Modern Egyptian Adventures at Dahshur

by bria4123 on January 20, 2012

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Dahshur is off the beaten tourist path, so I was the only visitor there when I explored the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. As I approached them, two policemen on camels rode towards me. “Hello!” said one with a deep voice that boomed across the desert. I knew what was coming.

They led me around the Bent Pyramid and asked me to be photographed with them. “Touch the camel!” He seems to be enjoying the affection in the above photo.

Then the inevitable request for bakshish (money) came. I’m not going to argue with guys with guns in the desert. More people had asked me for money in Egypt than in all the other countries put together on this 3 month trip in Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Middle East.

This was in 2007–4 years before the Arab Spring. Life was obviously hard for many people. Cairo seemed about to burst at the seams with crowds. Yet the people were so gentle that they reminded me of Ancient Egypt’s values: be quiet, unassuming, and cooperative, and enjoy your family. Mubarak and his cronies had been exploiting these people, yet they kept up the civility of this ancient land.

When I said goodbye to the policemen and began walking back to the van, the one who greeted me said, “It’s OK, isn’t it?” with a deeply plaintive look in his eyes. Cops in India and Cambodia had asked me for money before, and they didn’t seem to care. But this man was concerned about how I felt. Family is basic in Egypt, and he had to ask people for extra cash in order to get by with low pay. But he hated it, and maintained as much of this land’s traditional civility as he could.

I didn’t know whether to be more impressed by the pyramids’ grandeur or the dignity Egyptians were maintaining in a political system that was exploiting them.

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