Saturday, October 20, 2007
Lake Qarun - Egypt's own Dead Sea - lies about 80 kilometres away from Cairo. A short distance from it is the Fayoum - a large patch of ultra fertile land on the bank of the Nile, said to be the birthplace of agriculture.
Went out there with my colleague John Swanson and his Greco-Roman archaeology class, which was a treat. We completely bypassed the modern city of Fayoum , and hit the salty lake, some tiny villages, and wonderful ruins of old Greek towns that date back to just after Alexander's conquest of Egypt.
The great thing about going to these places with John is that he tells you stories. Among the ruins, he read a letter that was written thousands of years ago in that very town. It was from a rich Greek man, addressing King Ptolemy. The man complained about an Egyptian woman who had emptied a chamberpot of urine on him. When he protested, she cursed him, spat in his face, and ripped his toga. There were a lot of witnesses.
"Punish her," he fumed, reminding Ptolemy that he was Greek, while she, a mere Egyptian.
Thousands of years later, many expats' attitudes haven't changed. They still expect to be treated better than the locals. More on that later.
For now, here are some pictures of the heavy security that accompanies us expats on such trips. The Egyptian government takes no chances after some crazies shot up a tourist bus 10 years ago, and again in 2005.