Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 4: Cairo

All that tourism yesterday really wore me out! Regardless, I woke up ready to see more of this fascinating ancient area. The first thing on my agenda for today was to find out about the local government. A good friend of mine from college works at the U.S. Embassy here on Lazoughli Street and he lined up an awesome tour for me with the governor of Cairo, Dr. Abdul Azim Wazir, pictured below (at right).

Dr. Wazir and I walked around for a while and had a cup of tea in Khan El-Khalili, a six hundred year old bazaar!

First, the governor told me about politics in Cairo. He, along with the Popular Assembly, which is half elected and half appointed, rule the municipality, which has only had local autonomy since 1950. We also discussed his thoughts on the current and future state of the city. One problem he mentioned to me was that shanty towns are being constructed in the Mansheyat Nasser district, which are unsafe and bad for the city's image. Below is a picture to show you guys how decrepit and run-down they are.

To alleviate the problem, the governor plans to take legal action against these squatters. Another issue he mentioned was pollution. Cairo is home to over 20 million residents and is growing rapidly. There are over 2 million cars on the streets, many of which do not pass modern emissions standards, so air pollution is at an all-time high. The sewer system is deteriorating as well, leading to water pollution. Dr. Wazir said projects are currently being put in place to make Cairo a safer place to live. After our chat I took a stroll by myself and I noticed once again just how bad some of the environmental issues that the governor mentioned in our conversation are. With smog that bad, the health issues in the area and the number of deaths each year from pollution that I mentioned yesterday is not surprising, although still very sad. Here is a picture I took of the smog over Cairo.

The second half of my day was spent exploring the nearby Great Pyramid and the two smaller pyramids at Giza, the only Ancient Wonder of the World still in existence today. I have taken many pictures in my time as a photojournalist, but nothing compares to seeing the pyramids in person. The Great Pyramid was built over four thousand years ago as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu and took over twenty years to build. My tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave lots of interesting facts about the pyramid. It was the tallest man-made structure for 3,800 years until 1311 A.D. when the Lincoln Cathedral in England was built, and it is estimated to weigh somewhere around 6 million tons! There is no longer much treasure in the pyramids due to looters and robbers, but historians guess there must have been an incredible amount of gold and valuable goods buried along with the royalty buried there. Enjoy the picture of the Great Pyramid, I'm gonna rest up for my journey tomorrow to Israel!