I open the balcony door at six in the morning. The sun has just risen. A heavy, musty fog surrounds the ship. About 100 yards away a huge freighter lays on its side, rotting, drowning in the dirty, oily bay of the port of Alexandria. We are in Egypt. A tide of floating waste, styrofoam cups and a plastic bags bobs against the side of our boat. The thick, humid air smells putrid like sulfur. It’s quiet. It seems the world is still asleep. An ancient and tumultuous country silently seeping oil and trash into the sea.
The government housing projects along the shore are unfinished, many without windows. Concrete skeletons with colorful rugs draped over ledges, spilling out hints of life from inside. A child flies a clear plastic kite off the roof of an eight story building.
As we arrive at the Great Pyramids, in a caravan of fifty tour buses, we are bombarded by a hundred hands holding trinkets and twenty camels weaving patterns in the sand. Seven dollars for a ride and two more to be lowered safely back to the ground. For six bucks we walked single file down a wooden ramp into the guttural antechamber of the third pyramid. Crouching, clutching to a thin metal railing, we follow the trail of doubled over tourists underground to the false lighting and low ceilings with anticlimactic hopes of hieroglyphs and gilded mummies.
A journey not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. A tiny slanted shaft holds an endless line of people both entering and exiting; If one person were to lose their footing, forty people would end up in a dusty heap at the bottom. Once inside we feel an ominous weight of energy, blood, sweat and 5000 year old dust suspended in heavy limestone blocks for hundreds of feet above us.
Driving through Cairo we pass a gas station with an animal sacrifice being conducted out front. A headless camel, lying on its back, four legs in the air, being skinned and rinsed methodically by a group of men. As if some mammoth roast is being prepared by a flock of middle-eastern children. This is the sign of a rich family celebrating the marriage of their daughter. It seems strange that the sacrifice would take place on a sidewalk in front of an exxon mobil. Displayed for the afternoon traffic to witness its blood passing into the street, painting the Saharan sand.
At last the sun begins to set. A red-orange melon ball melting into the hot horizon. Into a sea of pink. Images of a solid gold Tutankhamen and turquoise scarabs float in front of my tired eyes.
Here are some more pictures from Egypt.