Two weeks ago, in preparation for a trip, I pulled these photos with the intention of writing about Egypt, a country I visited in October 2012. I experienced this country as a tourist, seeing ancient ruins and artifacts. It was the trip of a lifetime, a trip I had dreamed of taking since I was really small.
The reality of a place is always different, bigger, and more complex than we imagine. Egypt was no exception. The ruins and artifacts of Egypt's empire, complex religion, mythology, and artistry were all magnificent. Every hope and expectation I had of seeing these ancient sites was realized in fantastic and amazing ways. The tomb reliefs in the Valley of the Kings was magnificent and breathtakingly colorful. The vastness of the Luxor Temple Complex was astounding and remarkable.
Its easy as a tourist to imagine that the Egypt of the past is the Egypt of today and indeed you can contrive to make that the entirety of your experience. But it was awfully hard for us to ignore. In 2011, mass protests swept through the country, causing Hoshi Mubarak to resign after three decades as the leader of Egypt. Violent protests shook the country throughout 2012 as the military took control. Because I was planning our family trip to Egypt, I watched these events with alarm. Things calmed down but then flared up when the media reported that the embassy was being surrounded by hostile youths shouting anti-American sentiments. In that case, media reports were greatly exaggerated. When we went to Egypt at the end of October 2012, things had calmed down. Shortly after we left, tensions flared again as the new leader began to over-reach his power.
So when we visited Egypt, this tension was fresh in our minds. We saw that Egypt struggles with poverty and that at times, the living conditions are really bad. Air pollution was so thick and bad that you could hardly see out over the city.
Egypt still has a strong agricultural system and you often see animals on the street. Indeed, many people use donkey carts and even camels for transportation.
Poverty is a very real state life for many people in the country. We visited Garbage Mountain where residents sort through trash, and even live in the trash of the city of Cairo. We visited a carpet school, where children were taught the trade of weaving carpets. For these children, this was a wonderful opportunity and they were grateful for it.
Egypt also is home to many religions, including three of the major religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I'm not sure of the turn of events, but eventually Egyptians abandoned their poly-theistic religion. Christianity has its roots very early as some of the original Apostles taught the gospel. The Coptic Church (at least according to our guide) claim that the apostle Thomas brought Christianity to the country. This means that Christianity came here earlier than Islam. Islam took hold of the country and they are the majority. There is also a small community of Jews living within the country. In a time, where religious differences and those tensions can explode at any minute, finding balance seems to be rather remarkable for this country.
Egypt is home to warm, friendly, and engaging people. Wherever we went, we met interesting and bright people eager to interact with us. This place is alive with energy.
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