Danielle Capalbo’s Blog

Thoughts after Week 2

Posted in Some thoughts by Quiet Giant on May 16, 2009

The Egyptian government should require that tourists stay for more than a week, at least.

That’s a reasonable amount of time to squeeze in pyramids outside Cairo and temples and tombs in Luxor, or take a ride on the Nile, or trot around the desert on a camel.

More importantly, that’s a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable person to reasonably arrive at some important conclusions:

– Egypt isn’t really the Egypt you see when you see stuff that’s usually associated with Egypt. Like pyramids and tombs. Tourist spots are like their own separate, sovereign entities, important in their own rite, but totally inadequate insofar as representing the country.

– You simply can’t blame impoverished Egyptians for hawking their wares relentlessly in places they know tourists have pointedly schlepped with money and awe and the thrill of an authentic experience and family members who want souvenirs. And the components of that exhausting experience – unsolicited gifts and offers, extraordinarily jacked up prices you need to haggle down, peddlers haunting you – don’t begin to define the wholesale Egyptian experience. They don’t even extend to the (colorful, stimulating, walkable and comfortable) streets of downtown Cairo.

It’s a reasonable amount of time to start to understand basic stuff, and compassionately suspend your frustration at peddlers because, seriously, why are you frustrated? Why was I frustrated? What is wrong with a man in a developing country taking advantage of a situation? What is wrong with someone pushing his services at Westerners and Europeans with fatter pockets than his? To scrap together the amount of money we throw into a change jar or spend on a soda. To put food in his kids’ mouths, or his own. You don’t have to say yes, yes, yes. But, like Jonny suggested, decline politely. See human.

And then, see other parts of Egypt. It’s unbelievable how an aimless afternoon in a foreign city’s downtown can, even passively, produce so many remarkable human moments. Watching people be people. Relating to those people. Saying hello to those people. In their language or yours, whatever. Just saying hello.

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2 Responses

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  1. nickmendez said, on May 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    “See human.” Sums it up nicely.

  2. Nancy said, on May 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    See human, how simple, but powerful. I know you all had to travel lightly, however, I wish you could have gathered some pictures. Nevertheless, your words are so descriptive, that I can, not only envision your experience and actually capture the scene, but more important hear your heart beat through your written words. I am very proud of you Danielle, stay safe.

    Love to you
    Mommy


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