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The long road to adaptation

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Start in Cairo

Egypt, this millennia-old pharaonic state is new territory for us. Culture, language, traffic, people and landscape require quite an adaptation effort, not only to learn the handling techniques.

But first a visit to the Egyptian Museum, where we marveled at 5000 years of national history (ca 5000bc- shortly after the birth of Christ). The exhibits impressed us deeply and we talked about it for a long time. Such a long history compressed into one place leaves us overwhelmed. The mass of the exhibits, their size and the finesse of the technical executions let us marvel.

We stay two nights in Cairo to acclimatize and take care of logistical details, like renting a rental car.

Alexandria, the Nile Delta and Complications

Afterwards we went to Alexandria to visit the library and to warm up on the Mediterranean promenade. We had expected spring-like temperatures, but froze through quite a bit.

Northwest of Alexandria, the Rosetta Nile branch flows into the sea at Rachid. There we started walking. The first two days we have covered 30 kilometers each, and have slowly found our rhythm, as a vehicle drives at high speed into our car parked in front of a café. It was 23 o'clock in the evening and we just saw PSG against Bayern Munich.

The driver and his vehicle disappeared as quickly as they had arrived, leaving us with a total loss. Getting a necessary police report on this incident proved to be more difficult than expected. Nevertheless, we left the police station at 4 am with the document; Al hamdul illah.

But we had to go back to Cairo, 200 kilometers away, to pick up a new car. There we checked into the boutique hotel Kemet and talked with the owner Hani Elgabry about the country, and his personal feelings about it. Kemet or Km.t is an ancient name for Egypt and means black land, referring to the dark earth in the Nile Delta, as opposed to deshret or dsrt, which refers to the red land of the desert. Hani will report in a separate blog post. In the hotel we also find rest to process the impressions of the first week.

Running in traffic with muddy feet

Traffic is chaotic, and basic rules are rarely applied. But with the car, you can quickly guess the driving mentality and likely behavior. So far, except for the parking accident, we have driven well and accident-free and are already moving safely through Cairo and the Nile Delta. The situation is different when it comes to walking.

Apart from the mud that always accompanies us on our paths along the Nile, we always have to watch out for oncoming traffic and especially traffic behind us. We dodge every minute and land again and again on soapy ground with effort to balance ourselves. We only avoid other cars, buses, horse carts and arps, which are represented here in large numbers. There is a constant honking of horns, but this helps us to recognize dangers coming from behind. The constant interaction with the traffic and the people who want to tell us their personal fates even while walking challenges us far more than we thought.

In the evening, we are very tired; but we can't sleep right away. This sleep deficit gets to us.

Communication is everything and nothing

Apart from the over-communication, the people here are very friendly. You can hear ¨Welcome to Egypt¨ from morning till night. Apparently, we do not pass as Egyptians.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are everywhere and the restaurants visited were satisfactory in quality. However, the local cuisine is not our purpose for traveling. We interact with waiters, hotel staff, car rentals, cell phone providers, vendors, students, library patrons, farmers, shepherds, and always enjoy meeting the police. We meet few runners, but people along the street who play sports or are interested in sports. Football plays the biggest role and at any time of the day a game is broadcast on large screens in cafes, pubs and stores.

What we do is noted with amazement, but always with a facial expression: Why? Are they clever? Can they be dangerous?

Few people understand that this is communication in the most comprehensive and objective sense. With those who understand it, however, we have extensive conversations.

Understanding does not fail because of the language, but because of the thinking and the level of communication. The solution of tasks in Egypt is approached methodically, emotionally and in the social context in a completely different way than here in the Rhineland, and incidentally also as in Tunisia, which is also Arabic-speaking.

Communication is improbable (Niklas Luhmann).

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