I have been to Egypt a few times, but this time was a bit different. We spent a lot of time on foot, in cars and saw the countryside in an up close and personal way. It’s a land of great importance, not only as an ally to the United States, but in the part that it plays in the history of our faith. It was Mary and Joseph who fled to Egypt to save their very lives. It was the exodus out of Egypt that is remembered in our Judeo-Christian past by the Passover. When the children of Israel wandered for forty years, it was in the desert of Sinai. When Moses received the Ten Commandments, he does so on Mt. Sinai. Even today there is a strong Christian presence in Egypt known as the Coptic Church. In Luxor we actually encountered the wonderful hospitality of the Coptic Church and were privy to a wedding.
We were just traveling through for a few days to see the wonders of this country. It is the land of the pyramids and pharaohs. It is the land of that famous river called “the Nile”, where the baby Moses was discovered by the Egyptian princess. It is a nation of tombs, mummies, sarcophagus’ and graves, with such places as the tomb of King Tutankhamen and the Valley of the Kings.
Egypt may be a land of history filled with dead mummies and monuments to the dead, but it is very much alive today. As you travel you can feel the weight of history all around you, but you can also see enormous congestion, horrific traffic, smog you can taste because it is so thick. Rivers look polluted and have become dumping grounds. The streets are full of garbage and cars are driving wildly in every direction, never staying within the lanes. It is a modern day “Dodge City. ”You are dealing with enormous poverty with people living in shacks. The salary that most people are living on is under $2000.00 per year. The government is subsidizing bread, which is the basic food of life for the ordinary Egyptian.
I found it unique and different, but at the same time, depressing. It’s a country that has been dominated for decades by dictators. It is a country with massive corruption, which leaves its people victimized and caught in a cycle of never ending poverty. It’s not an old country for 60% of the people are under thirty years old. There are lots of young people who are educated, but have no jobs and no future. The wealthy always put their foot on the necks of those who are pressed. Now the people are speaking and it’s a message being heard around the world. It’s a message of frustration and anger that is calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down and end this toxic rule that is choking the life out of Egypt’s people.
The people I met in Egypt were friendly. And despite how poor they were, they maintained a smile, a hospitable attitude and a willingness to help those who come as a tourist to enjoy their country. Now it’s their time to get a break, to have democracy and to have freedom.