Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Flying into Cairo, is like heading back into time. A cross roads of history, where two different continents converge, and a mighty river flows. This is my fourth time visiting Cairo, but still just as excited experiencing it as if it were my first. While the city lies surrounded by the mighty sands of the Sahara, the waters flowing through it's center, has given it life for thousands of years. Today Cairo is one of the largest cities in the world, harbouring a history as long as the Nile itself.

From the Pharaohs of the ancient world, which constructed the many pyramids, to the Romans who controlled a once vast empire, to conquering Napoleon who decided to give the sphinx a nose job with an artillery shell. Cairo is a bustling Arab city and one of the most important Islamic cities in the world. There is so much to experience and learn while staying in Cairo. Luckily the cabs are ridiculously cheap and the people are very proud of their culture and whiling to share it with you

The cab rides for me are part of the entertainment of visiting Cairo. Good luck trying to drive your own car in the city, so if you want to get out of your hotel you are going to have to use a cab. Getting into one is like getting into a getaway car, of a grave robber who just stole from Hatsheput herself, and desperately trying to void her wrath. They race through traffic, laying on the horn and zigzagging with no fear of hitting pedestrians or other cars. Throw in only a few stop stops, unorganised traffic patterns, and only three stop lights in a city of over 20 million and you get the organized chaos that is traffic in Cairo.

In the four years since visiting Cairo first, the city as gotten even faster, as camels and donkey carts, have been replaced by new cars and taxis. Even brand new license plates, shine on every ones vehicle. Still nobody seems to follow  traffic lanes or traffic laws. What would get you arrested for hazardous driving in the United States is a common traffic maneuver over here.

In between spending time in the Sudan Embassy working on my Sudan visa. I got the chance to see some more of Cairo that I hadn't before. To fully experience Cairo you must get away from the touristy areas, museums, perfume stores, papyrus galleries, and just dive into the culture of the everyday Egyptian. Walking through the streets will unlock and amazing side of Egypt that no tour bus will take you. Egyptians are proud of their history and whiling to share it with open arms, and heart. They will invite you into their homes, serve you food, introduce the family, and make you feel welcome to stay.

Don't visit Cairo without visiting some of the many mosques , be sure to respect their customs, and climb up into the tallest towers,  to get a stunning view of the city. 

Walking throughout the city is another experience of survival.   The same crazy traffic you ride in, taking a taxi you have to avoid if you want to cross any of the many streets.    It's like playing on the highest level of the video game Frogger.    It's something that you have to see in person to fully understand.   You learn to just follow the locals when they make a break for it and try to avoid being hit, like a quarterback avoiding a sack. 

What I love most about traveling is meeting interesting people.  I was invited to dinner by Shahira Amin. One of the most amazing journalist and females I have ever met. In a culture dominated by men, her strength and passion as a woman and journalist,   has changed many lives in the Arabic world.

 Bringing a voice to those who's voice may not have otherwise been heard. Her courage to stand up to leaders of government and stand for what she believes in, has taken her to the most important historical moments in the Arab world in the last few decades. She is the journalist who interviewed  Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive for five years, in Gaza.  

I left her with an inspiration and understanding of pure courage that I rarely experience.  And a reassurance  that there are still great people out there.  

Although I have visited the pyramids of Giza three times, I couldn't visit Cairo without visiting them again.    With the sun setting over Cairo on my way back from picking up my Sudan Visa,  instructed my taxi driver, to head for Giza.

As you arrive into Giza,  the pyramids tower over the skyline.   When I arrived the gates were closed and all of those inside were exiting.  But a local reading my mind,  showed me a back way to avoid the police officers and guards, pay off a watchmen, jump a fence,  and then climb up a sand hill to spend sunset by myself photographing the pyramids as the sun got swallowed up by the Sahara.

I wasn't there to do any harm.  Loot the amazing site, or cause trouble.  But rather, photograph one of the great man made wonders of the world, as the Sahara slowly swallowed up the sun.

There I was atop a tall hill looking out over the pyramids as the sunlight slowly disappeared.   The modern town of Giza,  and ancient empire,  seperated by a towering wall.    It's experiences like this that keep me addicted to a lifestyle, of spontaneous decision making.  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing, Monty. What an amazing moment shooting the pyramids at sunset must have been. Incredible...