The other day, they were commenting on the news how conflicts in Arabic Mediterranean countries have positively affected to the tourism in the Canaries.
I can not avoid remembering the Arab Spring as something beautiful, in the romantic sense of abolishing tyranny and reclaiming democracy. After a few years it is when I realize how close I was to not returning to my dear Canary Islands.
You know when you buy a ticket to Egypt taking in advantage that you are living in Greece and then Booking.com sends you an email saying that better not, that they prefer returning you the money.
It was the Arab Spring. Tahrir on fire, the people on the streets, flags and hands in the air…
At that time I was not aware of what it meant then. “Oh, that’s nothing, some few riots and then calmness”, I thought. And then I postponed the trip two weeks. Booking accepted this time. I think they thought the same as me.
Cairo is a gray city. Well, more sepia than gray, since it is not only pollution but also dust what you see and breathe in the air. A city of nearly 9 million people where the Plan Renove seems not to be very present.
From the little things I liked from Cairo (I say little because I could not enjoy the city with someone local to know its charms) was to be able to visit the Pyramids and take pictures of one of the ancient wonders of the world without people background. You know those moments when there is no one around in such a touristic place and you still don’t understand why?
I liked the idea of walking the streets where days before there was a revolution that would be part of mankind’s history.
I do not remember clearly where I saw the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen. I woud swear it was in Cairo. I say this because there are Egyptian heritages scattered around the world. Everything should be in its right place. I won’t talk about the case of the Greek Parthenon.
Another curious thing was the metro. It is the only of the entire African continent and a pride for all egyptians. A man approached to me and said “You can not be here.” At first I thought it was just miseducation, but then he explained me that there are men wagons and wagons for women, and if you want to travel as a couple, the woman has to do it on the wagon for men. It happens that we were in the section of the platform in which stopped the women’s wagon.
We got off at Tahrir Square where we saw tons of people with flags, shouting and with their hands in the air. It is also there where we saw the first Kalashnikovs.
After an unpleasant experience with a taxi to visit the Ziggurat, we took a train to Alexandria, where the air was already different. Beautiful city. The old library. I would have liked the famous lighthouse of Alexandria had been yet on its feet. Apparently the Auditorium Alfredo Kraus of Las Palmas is inspired on it.
Back in Cairo, when we went to buy the train ticket to Aswan we realized the gravity of the situation: “No tickets, my friend. No train. Bombs” said the guy at the station.
Apparently the train tracks had been sabotaged. They had planted bombs on the tracks, so we had to find an alternative mean of transport to travel about 1000 km.
On the outside of the central station we realized that the thing was more and more serious. It was the first time I saw a considerable amount of tourists together and everyone was nervous. I also started getting nervous. Armed soldiers on street corners ensured the calm. Bus companies were closed as it was night and there were only taxis. Taxi drivers were rubbing their hands. They demanded insane amounts making profit of the moment.
I observed an egyptian family with suitcases talking to a guy who pointed to a corner. I went to ask. Bingo.
Soon we were in a bus of those in the movies where the only thing remaining was seeing chickens flying inside. Food stink (although it smelled rich), burping, sweating, crying children. We were the only tourists. We sat down and slept. The bus made a stop just across the way, at 4:00am. I thought my bladder was going burst.
Actually, it was awful. But at least I was grateful to have the opportunity to take a couple of curious pics during the day stretch.
Once in Aswan everything changed. The previous experience was just like a bad dream. Abu Simbel, Komombo, the market… Amazing. For a few days, we forgot the suffering at the stressful and crazy ride by bus.
Being able to wander around the temples without more tourists was priceless. There was barely surveillance, so you could even touch the ancient ruins without anyone to tell you off. We did not miss the little ride on felucca, the traditional sailing craft of the Nile. What a spectacular sunset over the waters of the legendary river.
Already on the way to Luxor, things became complicated. We took a taxi because train tracks were still sabotaged. The driver stopped suddenly when he passed other taxis coming from Luxor. We saw them gesticulating while talking. Gestures of people shooting machine guns, explosions, people running … On a couple of occasions, the driver returned to the cab saying “Danger, danger, my friend” and left the main road, getting offroad stepping on someone’s plantations. Apparently the roads were controlled by armed groups. I don’t know if from the government or the opposition, but I thought it was a good idea to avoid the main roads too. My back not so much for the potholes.
On the way we met several times with pick-up cars loaded with armed people. Luckily we did not have any kind of mishap. Actually, we were really not desiring this kind of adrelanine.
Luxor is also fascinating. We had reserved a room in a hostel but it was so hot that the first thing we did was to sneak in a 5-star hotel as clients. It did not cost much, really, with my asian mug. At the pool we ordered something to eat and a few beers, planning what we were going to see.
Ancient Thebes has a lot to show: The Valley of the Kings and the Queens, the Temple of Nefertiti. Karnak… Above all, I loved Karnak.
It will be because I love history and I get excited when I imagine ancient civilizations with their customs, culture, tradition… and its wars. The same wars we have now. I don’t know why when I think of war, I think of the children. Perhaps for the viral video of the girl to whom changes the face as she goes through the war. It blew my mind.
Back in Cairo I posted something on my profile. It turns out that night Ginory was in town. My brother from another mother. He was passing to go to Libya to report the war for ABC news with Manu Brabo, who, a few days later would be kidnapped. What a bad luck, what a shame not having read his message in time to have a drink together under the moon of Cairo. That guy is really insane. To report the war, he said. Among war photography and radical surf, he risks his life every time he holds the camera. I had enough in Athens. I learned something important. Do not mess if it is not your war.
That spring, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya and Saleh in Yemen, lost their positions. Gaddafi even his life.
5 years later, I feel bad for a report I read from ABC. What then was a historic revolution to demand democracy has become a non-stop war, an accumulation of hatred and violence in which policy has been shifted to the background and religion has become the protagonist. I saw hope in the eyes of the old people. I don’t want to imagine their faces now.
Good for the Canary Islands, where tourism has increased. With the violence in the Mediterranean, the boom of the surf and the crowning of Gran Canaria as one of the best destinations for digital nomads, we have noticed the rise of foreign people in many ways.
I feel sorry that it had to be at the expense of someone else’s disgrace, of an area of the world which is suffering right now. All my support and best wishes for the soonest resolution of this problem. All my support to the old men who dreamed of change. All my support for children who need a better future and have nothing to do with those adults’ problems.