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Egypt: Once in a Lifetime
Author:Zhou Yijun  Date:2017-05-04  Clicks:

When the airplane was flying over Sinai Peninsula, where insurgencies occurred recently, I could not hold myself from fear. Before I finally made up my mind, I was told more than once that I should pay special attention to my safety. However, I could never imagine how much I would miss this country had I never visited Egypt. Even the blasts that hit the city just the day before I left did not leave any shadow on my wonderful trip.  

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Sun?

Egypt is most famous for its legacy of ancient civilization, which is also the stimulus for my visit. All the places of interest have left an indelible impression on me: I almost burst into tears when I was staring at pyramids and Sphinx; I marveled at tons of relics which stacked freely in the national museum. But above all, my favorite city is Luxor. It is said that Luxor is the place you cannot miss in Egypt. Luxor used to be one of the metropolitans of ancient Egypt. A great amount of historical remains have been reserved there and Luxor Temple is one of them. The reason why it left a profound image is because it reflects the process of acculturation and the trace of history. There was incomplete wall painting of Christianity during Greek-Roman period and a mosque constructed in 10th century on the top of the roof. But its main part was originally built by Ramesses II, dating back to more than three thousand years ago. The great impact of different religions and historical figures was fading away with time, and only time could conquer the all. Traditionally, Luxor people considered the east bank as the world for living people; as for the west, where the Valley of Kings is located, is the underworld. Therefore, the west bank used to be desolate. The divine values of life circle penetrated into the daily life of common people. At that time, you would find the ancient Egyptian civilization reviving again.

 

Sphinx and the Author

However, once you take a look at what is taking place in Egypt at present, you will find the gap between rich and poor and the unstable political order unbelievable. When comparing Egypt with China, whose history also spanned thousands of years, one will find that Chinese civilization is somehow more enduring and persistent, with more self-reliance and less communication with other parts of the world. However, there is no absolute superiority among civilizations, and it is diversity that truly promotes prosperity of the world.    

A Controversial Impression

I do not have much difficulty in accustoming myself to the life in Egypt. When we were wandering around the city in the evening, chatting and laughing on the last few days, we could still remember how worried we were on our arrival. For most of the time we accommodated in a small city called Benha, which is sixty kilometers away from Cairo, and now I am confident to say that life there was almost as easy as here in China. However, the social environment and atmosphere are fairly different, which could be illustrated by women’s clothing. It is widely accepted that Muslim women should wear hijabs (the scarf and gown) after childhood, but what I had never seen before was Niqab, which covers most part of the body except for two eyes. The power of assimilation is so strong that I felt it was abnormal to make myself exposed to air not long after my arrival. Some feminists propose that women should not be required to dress like that because it is against the idea of gender equality. Besides, the chances that women are involved in public life are much lower than men, for instance, most shop assistants in malls are male. Do not panic, though, for Egypt is a relatively tolerant country. And unlike Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely conservative Islam country, in Egypt, you can freely communicate to local people,

When it comes to natural landscape, what cannot be neglected is the Nile River. If you are fortunate enough to have a bird’s view of the whole country, the scene must be unforgettable: the glittering blue belt is flowing from south to north, forming a narrow oasis, and the rest of the land is boundless desert. While I was drifting on the water, what I could see was only flourishing green, which contrasts to dead and dying dunes. Then it suddenly occurred to me that it must be the miraculous power of life. The similar feeling was aroused when I visited Waterfall Hukou (part of Yellow River), where our civilization originated.

River Nile is Clean and Clear

 

Nice to Meet You All

What I have experienced and reflected during a trip does matter a lot, but a journey is mainly determined by whom I encountered. Sometimes it was those we came across unintentionally that brought us surprises. Just the day before one of our teachers left earlier, the attendants provided him with boiled eggs and some cheese in the midnight, in case no breakfast was offered in the early morning. After hearing this story, all of us were a little teary when we thought about their consideration and hospitality. Benha is a small place, but all the staff tried their best to meet our demand and they did make us feel at home. Surprisingly, some passers-by greeted us by saying “Hello” in Chinese, and I can still recall their sprinkling eyes and bright smiles.    

 

Street View of Cairo

It is worth mentioning that the whole journey was filled with cross-cultural communication. While the official language of Egypt is Arabic, we were speaking English most of the time, with few local people able to speak simple Chinese. Unlike those native speakers who can easily get exactly what I am trying to say, exchanging information with people using English as their second or third language is somehow harder but more interesting. When I spoke to tourists from France and Morocco, I spared no effort to choose the most proper words, plus understandable facial expressions and body language. At that time, I had a sense of familiarity: even if we were reared in totally different families and cultures, we could resonate with each other towards the common human treasures by this effective tool—English. To be honest, never have I ever been more aware of the importance of language. As an individual, I tried to make friends with local people by understanding their character and temperament; and as a member of a group, for instance, Chinese, I communicated with them on the basis of comprehending their unique customs and social etiquette. 

When the plane slowly took off from Cairo airport, the view was almost the same, but this time I could not take my eyes off this land. Egypt is such a magical country that it has been lingering in my dream since I came back. It is a dream which I wish I would never wake up from. It seems that I am addicted to Egypt and I will definitely come back to her if allowed.

 

Written by Zhou Yijun, edited by Fang Siyuan, Wu Siying & Hu Sijia

 

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