Change of scenery
After too few hours of sleep, we gorged ourselves on breakfast (yoguuuuuuuurt) then rode in muggy vans from Zamalek to Giza. That 20-minute trip did more to jolt me into reality than 20 hours of marathon flight. Both areas attract tons of tourists, but for reasons as diametrically opposed as the places themselves: Zamalek is filthy and smoggy, but the combination of AUC, trendy retail outlets and Internet-equipped cafes make it a hot-spot for foreigners and young Egyptians. Meanwhile, Giza is the physically and financially decrepit home of Egypt’s tallest pyramids and iconic Sphinx.
Even last night, after Professor Sullivan led our group on a walking tour of the neighborhood, Egypt didn’t feel too foreign. Mostly because Zamalek is a dirtier, louder composite of a bunch of familiar urban landscapes. Today, zipping down the highway with the city to my right, everything changed. Scores of windowless concrete apartment buildings lined our route, then mounds of trash on streets made of sand and dirt, then impoverished grade school kids peddling souvenirs. In Giza, everyone had his or her hand out. I don’t write this as a judgment of their character or lifestyle, but a testament to the state of the nation that has somehow left them out. At least our camel rides (well-documented) stimulated the local economy. But the government is even threatening that trade, so tourists will opt for state-issued tours of the desert and pyramids.
In a larger effort to rescue the business of Giza-based tour guides, our group is drafting a letter to the Egyptian government to herald our experience. Which was, for the record, one of the most unreal and beautiful and physically strenuous and glee-inducing things, ever.
For tons of photos of that INCREDIBLE CAMEL-BACK JOURNEY!, visit all my classmates’ blogs. There’s a list here. Not only did I totally blow it charging my camera battery before the most picturesque leg of our trip, but, had I taken more than like, five pictures before we even mounted our (lovable, smirking, championship) camels, they would have only documented stuff I chose to look at, anyway.
That said, here are the photos I managed to snap: