Monday, January 2, 2017

Somethings Never Change

     Many years ago I was in Egypt for the second time. I had learned enough on the first trip to be confident that I could get around without a tour group the second time. So I decided to take the bus from Midan Tahrir (just outside the Cairo Museum) to the Great Pyramid. I waited patiently for the bus. When it arrived everyone else who was waiting for it pushed their way on at the same time as everyone on the bus was pushing their way off. Not wanting to be the bad American tourist, I decided to wait until the dust settled and then politely board the bus. Needless to say the door to the bus closed in my face and I settled down for the long wait for the next one. Guess who led the pushing when the next bus arrived? Yes, it was the bad American tourist.

     As the bus rolled along the road to Giza the local kids were jumping up and grabbing a hold onto the side of the bus to ride for free. There were dozens of kids (and a few adults) hanging onto the outside of the bus this way. As I stood on the bus I had this vision of a Volvo getting too close to the bus with tragic results. Fortunately that did not happen.

     After  a short time I was able to start taking in the scene around me. Taking public transportation when you visit another country is a good way to learn a little about the lives of the locals. There were folks holding baskets of something or other, others excitedly talking, etc. There was also a woman who was holding two geese by the wings. The geese were, not surprisingly, honking and flapping around covering the bus (and me) in their feathers.

     This reminded me of the many scenes carved on tomb and temple walls by the ancient Egyptians, where a servant brings live geese to the tomb owner by holding the birds by their wings. Figure 1 shows a representation of such a scene. This piece is from the pyramid complex of Amenemhat I at Lisht and is now in the Brooklyn Museum. It clearly shows that somethings never change. At least some of the modern Egyptians do the same things their ancestors did thousands of years ago.

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