Why not Stay at Home
by Jimmy Dunn
The question, 'why leave home' is being asked during these troubled times.This article is more directed to our American audience then any other, because European travelers are leaving home and their travel habits seem to be, though slowly, returning to normal. But America is a nation rich in travel destination and for many the inclination is to avoid foreign travel these days.
For someone who wants to visit the Grand Canyon in the United States, Egypt cannot really offer a bigger, better Grand Canyon.But there are aspects of Egyptian travel that Americans will never really find in America and probably the most important of these is their roots, as well as an understanding of time itself.. This is a facet of Egypt that is difficult to explain, yet many if not most people who have visited Egypt will understand at once. Egypt opens one's eyes to time, and brings insights to our world.
No other destination on earth can deliver such a detailed portrait of the dawn of civilized mankind. In a very recent article in The Journal News, Georgette Gouveia tells us
'Ancient Egypt is part of us.You can see this in the deathless procession of 'Mummy' movies, the pyramid-topped buildings that dot the Manhattan skyline, the kohl-rimmed eyes of Cleopatra wannabes and the TV documentaries of a civilization that spanned 3,000 years and the lives still in the imaginations of those touched by its particular vibrancy'.
But this does not really express the depth that Egypt resides in all of us. Our very architecture, our personal habits and even our customs in the United States can often be observed by a close examination of this ancient land. Yet, perhaps most important, particularly for Americans with our limited history,is the feeling of ageless time and of the passing of civilizations.
Egypt provides us with an understanding we simply cannot achieve otherwise. America has now been a great nation for over 200 years. But this period of time spans little more than Egypt's first three of its 31 dynasties, its Greek, Roman, Arabic, French, British and modern eras. Here, we learn the lessons of nationhood, as well as our own vulnerabilities, and also our strengths.Egypt is a laboratory of nationhood and civilization, where grand eras falter and collapse only to rise again.The knowledge is endless, but the lessons for us are instrumental and complete understanding never really seems to come to us without an actual visit.
One reason for this is that Egypt really functions in an array of time. One may see a donkey cart laden with fresh produce for an ancient market pass modern skyscrapers in Cairo.And outside of Cairo in the countryside, one will see mudbrick houses little different than those the Egyptians lived in 4,000 ago, farming and irrigation practices unchanged from ancient times, and a general way of life common to our own ancestors. Modern Egypt itself spans time, bringing millenniums of living culture to bear on our minds.
This great laboratory has something to offer everyone. Here, religions of the modern world unfold before one's eyes with true clarity, while ancient knowledge of medicine and math, architecture and astronomy find evolve. But Egypt offers so much more for modern business and political leaders to marketing specialists and even data processing professionals. If such people believe in the fundamentals of knowledge, Egypt offers an understanding of world dominating leaders, of power structures and basic strategy and tactics, of markets that controlled world commerce, of the earliest postal systems and efficient information exchanges.
But in today's world, Egypt offers even more.The world is not contracting; it is expanding. with the ever growing presence of globalization. In deed the world has many examples of nations turning within and rejecting the outside world, but such efforts have always failed, and sometimes disastrously.Egypt, like America, is a melting pot of African and Middle East cultures, and even more so in these perhaps troubled times, it is important for us to achieve a better understanding of the cultures of our world.More than ever before, we do not have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand, but rather must know our world in order to protect our privileged existence. It is Egypt that provides a safe and friendly atmosphere for an understanding ofour cultural difference with much of the rest of the world.
And of course, let us not forget that Egypt is fun for the whole family, and while we may delve into exotic cultures and the history of mankind, our own culture is near at hand. In Luxor, one may contemplate that city's famous ancient temple form the upstairs dining room of the local McDonalds, and in Cairo , TGI Fridays, The Hard Rock Cafe and other icons familiar to us are close at hand. Today, Egypt is truly the worlds playground where one may golf in the shadows of the pyramids, or actually relax in the swimming pool of a river cruise boat while time literally passes by on the banks of the Nile. There are nightclubs that never close, huge modern malls full of exotic products, and even amusement parks for the kids. One can scuba dive in the morning, visit a 1,500 year old Christian monastery in the afternoon, and catch a Las Vagas style show that evening (and even get in a little gambling in a casino).
A Modern Egyptian Mall
Most will say that their decision to vacation domestically is based on safety issues, and in fact the United States State Department has frequently issued overseas travel advisories recently.But there are several key issues that must be examined to fully analyze the real risk of foreign travel, particularly and specifically to Egypt.
Regrettably, groups who would do harm to Americans have discovered how open our (I am American) society is.Certainly the U.S. government is attempting to tighten security, but frankly our efforts do not really approach those made by countries such as Egypt, and personally I rather hope they never do.While America has tightened security at airports and even major events that draw large crowds, Egypt has had very tight airport security for years, and maintains large security forces at every tourist destination, including both sightseeing destinations and hotels, as well as a special 'Tourism' branch of the police scattered everywhere.
The sad fact is that those who would harm Americans have found that America itself is more easily penetrated then countries such as Egypt, where the government has adapted a hard line on such groups for many years.One of our readers who is an American living in Egypt was visiting the United States when the September 11th attacks occurred.I will always remember her telling me that she was ready to get back to Egypt, where it was safe. It is a sad statement, but unfortunately true.Egypt has much less violent crime then the United States, and has not had a single incident of terrorism for a number of years.
So Why Now
So why visit Egypt just now?Many people have written to us lately about their trips to Egypt , and particularly those who have been before tell us that their visits after September 11th have were their best.Simply put, there are fewer tourists and therefore less crowded sightseeing attractions, and better deals.Another plus seems to be that people in the tourism industry are truly bending over backwards to welcome tourists and show them the best possible experience. This is a time when tourist industry personnel appear to be working their very hardest to demonstrate their competence, as well as Egypt's allure. But the letters from tourists also tell us a very different story then that told to us by our media.They tell us of a people who are courteous and hospitable, of acts of kindness and new friendships, and of a people who have welcomed travelers to see their proud wonders for several thousand years.