Five Days in Egypt
The Civilization the World Obsessed Over | September 2019
I recently traveled to Egypt which marks my first time in the Middle East in about 10 years and first time on the African continent in my life. As one might expect, Egypt shares more qualities in common with its Southwest Asian neighbors (Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.) than it does with nearby Sudan or Ethiopia so I get to check the continent off on a technicality though it doesn’t feel like the most solid of check marks. I think my general consensus on the visit was I’m glad I went and I had a great time but I don’t need to go back for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into later in this article but for the time being, see below for a picture of the Sphinx and pyramids because, let’s be honest, that’s the real show here.
It’s nothing short of mind-blowing to look at these monuments, mostly tombs given Egypt’s historical obsession with the afterlife, and try to compute in your mind that these are some of the oldest things on earth and quite literally some of the oldest man-made structures still standing. Western cultures throughout history have garnered a penchant for Egyptomania beginning famously with Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign and filtering into Greek, Russian, British, and American cultures, hailing worship from societal visual vocabulary. Just look at our Washington Monument or the reverse of our dollar bill for the Eye of Providence floating above a pyramid. These symbols, adopted by some of the greatest civilizations to ever spend time under our sun, are still standing and readily available for you to visit. I think my father said it best when standing in front of the Sphinx. “Well…there it is.”
Let me give you some context on this trip. Every once in a while I take a trip with my Dad. He travels internationally for work and frequently to some strange or rarely frequented places by Western travelers. This is appealing to me for a variety of reasons so whenever he extends an invite to come along, I drop everything to go. Just two white dudes traveling in a country where we don’t look like we belong.
I flew out of LAX, through Chicago and Amman before arriving in Cairo. In Amman, I ran into a former work acquaintance from Philly about a decade ago purely by chance in the Royal Jordanian airline lounge as he was sipping Arabic coffee. He asked if I’d ever been to the Middle East before and I said I had, though it had been quite a while. “Be careful,” he said. “You’re really going to…stand out.” I excused myself to the restroom and when I came back he was gone. Arabic coffee was offered on the RJ flight leaving Chicago as well as Amman. I obliged for the Chicago portion but there was a soapy taste to it so I skipped it on the second leg, also realizing I would need to sleep within a few hours of my arrival. I landed in Cairo at sunset and arrived at an airport that looked like it had just woken up from a winter’s hibernation. We had hired a fixer for this portion of the trip as, from what we had heard, getting through immigration could be tricky. The fixer met me just before immigration where there were massive queue stands in place but no one in line, no one working, and not a soul in sight. A man abruptly stood up from the floor behind one of the immigration desks as he heard us approach, looking very much like he had just woken up from a deep sleep, and waved us over. The fixer said, “give me your passport, your immigration papers, and let me talk”. A brief conversation in Arabic ensued, money was exchanged, and we were through. My guy stepped around the vacant x-ray scanners at the security checkpoint, ushering me to follow him which I did and we were out at the street. A van pulled up and the rear door slid open. “Have a nice time.” The fixer shook my hand and walked away and I never saw him again. Click here to read the full article.