Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gringo in the Sahara : A Developing Story

 After a long trip from Texas I found myself in the midst of more people and noise than I could have ever imagined. Thankfully I was able to rest and recuperate from simple exhaustion and dehydration in the comfortable home of my friends Bill and Kathleen Key. Their large fifth story apartment is located in Maadi, one of the nicer areas of Cairo.

 The balcony over looks the Nile and on a clear day one can view several pyramids and gaze down upon an endless, honking stream of traffic on the street below. Some how these motorists maintain three to four rows of traffic on a street marked for two lanes.I decided that the white lines merely indicate the direction of the traffic flow. As long as car is not perpendicular to the lines then all is well. Stopping and backing up, when the vehicles are moving with their bumpers nearly touching, is not an unusual maneuver. Plenty of shouting and hand gestures go on during these automotive antics, however a delicate balance exists which allows life to go on from day to day. It doesn't appear that it would take much upset that balance and for chaos to begin to rule the streets.
 Sparsely scattered among the many Mosques are Coptic Christian churches which are a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt with baby Jesus. One island in the Nile close to central Cairo, known as the Island of Gold, is graced at one end with a Christian Church displaying a cross on its tall spire. At the other end of the Island is a Mosque with the iconic crescent moon resting at the top of a slender tower used by an appointed man who starts the prayer chanting at the appropriate times.

 Despite the western assumption that Christians and Muslims can't live together, the people of Cairo are surprisingly friendly to one another and westerners (khawagas) such as me.

 I quickly found my self comfortable in situations that I planned to avoid. I think that the realization that I was walking the same streets once walked by Jesus and the courage I gained from prayer put me at ease.
The day after I arrived in Cairo my expatriate friends and I loaded our gear into two four wheel drive vehicles and started a nine hour journey to an oasis village named Siwa. The desert along the Mediterranean coast imparts deceptive impressions to the eye. An endless sea of sand subtly merges with the sea while intense sunlight makes it difficult to judge distances.


All I see turns to brown
As the sun burns the ground.
And my eyes fill with sand
As I scan this wasted land.
Tryin' to find
Tryin' to find
Where I've been.

KASHMIR, Led Zepplin

After hours of travel across the harsh terrain of the Sahara, about 30 miles east of the Libiyan border, palm trees start to become visible. In very little time from first sight of the green spot on the horizon, you find yourself in the midst of a city full of friendly people. The precious water from the artesian wells throughout Siwa is used to irrigate hundreds of acres of gardens.

The hotel where we stayed  is ancient and had been retrofitted with plumbing and electricity so; it was a comfortable place when compared with the primitive homes in the area.

 The next morning we rented donkeys and carts and from the hotel we headed to a hill covered with the remains of a small community. At the base of the hill stands a bronze plaque that identifies the spot as the location of The Temple of the Oracle. Alexander the Great stopped here prior to his conquest of Egypt and the oracle confirmed him as both a divine personage and a legitimate Pharaoh of Egypt. That was in 351 BC.

 I was astounded by the fact that the ruins here were being left to disintegrate in the desert sun. The hill was unattended and we had free rein to explore as much as we wanted to. Attached are photos of me driving my donkey cart, a view of the hill from a distance, and me again, at the entrance to the Temple of the Oracle.

 The next day our little caravan headed back to Cairo. On the way we made a stop at the El Almein Battleground Memorial. During WWII the Germans attempted to stop the flow of supplies going through the Suez Canal to Allied countries in Europe. The Allied forces were able to drive the Germans out of Egypt but they paid a high price for the victory. The cemetery where the casualties were laid to rest had an aura about it that caused me to become very reflective and emotional about that terrible war. All wars are terrible but due to the fact that the world is full of power hungry people that want to rule the world wars have been necessary throughout the history of our country to preserve our freedom. WWII has a special place in the history of the United States in that it was the last war that was fought by military professionals focused on victory. All of our wars since then have been orchestrated by politicians focused on their own personal gain.

 While I am on the subject of the policies of national security and defense of our freedom, I would like to share an observation that I made while traveling abroad. In Europe, Africa, and the Middle East airport security is conducted in more effective manner than in the US. While profiling is discouraged in our country, it is the foundation of the procedures used in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, idealistic groups like the ACLU have taken away the basic tools needed for making our airlines as safe as they could be. The same can be said about our immigration laws. The doors are open for our worst enemies to enter our homeland and set up shop to work toward destroying us.

Our founding fathers had Christian values and common sense to guide their tongues and pens. Unfortunately too few people today understand history and human nature enough to make rational plans for our future. Of the few that are grounded in the traits needed to lead us into the future, too few have the courage to speak, let alone act on their beliefs. There are many politicians that have there heads in the clouds and their hands on their wallets instead of their hearts.

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