Tag Archives: World Heritage Site

mother of the world

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.

Karnak Temple

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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Booted from Petra

We weren’t sure of the path.  The hiking guidebook we were using provided gems such as, “At the big rock, go around.” Or something similar.  We followed the stairs, which appeared to be new but styled to look ancient.  We passed our yoga studio, dipped into a valley, and climbed the side of the mountain once again.  We came to a huge shelf of sorts overlooking endless valleys below and for as far as we could see.

Who's comin' up around the bend?

The ancient Bedouin didn’t so much appear to us.  He was just, well, there.  “Would you like some tea? Maybe a hand-made necklace?”  I can’t decide if his business plan is genius or slightly insane.  Of course we had tea.  We hardly refuse it. I call this moment, “The Tea Sipped at the Top of the World.”  The sweet, sage-infused tea shared among friends grounded us atop this mountain.  We might not be following the guide book anymore, but it didn’t matter.  We had a Bedouin guide confirm we were on the right track.  He also knew where we had camped, that we had a fire late into the night, that we were American, and where we had hiked from.  News travels fast, and we weren’t exactly quiet.  After charging us one JD ($1.41) for each cup of tea, I noticed other hikers far behind us on the same route, and decided this old man’s business plan was genius. Continue reading