CAIRO! Day three–take it with a boulder of salt, if need be

Today was an off-day. I went to bed about midnight and woke up at 2:00 p.m. I hadn’t realized how much I was burning the candle at both ends, touring around in this extreme heat. Today I looked at my self in the mirror and I appeared to be much thinner.

That, in and of itself, is a good thing. I’ve been working on losing weight and was down about seventeen pounds at one point. But today I looked kinda sick. I’m chalking it down to the shape of the mirror. I will weigh myself when I get home–and get back into lifting again, too.

But at least my thighs feel better.

So, relaxing and getting my groove back was the order of the day. I spent way too much time in the lobby attempting to access the pathetic internet service here. Eventually, I accompanied the desk clerk to a phone store so I could purchase more calling minutes and more internet service for my phone. It’s much more reliable than the wifi here.

Afterward, the clerk walked me to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where they were grilling shishkebab on an open spit. I ordered another half chicken and was greeted with not only the chicken but a plate of pita bread, a plate of salad and a plate of spicy pickled veggies. Less than five dollars. I couldn’t eat it all.

Tonight I have to stay up until 3:00 a.m. when a driver will take me to the Cairo airport where I will catch a flight to Luxor. I have two days scheduled. I had considered also going to Aswan until I found that it was a three and a half hour journey one way. Instead, I will see the sights of Luxor. I’m excited.

As with my other travels, I’ve attempted, during my time in Egypt, to mix with locals to get a feel for the nation and its people. I have to say that the people of Egypt have blown me away. Those who have been working for me have striven to see that I get the best service possible at the best price. They are well aware of scam artists who target tourists and I’ve watched them work in my best interests.

I’ve also been touched by the congeniality of Egyptians. Just tonight in the street-side cafe as I ate my dinner, a stylishly dressed young man of about thirty walked in. He was in a smart suit with a briefcase. The minute he spied me, he walked up and, with a huge smile said, “Welcome to Egypt”! I was floored.

On his way out, he stopped again and asked me my nationality. I replied, “American” and he again welcomed me with a broad smile, shaking my hand heartily. Three times he said “Welcome”. My head was spinning. This gregarious young man is not the only person who has spontaneously reached out to me with a hearty, “Welcome”!

Prior to my arrival in Egypt I had been warned by people to be careful. Others had trepidation in their voices, or at least in their text messages. After awhile, I began to get a bit apprehensive which was foolish of me.

I mean, I’ve been to Israel and stayed in the Arab Quarter. Me, a Christian. I’ve driven through the West Bank. I spent seven weeks in Ukraine. I’ve been to Moscow. Granted, none of these places are anything like North Korea, Libya, Syria, Yemen or Iraq. But they all have had at one time or another terrorist attacks or Islamic insurgencies or violent uprisings.

I blame the media for the misleading information about countries. With their hysterical rantings about anything dangerous, the mainstream media needs to start taking full responsibility for its irresponsibility. Relentless focus on individual acts are ludicrous.

Granted, viewers bear some responsibility, too. And they can educate themselves by refusing to be passive, refusing to blindly accept images that suggest a nation is awash in violence from one action. The people I’m meeting in Egypt are frustrated by the media’s portrayal of their country as anything but peaceful and safe. I walk down the street and am not bothered by anyone–unless you consider a street vendor hawking his wares “bother”.

And how does such hysteria help the people of these nations? Egypt is not exactly wealthy. The people here are like every other nation on earth. They want to work, provide for their families, get an education, live in peace. If the tourist economy is harmed by breathless accounts of terrorism, then innocent people become victims of circumstance. It’s the same as in Ukraine.

And if I may pontificate a bit more, it’s important for us to remember that the media is a business. Their bottom line IS the bottom line. If violence sells then, by God, we’re going to get violence. Sex sells, so we get sex. Can you imagine the major news networks starting every evening with breathless stories about how Egyptians or Ukrainians want peace? Can you imagine that night after night?

“FLASH! Lviv, Ukraine is a beautiful city whose residents want what we Americans have!”

“BREAKING NEWS! Egyptians are like us and want to take care of their families, too!”

Am I being sarcastic and snarky? Probably. Bad news sells. Perhaps there’s some solace in that fact because intrinsically we all know that most things in the world are going okay. People are raising their children, fighting corruption, going to work, caring for each other. It’s the anomalies that require notice.

But it’s the relentless pursuit of the anomalies at the expense of reality that creates gulfs between people and nations. Obligatory, one-time offerings of feel-good stories to salve the bad news about an area doesn’t make up for weeks of talking smack.

I don’t know. People consider me ballsy because I’ve traveled to a number of places in the Middle East. I’m supposedly daring because I’ve been to Russia twice and spent seven weeks weeks in Ukraine. Some people think my visits to Poland or the Czech Republic were a walk on the wild side.

I visited these places to see for myself. I don’t want to be a media-soaked nincompoop. I want to be educated. There is a reason why I take everything the media says with a boulder of salt.

Not everyone can do as I’ve done; I understand that. But everyone can make an effort to become aware and refuse to passively accept what someone else says…or writes. We can demand more from our sources.

Don’t even take my word for it on this blog. Read (or visit) for yourself. Only by walking across the aisle to engage with that “other” person or country can we begin to understand each other, blissfully unencumbered by the filth of politics, racism, prejudice, nationalism or religion.

OK, enough whining. It’s 2:00 a.m. Egypt-time. My car arrives in an hour. Luxor, here I come!



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