This World

Here’s what I wrote for yesterday, Thursday 02.13.20.

This World

The travel agent says, “Have you ever been to Egypt before?”

I tell him I’ve not.

“Please be aware that it is very much a third-world country.”

I ask him how so.

“There is tremendous poverty in Egypt, and you will see evidence of that almost everywhere you go.

“You must take good care of your possessions everywhere you go.

“Everywhere you go, you will be approached by many people who will want to sell you things. They may even swarm you at times. Usually a polite No Thank You will suffice, but some are more aggressive so you must use your judgment.

“They say that Egypt is 100 years behind the U.S. in many things.”

I say, “With Trump as our president, Egypt is now at least 100 years ahead of us.”

The travel agent laughs, then continues.

“You will need to drink bottled water only. Do not use the tap water even to brush your teeth.”

I ask him about showering.

“Yes, of course, you must use it for that, but avoid getting any of it in your mouth.

“Be sure to bring toilet paper with you at all times. Carry disinfecting wipes as well, and hand sanitizer.

“Eat street food at your own risk. I would advise against it completely, but you must decide for yourself if the risk is worth it.”

The list ends.

I say to him, “I’ve been to some very rural parts of China that have seemed a bit like that, and even in places like Beijing or X’ian, as you know, people will try to sell you things at most of the major tourist attractions.”

This particular travel agent lives in China. “Egypt is even more third-world than here,” he says. “You will see what I mean.”

I am forewarned, but not overly worried.

I have now been in Egypt now for nearly two weeks. I have seen the kind of poverty he spoke of, especially in Cairo and Alexandria, the bigger cities I’ve visited. Just as in the U.S., the divide between the rich and the poor is widening, and the middle-class is fading fast.

Even those sections of these cities called “upscale” and “exclusive,” however, look a little run down, even poorly maintained. Everything, almost, could use a paint job.

I have never seen so many buildings with nothing to cover their windows. No glass, no curtains. Except for ceilings, they are open-air living spaces.

I have yet to buy anything from the vendors who can swarm like bees, and I’ve not ever felt that someone was trying to pick my pocket.

I have been careful to use only bottled water for everything except bathing.
I’ve not had to use the toilet paper I carry with me from the hotels. I’ve used one sanitary wipe, and no hand sanitizer at all.

I did eat some bread that was being baked on a grill out on the street. It was very good.

The only problem I’ve had, really, is a first-world problem. I’ve been without phone or internet connectivity for the past couple days.

In China, it seems there’s a cellphone tower every ten feet, even in high, very remote country. They are very good about cellphone service there. They were the first to roll out, in a single phase, a comprehensive countrywide 5G network.

In Egypt, this is not the case. You can head out into the desert and be somewhere where you will be cut off from the rest of the world, cell phone and internet dead. It’s not surprising there is no TV in places, and if there is, it can be only one station via a very shaky satellite connection.

I would have asked my service provider if there were any work-around for this lack of connectivity, but, of course, I couldn’t contact the company.

Now, I am back in Cairo in order to get ready to fly home soon. Even in a huge city like this, connectivity can be difficult, but I’m able to use my phone, at least, as a hotspot.

No Wifi. No cell phone service. No news. These are my problems in Egypt, but I’m not sure if these are third-world problems.

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