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Reflections on a great civilization, everyday life, spine and art

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Haze in Giza, in the streets, the alleys and on the large plateau. The Cheops pyramid facing us is indistinctly visible. The Pyramids of Khafre and Mykerios, the smaller Pyramids of the Queens and the Sphinx as guardian are only shadows, although they are only a few hundred meters in front of us. Is it the sand of the desert that encloses the Nile Valley from west and east? These sand crystals, which are constantly floating in the air in varying densities, also meant that the buildings and sculptures had to be uncovered again and again.

This bright, sunlit, milky haze envelops the site and mystifies it, or is it just my impression?

When choosing the place for their places of death and rebirth, the pharaohs of the 4th dynasty will have consulted with their priests and mystics. Then the choice fell on this plateau, which acquired a further cosmic quality with these buildings. With each pyramid, this claim strengthened.

Contrast and claim

Below the plateau lies the new Giza. Part of this development is to be demolished in the future to give the site even more space and to dig further for the exploration of its own and human history.

The new Giza is full of multi-lane streets, noise, life and mosques. The calls of the muezzins multiply five times a day and on Fridays the preachers of the mosques compete for the audience. From where I stand, it is easy to distinguish the intensity of the sermons.

Christian churches in their many forms are also represented here.

When looking at the much older cultures on the plateau, the claim to exclusivity of some younger religions is relativized as if by itself.

This is probably what Jean-Francois Champollion felt when he, the decipherer of hieroglyphs, read the inscriptions at Karnak and realized that the belief in survival after death or the virgin birth are thousands of years older than the Christian belief and that earlier stories were taken over by Christianity.

I do not want to doubt the existence of God here, but the embellishments of the circumstances of origin of the religions are of course to be questioned. The central problem is also not the existence or non-existence of God, but the vehemence with which the individual religions present their faith and life claims as certainty and demand and control an absolute concept of life and thus intervene deeply in the existence of the individual and the community. Not only according to John Stuart Mills, doubt is called for here.

But since the world is as it is, a discussion about it is pointless.

The sound of Kairos - the hooter

Back to the noise in Giza, Cairo, and every other Nile Valley locality we visited.

The incessant honking of the horn is a major contributor to the high level. Horns are honked in the following situations: Motorcyclists honk continuously to draw attention to themselves, a survival honk. Since lanes are not perceived as such and many vehicles pass each other closely, or cross each other by constantly changing lanes, horns are honked to draw attention to themselves when vehicles get too close. Horns are always sounded when vehicles come from behind with excess speed and want to overtake on the right or left. A frequent phenomenon is the right or left turn from the outer other lane; actually four or five rows then want to change direction at the same time into one or two lane driveways. Traffic becomes tremendously slow and turns into a constant honking, especially since the inner lane is blocked by parked minibuses waiting for their passengers.

At these slow points, pedestrians also cross the road, even quite safely. Crossing ten-lane expressways is more difficult. Still, it always happens, as does oncoming traffic there. Even then, people honk their horns. All in all, traffic is chaotic, but relatively slow and also not very aggressive. This results in plenty of fender benders, but manageable traffic fatalities by comparison. This rate is just twice as high as in Germany, and much lower than in the Federal Republic of the 1970s. So our two total losses with parked cars are rather an unfortunate coincidence.

Noise and Choice

But noise also comes from the many jukeboxes, vehicles and cafés. Rarely is one exposed to only one source of noise. Listening to music, or optionally coran quotes and TV broadcasts at the same time, is actually standard.

In addition, there are three-wheeled vehicles with loudspeaker amplification, which either offer croaking goods, or quote the Koran.

At prayer times, you not only hear the local muezzin, but also a second one from cell phones, possibly from a Koran app.

In addition to this sound carpet, there are also the direct speeches. You can choose between hello my friend, Welcome to Egypt or Fuck you. The latter, however, is mostly spoken by adolescents, who have to speak that way because of street credibility.

Speaking of age, the back

In Giza, we spent a forced week. Already at the beginning of our run, regardless of our other minor imponderables, I was struggling with back pain that grew into near immobility.

The orthopedist at As-Salam Hospital, Dr. MESBAH, greets me like an old acquaintance and I take a seat. I give him the X-rays and the MRI and he begins to beam all over his faceQ: "You have a very bad spine," he says and laughs. He's at home in that field, and he probably hasn't seen such clear pictures of decay in some time.

In short: degenerative discs everywhere, osteoarthritis in extensive areas, and altered positions of vertebrae 4 and 5.

Treatment either surgically with fixation of the spine and construction of the interspaces, or first conservatively with medications, physiotherapy and if necessary injections directly at the local site of the spine.

Since I do not intend to stay in Egypt any longer, I will start conservatively.

So I always have to expect a relapse. We have ampoules of painkillers with us for the most severe pain.

The first three days of intense pain will stay with me for a long time.

After initially deciding to cut our trip short right away, it will now continue until mid-April after all. Given the choice between pain and deep depression, I opted for the pain.

Art and Kart

After I was able to move more than five meters again without having to lie down right away, we were also able to visit some exhibitions in Cairo's center with the help of products from the pharmaceutical industry. First we wanted to visit the Museum of Modern Art, but it is currently closed. This museum is located in an art complex together with the Cairo Opera, a gift from the Japanese government, next to the great Music Library and the Sculpture Museum, which is currently showing an exhibition of sculpture from 2022/2023 entitled ¨The third Sculpture Salon 2023¨. Some examples can be found below this article.

In the Al Bab-Selim Gallery, located next to the Museum of Modern Art, the artist Sahar Dourgham is currently exhibiting her paintings.

The Townhouse Gallery, an industrial-looking complex spread over several buildings in downtown Cairo, features a double exhibition by painter Dirar and conceptual artist Maher Diab, and a collaborative exhibition on transportation.

Abdou, a documentary filmmaker from Cairo, has given us an interview on his thematic contribution, which you can see on our site.

You can see some photos for documentation on the picture bar.

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