I arrived at the Cairo airport after 1AM. For large international airports, this isn’t out of the ordinary…but for the single-blonde-white-American-female it was slightly nerve-racking.
I must admit that I would have never gone to Cairo alone. While I did travel there on my own, my wonderful friend Beckie miraculously found me walking outside of the terminal amidst hundreds of men vying for a spot to stand, waving their arms at me yelling, “Taxi!!!” She was like an angel! Their sales technique was ‘yell the loudest, maybe she will choose me.’
There were literally NO other tourists in the airport. What have I gotten myself into?
Cairo was hard to take in.
The city seemed to be in shambles even in the nicest neighborhoods and districts. Nothing is taken care of; pride seems nonexistent.
I remember Beckie pointing out one of her favorite buildings in Cairo in an unassuming intersection in central Cairo. I would have never noticed it because the outside was bland, drab, dilapidated, brown, dusty…like every other building I had seen that day. She had me look closer, and I noticed underneath the years of wear and tear, there was color & unique painting. Had this been taken care of, it would have had more character than most buildings I have seen all over the world.
Poverty here rivals what I’ve seen in India. Many times I was just speechless as I peered out the window of the car.
There are entire families who live in a “city” within Cairo called Trash City. They live in the place where 22 million people send their trash. The site is impossible to take in, and the idea that these individuals have no other options, opportunities, or hope is gut wrenching. From the ‘protection’ of my car with my driver, I saw child after child working away, sorting through the trash that was also their home.
The images for this post (there are hundreds) have been ready to go for two weeks. I’ve been avoiding writing this narrative for some time. I know I cannot do this place justice. I know that words will fail me in accurately and adequately expressing what my eyes took in.
I’m so privileged.
Why was I born in the United States? Why do I want and need for literally NOTHING? Why am I so lucky to be educated? Why do I never have to think about my health? How am I so fortunate to have family who step in in times of need? Why do I have excess money to not only travel at a whim but simply enough money to eat today? Why?
I spent a few days in Cairo, and then we flew to a resort town called El Gouna on the Red Sea. This place is an oasis in the dessert – fancy market-to-plate restaurants, high-end beach clubs, and five-star resorts. I hate to say that it was a welcomed change from the difficulty of Cairo. In El Gouna, I was able to pretend what I saw in Cairo didn’t exist.
If I ignore it, won’t it go away? It won’t, and as I type this I am flying over Cambodia – a country where I saw even more layers of poverty – heading to yet another beach resort.
I don’t even know how to begin processing this. Part of why I haven’t written this post is because I have only barely scratched the surface of unpacking what I’ve seen.
I don’t want to forget, & I don’t want to ignore it. I will take a renewed sense of thankfulness, of gratitude, of love with me. I will pray for these people and these countries. Many are suffering. Many are in need, and they live everyday from a place of lack.
My hope is that when I return to the States, these images are never too far from my mind.
That my gratitude never waivers.
Things that I want to remember about Cairo:
- Airport arrival!
- Maadi neighborhood
- Staying at Becks’ house
- Salon to get my wreck of hair in order (loving doing NOTHING to it on sabbatical – no products, no heat!)
- Dinner at Sequoia (and subsequently the Cairo Worm, aka food poisoning – Becks went to the hospital; I went to the doctor in Athens)
- Cheap grocery delivery
- Mirai Thai food
- Zamalek neighborhood
- Flying to El Gouna, an oasis town in the desert on The Red Sea
- Club 88 – meeting Mo & Adel who live in Maadi next to Becks!
- Aurora Club dancing and sandbox beats
- Steigenberger Resort
- Pyramids with my driver
- Wearing all of Becks’ clothes
- Cairo Tower
- Cairo Museum – hundreds of thousands of artifacts
- Crazy heat
- Crazier traffic
- City of the Dead
- Trash City
- The Christian churches in Trash City
- Coptic Cairo – Old Town – hanging church!
- Khan al Khalili – one of the oldest markets in the world
(Thanks, Becks, for an awesome trip to your home of three years. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I had SO much fun even though this is a heavy post. xoxo!)