Egypt Observations

The water bottle problem on the Nile

(Emma, Alex, Dana) Egypt is an ancient and wonderful civilization. Its 5,000 year old history dwarfs that of the US. The people are very kind and welcoming. Some observations and concerns about what we saw:

1. 4% of land in Egypt is arable; in the middle of all of this sand, it is the land next to the Nile. As the population grows, the arable land keeps shrinking because the farmers sell their land to build apartment buildings. This is especially true in the Cairo area where over 20 million of the 82 million Egyptians live.

2. The primary water source for Egypt is the Nile, but the river is becoming increasingly polluted. For example, all 270 cruise boats on the Nile, dump their sewage into the water. Therefore, everyone drinks bottled water and thousands of bottles end up in the Nile daily, making the problem worse. Though some try to recycle, this is NOT sustainable.

3. The Aswan High Dam and the creation of Lake Nasser has had a major impact on Egypt. Humidity has risen as daily evaporation increased, affecting the monuments that have stood for millenia. Seismic activity has shifted due to the mass of water sitting in the lake. Crocodiles and hippos no longer cruise the Nile; they are contrained by the Dam and have lost their habitat and food as silt no longer travels the Nile. Floods are under control, however this has allowed many to build closer and closer to the river (see #1 above).

4. 80% of Egptians are Muslim. Muslims pray five times daily (sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset, night)… negotiated down from the original number of 50 by Jesus. They are called to pray by loudspeakers from the mosque minerets. There are 5 pillars of Islam — one God, Allah, and his last prophet Mohommed; prayer; fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan; 10% of annual profits given to charity (either organized or family member in need); if possible a pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj) once in your lifetime. Most Muslims renouce the violence done by the few.

5. The role of women is complicated. On the one hand, they run the house; men consult them before any major decisions are made. But in public, they often take a very secondary role. This can be reflected in their attire — some women are fully covered in Nikab (head-to-toe including hands, sometimes even the eyes), many wear hijab (only covering hair and neck), but an increasing number are in full Western attire.

6. Much of the country is changing. As electricity and satellite dishes spread into the countryside and young people learn about the world, they are less interested in being required to marry first cousins and stay with the family’s land in their village. Girls used to leave school by 13 to stay at home, learning household management from their mothers in preparation for arranged marriage. Now both boys and girls are staying in school, even heading to the universities to improve their futures. The rules allowing divorce are starting to benefit the women.

7. Up until recently, once the rent for an apartment was set, it could not be changed for the life of the renter and his/her children. Two generations of tenants without rent increases are allowed. For example, we know someone who’s parents pay rent of 17 Egyptian Pounds (less than $3) for their 80 square-meter flat in a nice part of Cairo; that same person pays LE 300 (about $50) as will her daughters. As a result, owners of apartment buildings have no money for maintenance, and countless buildings are deteriorating from the pollution or were damaged by the earthquate of 1992. This business model doesn’t work!

8. Egypt hosts 15 million tourists annually. Hundreds of busloads arrive at each location daily. This puts stress on the monuments themselves. You can still touch the temple walls, climb on the lower steps of the pyramids and trace the ancient hieroglyphs wtih your fiingers. The bacteria and humidity of their collective breath is affecting the walls of the ancient tombs, including King Tut’s. By coming to see Egypt, the tourists are actually damaging the very things they came to see.

We are fortunate to have seen this country at such an interesting time in it’s evolution.

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6 Responses to “Egypt Observations”

  1. HEY guys,
    it is olie i hope you all are having a awesome time tell me where you are going next olie

  2. WOW you guys are so lucky i’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I hope your having a wonderful time.

    – LAUREN A.

  3. WOW! that is so cool! Plus it was on my birthday!!! You guys are so lucky! We all miss you here!

  4. Some of the stuff about pollution is kind of sad though.
    Have fun on the rest of your trip! 😀

  5. Karin Arseneault (circus girl!) 18. Oct, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Hey beautiful family! It’s a pleasure to read you. It was very fun for us to meet you in Egypt. This trip was such an experience! You have a very nice website. I like your thoughts, it’s a great recap of our learnings. You are welcome to Montreal anytime to learn to fly! Olivier and I are hoping to have a family of «explorers» just like you one day… Enjoy the rest of your trip. Thanks for the good times!

  6. This is all fantastic and very useful information, but all I care about is that I video chatted with you while you were right next to the Pyramids of Gisa and I saw them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THEY WERE AMAZING! MISS YA ALEX! AND THE REST OF THE FAMILY!