When many of us are thinking about our first trip to Egypt, our minds are full of pictures:
*Anthony and Cleopatra
*Moses and the bulrushes
*gleaming marble columns
Although indeed, there are many impressive relics from the past, and history abounds to the well-known point of travellers suffering from “Pharonic-fatigue”, Egypt of today in many ways is not as beautiful from the outside as it once has been.
But it does the traveller well to know that one MUST look beyond the surface, although in just about every case, all that glitters is definitely not gold! The true beauty of this country lies within the people themselves.
With eyes shut….
Having said that, there are some buildings that are indeed still resplendent in their majesty: most belong the the Military, or the Government, and when you pause to consider them, there are strong echoes of what entire cities once must have looked like: SIGH!
And with a very wide stretch of imagination, you can almost visualise it.
With eyes open….
However, the majority of the buildings are…. how shall we say…. tired and sad! With the constant onslaught of salt air (sea towns), noxious exhaust fumes in constant use, acid rain (where it does fall!), unceasing dust, along with cement and sand laden wind… it is little surprise that most buildings have a rather “eroded” feel and look to them from the outside. Also, for those who are fortunate enough to find work, the salaries (in general) are extremely low. Thus money spent on face-lifts for the outside of buildings is just not high on the agenda…. understandably so!
So we have this odd shoulder to shoulder squashing of the most unlikely buildings, sprawling over each other, usually towering way about the required 6 floor height limit, with hardly a recognisable road in-between! A young friend, on his first visit here, wondered how we knew our way around the maze of streets, as they all have the same jam-packed-ness feel about them, with similar unkempt buildings… rather like a rabbit warren, he felt!
But look deeper, really look…
Usually a cultural surprise waits for all new visitors: once you go beyond the grubby exterior of the buildings, take the antiquated lifts up to the apartments, or walk the dusty marbled staircases… and enter into an apartment…. it is a whole new world!
You will be welcomed, embraced and kissed (same sex only please!) and plied with cups of tea, fruit, biscuits and given anything that you show an interest in (be careful). You will find homes filled with rich colour, and shiny, bright furniture, gold glittering wherever possible, huge cupboards and glass everywhere…. tiny kitchens when huge meals are prepared, and of course, you will be expected to join in!
These homes are filled with people, colour, tv, food, fluffy toys and many, many carpets! So take your shoes off, sink into the gold and burgundy chairs and sip on a lovely hot glass of tea, probably with mint, and lots of sugar:
Taste and see that it is good!
Ahlan wa Sahlan (our house is your house… you are welcome!)