Imagine Cup, Cairo, Egypt, #2

Tuesday, July 7, 2009
[More from my wife Amy on our Imagine Cup trip to Cairo, Egypt]

So, I left off the evening of day two. We went on a Nile dinner cruise. It was ok. The city is rather dark along the river compared to Paris last year. Not much to see. Meal was ok. We had "front row seats" for the show which was not a good thing as the music was so loud it was deafening. The belly dancer was pretty and engaging. Jason was embarassed and didn't watch her. The whirling dervish was good.

Thursday - Jeff had to start work for the Imagine Cup IT Challenge. We slept in and the kids and I spent the whole day at the pool.

I had mentioned in the last email that I had comments to make on overall observations and since we had a down day, now is a good time to post all that.

Traffic - Crazy! Imagine a three lane road turned into a 6 lane road but still with only 3 marked lanes. I don't know why they bothered to paint lanes as no one pays attention to them. They drive in what I would describe as a zig zag pattern. Any potential open space is forcibally taken by car. Horns blair constantly. Cars pass within an inch of each other. Hardly any lights, even on the cars!. Pedestrians walking at random in amongst cars, no cross walks. Has to be seen to be believed. Thank $%&^&* I don't have to drive while I'm here.

Overall Appearance - The kids are already sick of hearing me point out the living conditions to them. Yes Mom, we know how fortunate we are. Blah, Blah, Blah.... Yet, for me, the obvious poverty, dirt, lack of facilities or anything remotely civilized is so sad yet at the same time amazing. Let me explain further, it is so dirty, poor, etc... yet the people seem oddly happy and content. It is just their way of life and I have the sense that they might not necessarily change it, even if they could. Being a country with little natural resources, everything is concrete. Little color to the landscape, just apartment after dirty apartment made of concrete. There is not obvious "garbage service" as there are random piles of garbage all over. Debris from buildings litter the sidewalks. People litter constantly. The saddest was seeing the Giza pyramids yesterday and all the tourist debris (water bottles etc..) all over the last remaining 7th wonder of the world. I am told they are working on it but things happen in "Egyptian minutes" which are vastly different from our minutes. That is a big joke among locals.

People - I was not entirely sure what to expect as far as dress, etc. But have found that there is an extensive variety and tolerance for dress as far as the Islamic culture is concerned. The women range from dressing like westerners to the extreme which is completely covered in black except for the eyes (even hands). No one is treated any differently than anyone else, it is a personal preference. The Egyptian people are overall very friendly and humorous. They are very curious and intelligent. School is controlled by the government and is free. They love children, and socializing. Drinking and such is against Islamic teachings, so the common social practices revolve around family and local community. That is a main reason why there is little or no crime here. Family and the "honor" or your family is so important that they act as very strong detourants to bad behavior. You know how our politicians have talked about it takes a village to raise a child, well here, they put that into action.

If you are interested in learning more about the culture, religion, history, etc... I would be happy to share details. I have learned so much more than I thought I already knew. I have a much broader appretiation for the culture and religion of the middle east now. Historical problems now make more sense. It's hard to concentrate that all into one email.

No big plans for tomorrow. There is a childrens' museum and a rail museum we will try to do tomorrow. Kids love the pool and there is some kind of amusement Space Park inside the City Stars mall next to us that they want to check out. The rest of our group (wives and kids) are down south in Luxor and will be back Saturday evening. They haven't yet had a chance to see the city and pyramids so I'm kind of coasting right now till they get here so we can all do things together. Jeff's big push for the Imagine Cup really starts in tomorrow through Sunday evening, so we are having breakfast with him in the morning but will not see him hardly at all till Monday. It was great just to lie at the pool all day. The kids made friends and had a blast. We got post cards and will find out how to mail them tomorrow. I'm curious how long they will take to get to you.

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