Tuesday 2 February 2010

Going home in a country of contrasts

A few hours ago I was squatting on the ground in the dust on a hilltop overlooking the necropolis at Thebes, eating the local bean dish (ful) from a common bowl with some of the gaffirs (site guards) whom I had befriended. My last day in Thebes was full of activity. Goodbyes, packing, last minute things to do on site, then into the car for the 800 km journe to Cairo. The first part of the journey was through the spectacular colours and scenery of the Eastern Desert. We had a stopover in Hurghada (we were driving up the coast road). There we had a fantastic well-prepared three course meal in an extremely elegant restaurant (Romantica, Esplanada mall, Village Road - highly recommended) done out with Renaissance sculptures and a Baroque plafond, all in the best possible taste in the company of the extremely urbane restaurant owner who was a friend of one of the participants in the journey home. An excellent time was spent there, what a contrast with the area I had just left. Then on to Cairo. The city is alive all night, there is a mass of traffic and humanity milling around the dense buildings. The girls here do not cver their heads and walk around in jeans and fashionable clothes - unlike the inhabitants of Upper Egypt with whom I have just spent three happy months. They speak a different version of Arabic here too and have totally different attitudes. I will be staying here in the house of a friend until Sunday, when fly to Warsaw. Inshalla.

Today, I am especially put in mind of the glib generalisations of the no-questions-asked collecting lobby about the inhabitants of the "source countries". According to these lobbyists they are all backward uncultured toothless oiks eking out a grbby existence living in poverty in lands riddled with corruption and total inefficiency. By these means they justify their no-questions-asked taking of the cultural property of such countries to buy and sell. A moment's thought however is enough to realise that there can be no possible justification for such schematic thinking and the sheer arrogance that lies behind it.

It's time to go and play with the traffic - anyone who has crossed the road here will know what I mean.


Wayne G. Sayles said...

Welcome back Paul, we missed your typical bullshit.

Robyn said...

Classy Wayne, really classy. You really are a peach!

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