How do you summarize a culture in a blog post? How do you explain 16, unique, 17 hour, amazing days in 6 paragraphs? How do you describe a people that, honestly, most Americans will never know, and kindness from these people that an American could never fathom coming from a Muslim?
Too many people stay inside their safe, known, comfortable personal bubble. Never venturing into the unknown. Never learning about people who are different than themselves. Never, never, never..... Get out, go see something different.
If you are a westerner and you go to Egypt, likelier than not, the above photo is the kind of place you would want to go in Egypt (the Giza Pyramids). That is Egypt. Right? The reality is that the Great Pyramids were (in my opinion) one of the least 'Egyptian' things we saw. I have seen Egypt, both the tourist side, and also things that most westerner tourists are either unable to see or just don't want to see. The pyramids are great to see, but after you stand in awe for a little while pondering how they were built (my vote is aliens) you start thinking about the fact that you are standing in the desert, looking at nine piles of rocks, in the heat. So what are these things that I saw that are more interesting than one of the wonders of the world? Allow me to explain.....
Night Life on the street
Egypt is a night culture, for many things it is easier to get your business done at ten at night rather than at ten in the morning, this extends to social life too. While you
find a Starbucks in Cairo it is much better to go to a coffee shop on the street. We were at a cool joint that was right across the street from the wall of the Citadel, we had coffee and tea and played a variant game of dominoes with some of my brothers friends. My big accomplishment (as seen below) I had coffee that I
Sadly I am not a coffee drinker. I really wish I were, I love the smell, but I just don't like the taste. In Cairo however I had what they call "french coffee" essentially it is somewhere between Turkish coffee and a latte. It is one part Turkish coffee (it's the consistency of a fine powder), one part sugar, and one (or two) parts milk. It was good. It was much like a latte, except it wasn't so sweet and large you throw up after. I liked it.
Me and said glass of yummy coffee
The Cave Church
It's a church that's carved into a cave. What more need I say? This church can seat more than 10,000 people, and their weekly attendance is around 7,000 people. This is the coolest church I've ever seen. An open-air design seems like one of the coolest (and most cost effective) ways to build a mega-church. You can find all kinds of info about the Cave Church, and even watch their services broadcast live over the web
The Zabaleen (zabela means trash and usually when you see the "een" on any word it means one who does what the word says) inhabit an area of Cairo known as Garbage (or trash) City. The Zabaleen go into other areas of Cairo and
from the trash piles around Cairo, bring it back to their neighborhood, and recycle it. This is how they survive. When you go to Cairo from a 'clean' western environment you will likely be shocked by the apparent amount of trash in the city. It's everywhere. you will be walking down the sidewalk (ha, if you can find a solid stretch) and there will be a pile of trash, right there in front of you. What you will not find is a trash can. Why? There is no garbage collection like we know. In my life, we have a small collection of trashcans outside where we amass a small stash in wait for Thursday and Friday when the trash truck comes by, gets all our stuff, and takes it to a landfill.
In Cairo however things are different. The Zabaleen come through the city and slowly take away all the trash. They recycle it into useful things, sell said useful things, and survive. As a first world person you would see 'poverty' and think that their lack of stuff/money/or current living conditions make them 'poor'. Really though, the feeling of poverty is not lack of stuff but a position of shame in the community. Surprise be it, these are some of the hardest working and motivated Egyptians I saw. So here are a few photos (documenting their shame isn't a good, kind, or culturally appropriate idea, so I only have a few).
The Recycling Center
So what happens to the trash once the Zabaleen collect it? It goes to be recycled at a center like this one. The specific center we visited is a mission for disadvantaged girls. You are disqualified from working at this specific center if you have an advantage in life, like
living male relative, or having ever had
day of school. So these girls take trash, cloth or paper scraps, and er-make the paper, or turn it into jewelry, they make quilts, stuffed animals, and all kinds of other things. What they make is beautiful, and it provides them a living. This is recycling done right. It's sustainable.
The Kahn El-Khalili is a cultural experience that should not be missed. If you want to step into another time period, this is the place for you. If you have seen the movie
, it was based in part on the Khan. The Khan is a market with (I assume) thousands of shops. You can buy anything from bling for your car, to spices by the pound. When you first get to the Khan you are in the tourist area, the hawkers will attack you (almost) trying to get you to buy their wares. Many will cheat you on the price if you don't barter correctly. This is not the fun part of the Khan. If you have the courage and fortitude to make it to the backside of the Khan, through the shops, over the street, you get into the
Khan. Where the locals are. You find spice stores, cloth shops, people making hats (the guy in the photo below even let me make one), I even had a barber ask (this time from
his shop) if I needed a hair cut. Once you get to the backside it is like you are in another time period,
is the Egypt worth touring.
The 'other' side
As you sit, likelier than not, in the comfort of your first world home, remember this. The other day I posted ye old postcard photo of the Citadel. Pretty, no? It is a nice view, but if you look from another view, you see the need that is so abundant in the city, and in the rest of the world. People hurt, people need. This is Egypt.
These days everyone is a photographer........
One quiet, relaxing thing we did in Cairo was go out on the Nile in a
. A Felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat in the Middle East. When you are in a city of 20 million people this is a great way to get away for a little while and be alone (this is one of the only ways to do so in the city); but you pack dinner, jump on a Felucca around sunset, and enjoy the time. Around sunset the daytime broiling
temperature drops to the upper 60s and it is beautiful.
Once you get out into the water you are alone and it is wonderful.
One fun part of Egypt was hearing the call to prayer five times a day. The calls summon Muslims to come pray at the given times throughout the day, this actually reminded me quite a bit of the church bells in Europe. Many westerners would be 'put off' by hearing this, but these people's minds also short circuit by thinking: Muslim->Jihad->Terrorism->911->I'm about to die; so their opinion doesn't worry me too much. In olden days the call to prayer was called from the minaret of the Mosque, now it is run through speakers in the minaret. It is said that Cairo is the city of 1,000 minarets
(I would add 10,000 speed bumps to that, but that's for another blog post)
so whenever you hear the call, it is all around you.
around you. It is an unparalleled experience I assure you, but very fun to hear.
So here are tonight's photos of Cairo.
As always you can watch my
for more photos.....
Yes, I know, I am nowhere near in focus. It just so happens that I did not take this photo. But I like it anyway....
When people ask me about the trip to Egypt I am really at a loss for words. We have seen so many things that most westerners will never see and experienced things that they will never understand; so how do you describe this? It is difficult I assure you. So no words for tonights blog post about the
, just photos. Have a question, ask in the comments.
Traveling through the German countryside has been wonderful. I have so enjoyed seeing some of the small German towns. Surprisingly, in the country there are quite a few wind and solar farms. Very snazzy stuff. So here are some photos from the day! Much more to come......
one of the 'sights' I saw was this SLS AMG, one of my many dream cars
This is one of the many lighthouses on the island. I am hoping to get to photograph some (or most) of the remaining houses.....
And just in case you were wondering, Elvis is on the island of Sylt. Go say hi.....
I knew they had big churches, cathedrals even, but I was not prepared for just how massive these structures are. It is mind blowing to stand in a church that took more than 600 years to build -not 600 years old- a building that was 600 years in the making. One of the churches we visited in Lübeck was St. Mary's.
In about 1200 A.D. the magistrate and the merchants of Lübeck launched an extraordinary project: right in the center of the city, they started building a church. The vault spans the impressive nave at a height of about 126 feet, and the twin spires are more than 400 feet tall. This church set the pattern doe about seventy churches in the Baltic region.
Massive though this church is there other churches in the city, most nearly as large as St. Mary's. We had a great day walking the streets of Lübeck, eating at a small cafe, and filming on an episode of Garrett [the european traveler].
I love Nalgene. Everyone who has used a Nalgene loves it. Nalgene is a rock solid product, and an [almost] unbreakable water bottle. Hands down, the Nalgene is the favored bottle of most any outdoor person. One thing everyone loves is the fact that you just cannot seem to break a Nalgene. I don't know if their design is just that good or if they were dabbling in the dark arts when they started making those bottles. They are brilliantly durable. For example, the bottle I broke was at least 15 years old, and it survived both my brother's and my scouting career.
How I broke it. This is the question everyone has been asking (most people do not know that you can break a Nalgene). I stepped out of our hotel room and tossed my bottle from the second story balcony, aiming for the grass below. I missed and hit the sidewalk by about two inches. So there you have it, you can in fact break a Nalgene.
"In Berlin it was pretty scarce. We got so much on our ration cards, hut it wasn't a whole lot. They used to say it was too much to die, but not enough to live on. I went to get my ration card and they said 'Well, we don't need more people in Berlin, so why don't you go back where you came from.' "
Hollywood couldn't make this up, and it would really be hard for them to dramatize it. This is the real story. This was Germany.
[This is just a preview, the entire project should be released sometime this summer. Lord willing I will be able to post it somewhere online for everyone to see.]