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Leaving Egypt

by - September 21 2010

My previous post about Egypt may have been a little too harsh. At the time I wrote it, the only places I had been to were the touristy parts of Cairo, the Pyramids, and Luxor. Fortunately, once you get out of the super-touristy parts it is possible to meet some Egyptians who are quite pleasant and neither want to scam you for money or kill you.

I had a day to kill in Cairo before flying to Ethiopia. I used this opportunity to visit the old Islamic and Coptic districts. The Islamic district was quite strange. There were two streets that the government expects tourists to go to. These streets have lots of historic buildings, they are clean, and seem to have been recently restored. However if one goes one block out of the tourist area in any direction one finds oneself in a rubbish-filed slum with buildings in serious disrepair. It felt like the government was trying to pull a trick on tourists by creating a fake Egypt for the tourists to see. One juxtaposition I found particularly strange is that one of the parking areas for the tourist district is separated from a slum only by a low wall.

Coptic Cairo is an area where Coptic Christians built lots of buildings, such as a nunnery and several churches. It was interesting to learn that the Coptics have their own set of Popes, most of whom seem to have big beards and crazy-starey eyes. The nunnery had a plaque that said "blessed are those who are obedient" - which I think nicely sums up much of what I don't like about organized religion.

At the airport, I was amused to discover that the security people expect you to tip them. I'm not sure the incentives are quite right there, but at least the Egyptians are consistent.

My plane left at 3:25am or at least so my ticket said. Some other people had tickets that said 2:25, and it seemed the Egyptians weren't entirely sure. Similarly, my boarding pass said that boarding was at 1:35 but the gate people thought it was 2:35.

I has thought that my plane was going direct to Addis Ababa and so it was a little disconcerting when the plane unexpectedly landed in Khartoum, Sudan. Fortunately this turned out to be just a brief stopover and the plane took off again for Ethiopia after about an hour.