Egyptian City Lights

Do you want to see the real Egypt? he asked. Meet me back here tonight and I will show you…

I’d seen enough movies to know that wasn’t a good idea. I knew we were just two young women in a strange city, in a foreign country. We didn’t know the culture, we didn’t know where was safe or who to trust.

All we had was our better judgment and common sense and right now I was ignoring both of them to follow a sense of trust I had found in a complete stranger. We left our hotel and walked the block to the tiny shop where we were to meet. Cars stirred the dust on the road as they sped by, leaving the city in a thick haze illuminated by the yellow street lights.

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Two motorbikes stood quietly waiting out the front of the shop where we were to meet our new friend. My sister’s fingers wrapped protectively over my arm, but we had come this far and there was something that said go further. Our new friend greeted us and introduced the other man with him.

They gestured to the waiting bikes, one for each of us and we climbed on behind them and drove into the night, the night air cool on our faces.

We ride across town, dimly lit buildings reaching into the night sky, shrouds of dust cloaking alleyways and the road ahead, making it hard to keep our sense of direction. We duck below an over pass, the roads are quieter now as we begin to slow and the buildings are smaller.

I am glad to see the bike with my sister is just ahead of us.

Pulling into a dimly lit car park on the edge of the street, we can see many men sitting around small tables out the front of a bar or tea house. They look up from their hooka pipes but seem uninterested before long and resume their conversations. We don’t know where we are. I’m suddenly aware of the very little I know of the man and his friend who have taken us across town.

I’m aware that this decision has also lead my sister into the same situation and I wait for what will come next.

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I had no reason to believe these men were dangerous.

They offered for us to sit at one of the low tables outside the tea house and returned with a hooka pipe and sweet tea. We drank and smoked the flavoured tobacco, a common pass-time in the country and we spoke of politics, culture and customs. Our friend owned a papyrus store, and told us of the history of the paper and the art. We talked with them well into the night.

Two young Australian girls and two middle aged Egyptian men, overcoming fear of the unknkown to form a bond of trust and good will. They took us safely back to the shop and we walked the small distance back to our hotel.

We had no reason to know if they were dangerous, or if we were in trouble. It could have ended badly, as it has for others,I don’t know what was the difference in our situation. But there we saw a glimpse of the REAl Egypt. They showed us kindness and upheld our trust, and in a world where we revel in the stories of the unjust and evil, this is one I believe should be told.

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My sister and I travelled to Egypt in 2009. We only stayed a few weeks, as many visitors do, but there we saw the might of Ancient civilisations, the contrast of modern day cultures to our own. It was both horrible and beautiful all at once. We felt humiliated, awed, humbled and empassioned all at once. I am saddened to see the unrest and civil discontent that has consumed Egypt now, and hope that those who saw it before remember the stories and the people.

 

Thanks to my sister for sharing some of these beautiful images.

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