Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Egypt: It's Complicated

17 Responses

  • Bart Janssen,

    THIS is why we need to send kiwis out into the world. Because almost everything is more complicated and because the simple-minded version of the world news we get is so very very inadequate. Once you seen the complexity out there you learn to ask for all four sides of the argument before forming a firm opinion.

    Oh and also because the world out there is fucking amazing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Because almost everything is more complicated and because the simple-minded version of the world news we get is so very very inadequate.

    The reporting on Egypt since I got back has been making me bugshit. To pick a random minor annoyance, I've seen two Beeb reports refer to the Muslim Brotherhood as "recently banned". The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in 1948. They were only legalised again in 2011. It's more complicated than that.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Because almost everything is more complicated and because the simple-minded version of the world news we get is so very very inadequate.

    It's a sad state of affairs when it comes to reporting from 'overseas', especially in areas of conflict. What is the role of the 'Foreign Correspondent' these days? Feed the populist media with inflammatory reports on factions and political unrest, to meet daily deadlines and scare tourists? Or is it to look deeper into conflicts, and find out about the impact on those living in the country? I think there's a lot more evidence of the former, unfortunately.

    Your insights are fascinating Emma. Thanks.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2448 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Thanks Emma
    Definitely on my list of places I must see for lots of reasons including the ancient history and the family connections

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 576 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Craig,

    I was in Egypt in 1990, about a month before the Gulf war, when Saddam had SCUDs trained on various places in the region and Americans were bailing out from Europe and places like Egypt (we taught a couple of them to pass as Canadians). I think tourism was down about 60-70 % and it was the best time to be there in a couple hundred years - sounds like you went one better! All my temple photos are devoid of people compared to friends' from years before or after. I remember hiding in our hostel room a day or so after getting to Cairo and refusing to go out because I couldn't stand the constant harassment, but being coaxed out by my friends and by the time we got back to Cairo a few weeks later I don't think I even noticed it any more. But yes, I remember not being happy with how rude I got on occasion although I had the impression that they rather counted on our general politeness to push harder than they might otherwise have been able to! As someone said "they've had 2000 years of separating tourists and their money" so they're fairly adept at it. We met lovely people though, and had wonderful experiences - much like I had in Syria years later and I've heard similar from friends who have visited Iran. The reporting doesn't bother with the regular people who really count.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2007 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    And it takes a few years before one has the nouse to stand back and have a good look at "foreign lands" before making crude remarks about what you think are the "World's Problems" easily fixed in the one sentence that blames one side.

    And the American god is not bigger than a Middle Eastern one (or any other freak'n god for that matter).

    And there are ALWAYS nice people in every place you go. People that by all your previous received wisdom should have creamed you of every penny, stolen your first born and pissed in your ear.

    But when I read Emma's posts I kept this recurring bloody song bouncing in my head:

    Fred Dagg – We Don't Know How Lucky We Are

    At the dawn of the day, in the great Southern Ocean
    Where the world's greatest fish was being landed
    And the boat they were pulling it into was sinking
    And the sea was quite lumpy, and the weather was foul
    And the bloke with the map was as pissed as an owl
    And the boys called out "Maui, ya clown, let it go"
    In the noise he reached down for his grandmother's Jawbone
    And he winked at his mates and he said
    "Boys, we don't know how lucky we are"
    "I have a feeling I have stumbled on something
    Substantial."

    We don't know how lucky we are (4X)

    I was speaking to a mate of mine, just the other day
    A bloke called Bruce Bayliss who, lives up our way
    He's been round the world on an 8th army do for a year,
    More or less
    I said "Describe the global position, Bruce"
    He said "Fred, it's a mess.
    We don't know how lucky we are in this country.

    We don't know how lucky we are. (3X)

    There's a guy I know who lives in town
    I see him about once a year I suppose
    He's had a coronary since Easter
    He's got a hemorrhage in his ear
    He went bankrupt a couple of weeks back
    And now his wife's left him too
    I said "You're looking hot mate, You're looking clear,
    What are ya gonna do?"
    He said "We don't know how lucky we are
    To live in this joint mate"

    We don't know how lucky we are (2X)

    So when things are looking really bad
    And you're thinking of giving it a way
    Remember, New Zealand's a cracker
    And I reckon come what may
    If things get appallingly bad
    And we're all under constant attack
    Remember, we want to see good clean ball
    And for god's sakes, feed your backs

    We don't how fortunate we are to have that place
    We don't know how propitious are the circumstances.

    We don't know how lucky we are, mate
    We don't know how lucky we are
    We don't know how lucky we are, get it right
    We just don't realise how fortunate we are
    We have no idea, the luck, we possess, collectively
    We just don't know how lucky we all are.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1589 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    SCUDs trained on various places in the region and Americans were bailing out from Europe and places like Egypt (we taught a couple of them to pass as Canadians

    Those must indeed be smart missiles ;-)

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Fiona,

    Our trip to Egypt was made by our guide too, we still keep in touch.

    One of my favourite memories is sitting on top of one of the little water taxis in Aswan as we cruised a bit further down the Nile stopping off at a Nubian village.

    You are right about the "sales" techniques in the markets being an eye opener for men - it was for my husband.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Fiona,

    One of my favourite memories is sitting on top of one of the little water taxis in Aswan as we cruised a bit further down the Nile stopping off at a Nubian village.

    I forgot to mention this. The part of the tour that I was dreading most was the "dinner with a Nubian family". I was really concerned that it was going to be all Roto-Vegas style fake performative indigenous culture.

    Instead, we went to a genuine village where Nubian people lived, into one of their houses, sat on the roof, and the woman of the house cooked us dinner. We got to talk to them (mostly the man) about their culture, the land confiscations, their identity, how much they felt "Egyptian". It was one of the best parts of the trip.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Emma Hart,

    +1

    Somehow they've managed to "keep it real" on those Nubian village trips. The drawings on the sides of the houses depicting the family Hajj journey are fantastic also.

    Do they still have the white lines painted on the ground on the streets surrounding the temples that the touts are not allowed to cross?

    One group from our tour got held ransom for Bakshesh on the boat back from the Philae temple. Kept going round in circles till someone handed over a few pounds.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 501 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Do they still have the white lines painted on the ground on the streets surrounding the temples that the touts are not allowed to cross?

    There are definitely Touting Zones, everywhere but Giza, which was open slather. Those zones are positioned so you have to go through them, both going into and coming out of, the site. I didn't notice lines, but I might not have. When we were at Kom Obo, our guide spent some time negotiating with a little boy over a necklace. Every time she made an offer, the boy would have to run back over to the Touting Zone to check with his father. Once they'd agreed, she slipped him twice as much, and told him not to give it to his dad. She was a total sucker for kids.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Attachment

    The drawings on the sides of the houses depicting the family Hajj journey are fantastic also.

    You can see some of the mural that ran all the way around the roof in this (permission-asked) photo of the woman of the house doing my henna tattoo. Three of us agreed to get the tattoos, and what we paid for them would have kept that family in groceries for a week. It was a way of giving something back.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Attachment

    Also, sunset from the roof. You may be able to see what I mean about Aswan being more “African” than the more northern parts of Egypt. The architecture is completely different.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • wendyf,

    Emma, thank you for all three stories. Egypt always fascinated me, as it did everyone I think. Hearing, as a kid, stories of the place from soldiers returned from the war (WW2 !!) fed a hunger to go there. But I never did, and now I guess I never will. But I feel I've seen something of the real place.

    Thank you.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • headasunder,

    I travelled through Egypt 20 years ago with my sister, my memories are a little faded but I do remember loving the noisy chaos of Cairo. I had my pokerface dont make eye contact look polished up in India so no problems ignoring the touts. The tricky bit is engaging with the locals when it feels like everyone you meet wants something from you... all time favourite spot Mt Sinai at sunset

    christchurch • Since Apr 2012 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Spencer,

    Your shiny new friend misses you, Emma. Thank you for writing so well about our trip, I loved reading it.

    Sydney • Since Feb 2014 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Jackie Spencer,

    Aw, thanks Jackie. I'm always a little worried that other people will feel I'm misrepresenting their experience.

    And then of course, last night, while I was desperately working on the article on Egypt that's currently consuming my life, the Egyptian government resigned. I was in the middle of a sentence and everything.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

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