Trip Start May 05, 2008
97Trip End May 09, 2009
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We don't want to sound like we are complaining, but unemployment and low salaries for those who are employed have created a real problem with the tourist industry here in Egypt. Most Egyptians are very nice people who go out of their way to help you, but unfortunately the average tourist on vacation who only goes to certain touristy spots, will probably not get to deal with any of them. Instead, what the tourist will get is a seemingly constant barrage of people (touts) who call you their friend, use the same canned jokes over and over again, and who want to get your money in one way or another (and usually not in a fair way either)
There are many experiences which we will remember from this place: the many sheesha pipe and tea houses littering the streets, the vast contrasts between the rich neighborhoods and the slums which lie beside it, the beautiful architecture and the ugly garbage right beside it... but above all the undefinable quality that makes this city a dramatic place to visit. It truly is the heart of the Middle East, and we are just starting to realize how much deeper the experience here can be if one moves beyond the usual tourist trail. One interesting experience we had yesterday was going to a gigantic mall, where upper-middle and rich class Egyptians go. The place felt a world away from the city outside and the people there were very westernized. We had a very cosmopolitan experience, feeling like normal people (as opposed to walking wallets) for the first time in a long time, eating amazing Japanese food and going to the cinema to watch American movies: all in all a very fun day. But it also made us realize us just how deep the rift between the rich and poor is in this country: truly we felt like the Egyptians at the mall were as far removed from the average people we crossed in the street as we were.
Tonight (it's the 27th), we are off to Sinai and Petra in Jordan, for a different Egyptian experience. We will be back here for a few hours before flying to India, so we won't see much then; but we will always have Cairo!