ancient and modern

Marhaba from Cairo,

It’s a strange feeling to be in a city just after a revolution. We made a point of making our way to Tahrir Square so we could get a feel for the revolution, as the locals were unashamedly referring to the events of January 25th. We had seen – like the rest of the interested world – the tumult in Cairo from television news, but a feel on the ground always puts things into perspective.

Ali Baba

Quite a few substantial buildings are still badly damaged. One newspaper was reporting that 846 civilians were killed during the uprising. The finger of blame was being pointed straight at Mubarak, who was by this stage in custody complaining of chest pain. One taxi driver likened Mubarak to Ali Baba.

hope and optimism

The people in the streets seemed to share a sense of hope and optimism and desperately want the tourists to return. As a result of the western tour companies changing their schedules – perhaps at the bidding of their insurers – the tourist trade has all but dried up here.

We sauntered around the pyramids and the Sphinx with barely another tourist in sight. The small business owners such as the camel owners – were doing it very tough, and their animals possibly tougher.

The pyramids of Giza are an absolute marvel: visible from quite a distance; competing for the skyline with city skyscrapers. Cairo has spread so much, the pyramids are not far from the suburbs. This is where ancient and modern are cheek by jowl. The pyramids up close are enormous structures, provoking the obvious question: how were they built? In Khafre’s pyramid alone, there is 50 million tonnes of rock.


One evening – lolling in the hotel’s spa – I struck up a conversation with a chap who was keeping a loving fatherly eye on his three young children. He was Zilci from Benghazi in Libya. As our conversation coincided with the bloody uprising in Libya against the regime of Gaddafi, I wondered if Zilci and his family were seeking shelter in a safe haven while the civil war raged on. On the contrary, he was en route to Libya, returning from a stint in Canada so that he could participate in the uprising. Far from being afraid for his family’s safety, he was determined for his children to be part of the revolt. I sometimes wonder if Zilci and his family remained unscathed.

ma’a salaameh


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