Must be that Nile H2O.

Watching the news makes me sad, because these are things I wanted to show my child, but that whole region is blowing up, and I would be insane to drag a kid over there anytime soon.

I leave you with an old Egyptian Joke:

A German, an Englishman, and an Egyptian went to an art museum and were spending some time in front of the painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
After observing the painting for a while an intrigued observer asked the 3 gentlemen where they thought Adam and Eve's origins could be from.
The German said: Look at the perfection... of their bodies. She with her slender and well formed figure and he with that athletic body and bulging muscles. There is no doubt they must be of German origin.
Shaking his head in disagreement, the Englishman comments: It can't be! Note the serenity on their faces, their delicate poise, the sobriety in their gestures. They could only be English. After a few more seconds of contemplation and then the Egyptian exclaims: "I do NOT agree with ANY of your theories! Look closer: they don't have clothes, they don't have shoes, & they don't even have shelter. ALL they have is ONE apple to eat and to top it all off it is prohibited! They are sad, yet they STILL think they are in Paradise!?? They are definitely Egyptians.

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