Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Egypt?

Do I really like the place?

This was a question that I had been asking myself since my first week in the country.  What I knew was that I would be unlikely to ever return.  The country did not give me the joy and excitement that I had hoped for when I first arrived.
The whole country is in a state of almost permanent ruin.  It didn't matter where I went, there was always a prevailing feeling that better times were in the past, which is an astounding thought when you consider the troubles that have been experienced by this country.  Even the new buildings felt tired and slightly run down, as though neglect had managed to seep into their very foundations.  I had been particularly disturbed by my time in the Cairo Museum, where I was shocked to find priceless artefacts slowly falling apart in the display cases and cabinets that were meant to protect them.  Thousands of years in the tombs hadn't been enough to destroy them, but a few decades in these museums would likely see them gone forever.
This was just a part of what was a generally just a poor treatment of people on the whole by this country.  That is an understatement.  It was more than just poor treatment, it was a horrible treatment of people.  Tourists were merely walking sacks of money to be targeted.  Even the locals were subject to an aggressiveness rudeness by those working in the tourism industry.
I could understand the terrible infrastructure in the country either.

For a country so dependent on tourist dollars for survival, I would have assumed that it would have been protective of these dollars.  I would have assumed that it would have done everything necessary to ensure that the tourists were well catered for with adequate infrastructure to support their travels.

This was not the case.

Instead there was a distinct lack of simple transport options.  The accommodation on offer was usually overpriced and of poor quality.  The services being provided almost always second rate.
The entire pharonic link purported to exist between the people of Egypt and its past was also a lie.  This was an Arabic country and the continued insistence that they were the decendents of the Pharoahs was as frustrating as it was tiring.  Many of the ancient locations had been completely forgotten and covered in sand until they had been rediscovered by French and British archaeologists.  To claim that they were an integral part of the culture of the local people did not resonate with any truth.
What surprised and horrified me the most of all was the treatment that tourists were specifically subjected to.

As I have noted time and time again, Egypt is a country that is heavily dependent on tourism.  In fact, to say that it is "dependent" is completely inadequate in describing the complete reliance that the people and economy have on tourist dollars.  It was difficult to find any part of the country that wasn't in some way either directly or indirectly geared towards the servicing of tourist needs.
It was difficult to maintain much respect for a country where an old lady (a tourist) getting robbed elicited little surprise from the girl working at the hostel.  She seemed to be more annoyed that the lady hadn't heeded her advice to be careful than that the lady had been robbed at all.  When such events become common occurrences to the point of indifference, I hold grave concerns for its social structure.
Thankfully, there was one thing that I was able to consistently enjoy throughout my time in Egypt.  The elegantly simple pleasure of being able to sit down and quietly drink a cup of tea.

The less of Egypt I experienced and more of Arabia I found, the happier I seemed to be. 

No comments: