Let’s warm it up a bit!
I believe that when many people unaffiliated with the Middle East conjure up a mental picture of it, they see arid deserts, maybe an oasis here and there, a bunch of camels, and dark men in turbans. This isn’t a post listing and breaking all the stereotypes of the Middle East. This post will address just one of them: the weather, and more specifically, the temperature.
Jordan is a desert. It’s the fourth water-poor country in the world, according to some documentary I watched here a couple of months ago. There is a lot of sand. There are cacti and little scrubby greens gripping pebbles hoping to eke out an existence. Despite this desert, I am freezing my toes off at the moment. It is snowing outside, has been since I woke up, and should be snowing until two days from now.
I didn't take this. Thanks camelsnose.wordpress.com, whoever you are.
Cairo is known as “Um al-dunia” – mother of the world. It’s not hard to realize why. Cairenes inhabit a space present in millennia of literature. They live amongst the pyramids, the only remaining ancient wonder of the world. Glorious empires sustained themselves on the riches of the fertile Nile valley, a sliver of abundance on a map of hostile sand. Cairo served as a metropolis of learning and culture, the seat of empires, and today, is home for anywhere from 20 to 30 million people, depending on who you ask, depending on the time of day. I’ve heard 5 million people enter each day as they commute to work.
The city doesn’t sleep. While there, we got swallowed up in the excitement, and often crashed well after the sun had risen. When crossing the road, I can’t tell if it’s better to do so with your eyes open or closed. You literally have to walk into oncoming traffic if you ever hope to cross. The pedestrian crossing lights show a little green man running for his life. Amazingly enough, Cairo has a metro system. You need to position yourself in the middle of a wave of people, and shove your way onto the car. The smog is so thick it soon forms a blanket on your tongue.
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Tagged Arabic, Cairo, Egypt, Fire, Fulbright, Giza, Hatshepsut, Karnak, Middle East, Pyramids, Student, Sunset, Temple, Travel, World Heritage Site
Behind us lay labyrinthine, garbage-strewn alleys through which we had just maneuvered the beasts. Ahead of us, the the flickering lights of a bonfire, the desert’s own lighthouse. And to either sides, no one knew.
“Don’t worry, Cate,” I offered to she who had just observed that falling off the horse would ensure certain death by trampling, “if your horse took off into that dark unknown,” I pointed off to my left, “I’ll chase after you. I was a horseman last summer, don’t forget.”
The horse was so enthusiastic, my saddle so improperly fitted (my knees sometimes bumped into my chest), and I’m such an amateur that I rubbed part of my ass raw riding to The Pyramids at 4am that one fateful morning. Then again, a horsewoman at Yellowstone told me once, “If yer not bleedin’, yer not ridin’ hard enuf.”
Sarah’s mom actually warned Cate against this. “Sarah’s going to try to get you to ride horses to the pyramids late one night.” As if it’s something we had to be persuaded to do, something to avoid?
Deep valleys and steep mountains lay before and behind us – and we zoom around the curves, gripping the sides of the bed of the truck for dear life. I find it difficult to light my cigarette in this wind, but I prevail with a little help from my friends. Mohammed, an army officer and friend of our driver joins us in the back. I keep staring at the door of the bed, wondering how tightly secured it is, and how long Mohammed would tumble down the mountainside before coming to his final resting place. Thankfully this leg of the trip was without incident, save for Mohammed’s questioning as to why I’d allow my wife to so bluntly engage in conversation with such a strange man like himself. “She’s very independent. She has her freedom.”
The camel of modernity
We went to a castle, and it was really old. I feel jaded. I’m saddened to say that the sense of wonder that once welled up inside my chest upon facing an ancient site no longer wells, but remains placid and deep inside me. So, the castle was old. I hardly took any pictures of the site itself, but instead tried (failingly) to capture the magnificent view from atop the mountain. I positioned myself in a watchtower and tried to imagine defending the castle as invaders scrambled up the hill, but even this musing failed to stoke my passion. Instead the thoughts of violence intensified the suns rays upon my frail face, and I was ready to get back into the truck. Continue reading