Friday, March 09, 2007

A Journey Through Egypt - Prologue

My love affair with Egypt started a long, long time ago – when I was a little girl of about 6 or 7 years. One my birthday someone gave me a book which was an encyclopedia of sorts – concise and written in Bengali. It contained among other treasures of information, a chapter on Egypt – the pharaohs, the pyramids and the legend of the Egyptian gods. I learnt about the boy king Tut-ankh-amun, the sun god Ra, the jackal-headed Anubis – I was hooked for life!

Over the years I have eagerly absorbed all information available to me about ancient Egypt – books, articles in National Geographic, features on Discovery Channel. I knew almost everything a lay-person can know about ancient Egypt; but I knew nothing about the modern country.So when I finally landed in Cairo, I was a bit taken aback – even though I didn’t quite know what to expect. Cairo is a city where 3500 year old pyramids co-exit with 21st century glass towers. It is a bustling city of 18 million people – the largest in Africa! It has imposing 19th century villas and multistoried tenement buildings, swanky malls and 17th century bazaars, communication towers right next to 12th century citadel! It is a Islamic country, where non-Muslims are welcome to enter mosques; where young girls in hijab wear form fitting clothes and walk arm in arm with their boyfriends on the Corniche El Nil; where the ancient clan of Coptic Christians live peacefully with Jews and Arabs! It is a place where people are friendly and smiling, the food is sublime and the hospitality is outstanding! No wonder 9 million tourists land in Egypt every year, making tourism the main industry of the country!

For the next few weeks I’ll be posting the diary I maintained during my two weeks in Egypt. It is long – I must warn you, and contains very little historical reference to the ancient sites we visited (one can look it up on the net very easily). This is mostly my observation, my experience and my feelings while I came face to face with some of the best known monuments on earth along with some fabulous pictures of the breathtaking country called Egypt!

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