We had planned to fly Aswan to Cairo this morning, check into the Steigenberger El Tahrir again and have a relaxing day until time for the Sufi dance this evening.
But we are always ready to change plans and go with the flow to try and give our visitors everything they want. We had arranged for one of the group to go to Saqqara, then two more wanted to go. In the end all except two decided to go.
On Saqqara – all I will say is I am sad about it. Whatever they are doing to the pyramid – it’s no longer the step pyramid of Saqqara for me. It used to have seven steps and it looks more like a construction site than a restoration site. I won’t be taking anyone back there, it doesn’t feel the same at all and I have been going there since 2000. This work has been going on since about 2010 I think – could be wrong on that date.
I did have a rather personal moment there – when we went to see the Pyramid of Unas there was a man there who reminded me of my Dad – not in looks, just something about him. Dad died last October. The man was selling books but not pushy, and without much thought I found myself taking out a 50 le note, passed it to him in a handshake and told him I didn’t want anything. He didn’t look at what I gave him, just put it in his pocket and quietly thanked me.
Two minutes later I saw him walk over to a younger man, take some money out of his pocket and gave it to the young man. Then the young man took out some plastic bags and began packing up the few souvenirs that were laid out on the wall. I though maybe they were family. When the older man moved away I went over and asked the younger guy if they were family – him and the old guy. He said “no, just friends”. Then I asked why he was packing up – he said “we’re going home, it’s too cold. And it was cold, cld with enough sand blowing in the wind to “sand-blast” your skin smooth!
What happened reminded me that those guys and perhaps hundreds if not thousands like them have turned up at the sites, the shops and the hotels of Egypt, every day of every week for the last 7 years for work (regardless of the fact that we as visitors are annoyed and hassled by them, but they are just trying to make a living too). During all that time, they didn’t march through the streets demaning the government fix things, they didn’t turn into thieves, criminals and murders taking their rage and frustration out on others. They just showed up for work, waited, hoped, prayed and accepted each day for what it was. And they have done it for seven long years. In my book the men like that old man who was at Saqqara deserve credit and a salute. In my book an old man should not have to do that – he should be at home in a warm house with his family and enjoying his last years in a bit of peace and comfort.
Maybe it was just so I could have that thought, maybe it was just so those two guys could go home early for once with some cash in their pockets, maybe it was so I could tell you the story, maybe it was my Dad giving me a nudge that took us to Saqqara today. Who knows? All I know is that I suddenly had another, kinder thought today, similar to the one I had about the water seller that day in Kom Ombo, and tomorow, I hope I’ll be a bit kinder to the guys trying to sell me something as I pass them in the street. But I reckon the test of my good intentions will be Saturday in Khan El Khalili market!
From Saqqara back to the Steigenberger, check in, food – had an amazing tenderloin steak with veg, potatoes and a to-die=for sauce – only $18 incl taxes. I think that was pretty good. Then it was off to the Sufi Dance.