Monday, August 3, 2009

21 in Cairo

Written on the bus on the way to the hotel

We are quiet on the bus as Cairo goes by outside the window. I don’t know what everyone else is thinking, but it’s beginning to dawn on me that I am on the cusp of an amazing experience.

I’ve only been in Cairo, Egypt for a little while, but several things have already struck me. It is clear that Cairo is a city of builders. Development is everywhere; and I’m not talking flimsy wood-framed dwellings or build-by-numbers condos, like we have at home. I’m talking stone. Concrete. Alabaster. I’m talking longevity. The slums are made of brick—yes brick, like the houses that go for hundreds of thousands of dollars back at home—and stand against the backdrop of pyramids. I don’t say this to suggest that Cairo is wealthy (because I do not know or think that is true), but I say this to illustrate how interesting Cairo is.

Not to sound dramatic, but when I got my first clear view of two pyramids, still huge even off in the distance, I gasped a little. My God. I remember it is my birthday today. I am turning 21 in the shadow of the pyramids, the only survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in the great Kemet!

The suburb of Cairo that we are driving through honestly is the picture of summer in the city. People shop, wait for buses, hail cabs, sit outside their houses with some friends, clean up their store fronts between customers…schools are dark and dormant…things that are as familiar as home to me. It’s still a little different though. Signs are in Arabic first, then English (if at all). We’re six hours ahead. The men mostly wear regular clothes while the women mostly wear traditional Muslim clothing (hijabs and burqas). Most people live in apartment buildings, and only middle class and up have air conditioners in this 90+ degree heat.

Some kids on the street wave to us. I wave back and think of the people I love back home. How I wish they were here to experience this with me. And I realize that I have a responsibility to have an experience full enough for all of us to share.

-Jazelle Hunt


Mariosesh said...

Your study abroad experience to Kemet should be experienced with great joy, zest, a sense of mission, and a confidence in the fact that the consequentiality of your journey will not only help you to better understand the history and culture of Kemet, but will also awaken in you the interest to understand the meaning of Kemet to the African World as an endless fountain of cultural treasures that help us to understand some of the complexity of the historical and cultural continuity and consciousness of African people. Although I can not physically be there with you, Dr. Greg Carr has asked me to be available via blog to answer any questions that you might have and to also provide some context to some of the things that you will be viewing at various sites and to some of the work from the genealogy of African scholars that have made important contributions to our study of the Nile Valley. As you begin your journey on the Giza Plateau, I am sure that you are now instantly captivated and gazing in awe at the pyramids that possess a timeless quality! Enjoy, engage, learn, and take advantage of this great journey of your ancestral legacy....renewed.

In Maat,

Dr. Mario Beatty
Chair, African American Studies
Chicago State University

Zelle said...

Thank you so much for that.