Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: culture, Egypt, Greeks, heritage, lives, Nile, past, religion, Romans, wonder
What’s left to say? Carli and Kate covered our experiences today nicely (as they have for the entire trip, allowing me to wax philosophic while they provide you with the real nuts and bolts of our experience), and now as I’m trying to sum up my feelings about this voyage I find myself drawing a blank.
Sleep deprivation can only be partially credited; I’ve found myself at a loss for words more than once during these past two weeks. I literally found myself wandering about the Egyptian Museum today with my mouth hanging open, surrounded by thousands of pieces of Egyptian history (125,000 pieces, to be more exact, with more than 1 million others in the museum’s storerooms).
If we consider that the first seeds of human civilization began about 10,000 years ago, then the Egyptians have dominated our landscape for roughly a third of that. Think about that. That’s six times as long as the Romans were king, roughly that for the Greeks, and about thirty times the amount of time that the United States has been a country… almost all of that took place at least 2,000 years ago. And we’ve spent the past few days retracing their footsteps.
We’ve asked ourselves more than once during the development of this exhibit, “How can we convince people to care about the past?” I’d say the answer to that question lies right here on the shores of the Nile.
These ancients speak to us about their lives, their loves, their hopes, and their dreams through each and every discovery, and as much as we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise, they weren’t that different than us. People 3,000 years ago were pretty similar to you and me. And if we haven’t changed that much during all that time, then how can those of us living on this planet right now really be all that different, regardless of our heritage, language, or religion?
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: animals, children, COSI, culture, donkey, Egypt, family, farm, Valley of the Kings, wives
On our way back to the hotel after a long hot day in the Valley of the Kings, with another layer of tomb dust on our boots, and astounding photos and memories locked in our minds, we stopped at a small farm house in the middle of a sugar cane field. We took photos and video of the young men working in the field, and were invited into the mud-brick house by the father and his two wives (yes, two).
They must have had ten or twelve children, who were gracious and showed us around their home. The floors and walls were made of mud, and their beds were made of sheets on the ground. The children wore tattered clothing and pajamas but were well fed and laughed contagiously. One of the older girls grabbed my hand and said, “madam, madam, I show you something.”
With cautious curiosity I followed her into a roofless room in the house which housed their animals. One of the goats had a young kid, which couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. The girls picked up the baby animal and brought him to me to pet. Their cows were a bit spooked by our invasion, and I kept tripping over ducks and buckets of feed. Then the father motioned me over to the donkey for a test ride. I climbed up onto their donkey, and they placed one of their youngest daughters in front of me.
We had a great laugh, and the older daughter who had led me around the home asked if it was my first time on a donkey, which was clearly evident from the way the poor animal shifted from side to side trying to remove the obvious rookie from his back. We thanked them for their hospitality and gave them “baksheesh” (tips) for their willingness to share their lives on camera, and then we somehow switched off the urge to cry, and got back on our air-conditioned bus to hit the hotel buffet before the crowds.
The family was strong, happy, and healthy, yet their livelihood might as well have been on another planet. It was so foreign. Our guide, Ehab, said that the farmer probably makes at most $2000 Egyptian pounds per month, which is the equivalent of about $400 US dollars. But he also said that this is the lifestyle that they are used to; they wouldn’t know what to do with any more. Yet somehow I can’t help but wish to do more.
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: Cairo, cheese omelet, COSI, cultural insight, culture, Egypt, respect, Steve Martin
Steve Martin does a routine on his album “Let’s Get Small” where he talks about learning to say “cheese omelet” in French. Armed with this limited knowledge, he enters a restaurant in Paris and proceeds to order a shoe with cheese on it while asking the waiter to force it down his throat.
After a day where the cultural insults I’ve been doling out have become almost ubiquitous, I’m starting to feel like I’ve had Steve’s cheese-covered shoe stuffed into my mouth. I’ve managed to display the sole of my shoe in public (a huge faux pas) and declined coffee when it was offered to me by an official (a nice display in the States, a rather egregious slight in Cairo). My fastidious attempts to be culturally sensitive have thus far resulted in a humbled sense of self and a strong taste of cheese in my mouth.