That was unexpected!

Posted: September 7, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: , , ,

Location: Cairo, Egypt

 

On my family’s tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza, our tour guide took us to the “papyrus institute”- a place where they demonstrate how papyrus is made and the typical depictions of the paintings that you see throughout Cairo and their meaning.

The whole “show” was given by a woman who spoke with a thick accent and at warp speed. I’m not entirely positive, but I think she was encouraging my dad to take on more wives and have more children- even though she, herself, only had 2. One, age 10, named Diana, she was trying to pawn off to Josh- which was hilarious AND offensive at the same time.

During the demonstration we learned that papyrus paper is made from the plant papyrus that grows in a triangle-shaped stalk (symbolic of the pyramids!) and has a bushy “flower” on top (symbolizing the sun’s rays). You cut it, strip off the green (which is used for baskets, shoes, mats, etc) and strip the pulpy insides which is then soaked in water for 6-12 days (the less the days, the lighter the resulting color). After the soak they simply layer the papyrus strips on top of each other, like flat-jenga and then press it for another 6 days.

The result is a hardened, flexible, waterproof paper that lasts for thousands of years.

No wonder everyone wanted this stuff!

During her lecture, in between her flirting, weird culture jokes and being encouraged to drink hibiscus tea (which she insisted was “just like vodka”) she somehow got on the topic of religion. (Here’s where it gets interesting)

She claimed that: “Egyptians are not religious by nature. Sure, we have all these gods and some now practice Islam and others christianity- but it’s all the same thing. It’s all talking about “God” in whatever way you want. Scientists can explain a lot of things- except how and why you feel a certain way- and I can’t explain that either. It’s just something that *YOU* know. But who am I to say that your favorite color is wrong because it’s not the same as mine? That’s how I feel about religion, too.”

The Egyptian people, in Egypt, all seem to have this attitude. At least in the 1.5 days and limited capacity that I encountered them. My expectations of Egypt was “oh great… another Islamic country where I’m going to be treated like I was in India- only worse.”- this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I wasn’t treated any differently (noticeably) because I was white/woman. I wasn’t pick-pocketed or shoved and spat upon because I told a vendor “no, thanks”. I wasn’t required to cover up every inch of my body in the 40+ (C) heat in fear of getting raped or attacked or something else.

When I talked to other travelers, they all seem to have this same thought/experience.

Before the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s tourism industry used to bring in 14 million tourists and be a 13 BILLION$ (USD) industry. Now, they are lucky if 1.2 million people visit. As a result, the economy and people have suffered for it.

Because of this (and other aspects) I’m sure this is why our trip was filled with smiling faces and liberal-mindedness that I wasn’t expecting at all.

 

Moral of the story: Go visit Egypt! It’s empty and pretty rad.

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