Saturday, October 20, 2007


All text & photographs in this post copyright Yasir Khan 2007.

"Have you been out of Cairo yet?" My friend Ameena's tone was more insistent than curious. Yes, Ameena, I have. And here are the pictures to prove it.
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.


vagabondblogger said...

Expats seem to be that way regardless of where they are - like they're God's gift to the locals. It's amazing.

Marie said...

Hey, wait, aren't we all expats?

Yasir Khan said...

Yes. On this planet. And we treat the locals like crap.

Marie said...

I'm a much better expat than I am a local. It's gives me an excuse to not fit in. Maybe I could pretend to be from Finland or something while I'm in New York.

vagabondblogger said...

I've been overseas for so long, on and off, I feel like an expat in my small Connecticut town when I return. The drivers there are soooo rude!

Marie said...

Vagabondblogger... EXACTLY. I no longer fit in anywhere.

Fhar said...

Thanks, Yasir, for posting this. I recently had an opportunity to go to Lake Qarun. Rode my bike there from Cairo, actually. Unfortunately, I was with a bunch of ex-pats from the Cairo Cyclists Club who seemed to be more interested in spinning their legs than exploring or examining anything, so we turned right back to Maadi (where they all live--i can't stand the place). The security was pretty insane. We weren't required to have an escort because one of the cyclists had brought along his driver (can you imagine driving over 100km at 30km/h through the dessert?), and because his son was a police officer, they considered that enough. We did get a few calls via cell phone from the checkpoint guards inquiring as to our whereabouts, however.

Anyway, i thought i'd take this opportunity to plug my own blog about not fitting in in Cairo, or anywhere else:

Personally, i like to consider myself an anti-pat rather than an expat. I was also planning on devoting some space to the ex-pat scene, but it will take a while before i can cool my head enough not to sound like a total dick toward them.