What an experience this is. Egypt is a fascinating country with a unique culture. It feels like an Arab nation to me, but the Egyptians say they’re neither Arab, nor African – they’re Egyptian. They’re very warm and friendly, that’s for sure. Egypt is much more than ancient monuments.
Tourism is an important part of their economy so they take very good care of us. The Tourist Police are everywhere we go and they’re all carrying guns.
It’s a poor country, too, and many of the people we meet ask for “baksheesh.” It’s hard not to give it to them. There are five Egyptian pounds to the dollar, so giving someone a couple of pounds means more to them than it does to us. The children love ballpoint pens. We visited a weaving school where 6-14 year old kids sit all afternoon making oriental rugs and the guides gave out pens.
Population growth is probably the most pressing issue Egypt faces today. It’s a big country but mostly desert. The entire population lives on just 6% of the land and grows by one million people every 10 months. Cairo itself is the third most populous city in the world with 16 million people. It sometimes seems like everyone of them is on the road at the same time, in cars, trucks, or donkey.
Cairo abandoned traffic lights a few years ago and there don’t seem to be any rules of the road – even lane markings are ignored. Pedestrians blithely thread in and out of the traffic at will. There seem surprisingly few accidents. Perhaps it’s due to the language of the car horns, which are used constantly and can express a wide variety of meanings.
Today we visit the oldest mosque in Cairo then celebrate New Year’s Eve Bedouin style. Tomorrow we board the Sun Boat IV to sail up the Nile. It will be good to get out of the city.
I’ve uploaded some pictures on the Photos page. I’m also taking some video, too, but I’m trying not to be too much of a tourist. There’s so much to absorb I don’t always want to have a camera in front of my eyes.