Posted by: spiritteacher | January 5, 2010

LAND OF THE PHARAOHS

I just returned from an amazing 10 day journey to Egypt (4 days on a cruise ship stopping at various ports; Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Edfu.)  Egypt is a magical land filled with ancient history, pyramids, tombs, hieroglyphics on stone walls, giant obelisks rising to touch the sun.  But my favorite was the people who live there now, the ancestors of the ancients.  Almost 100 percent, the people were friendly and funny, delightful and high pressured salesmen. 

If you’re an American woman, they will call you queen and tell your husband he has a beautiful wife.  They will want to marry your granddaughters and throw you on a donkey whether you want to be on a donkey or not, then take your picture and charge you for the privilege. In the street markets, they will put things in your hand you don’t want and give you a “good” price and won’t let you go until you are overwhelmed and a little crazy, either paying the price you’ve bargained them down to or until you’ve run away laughing with the insanity of it.  There is no point in taking offense because it’s not the American way. It’s their culture.

Most of these people are very poor.  They live in hovels and this is how they feed their families, educate their children, exist.  It’s hard to take offense when you stand back and view the bigger picture and see how hard they work to please you so they can feed their families and educate their children and exist. And the amazing fact is that even though they go a bit overboard on the praise, you can see it in their smiling faces and their laughing eyes that they really do like you even though they need you for their survival. There is such a light shining through these good-natured people that I felt love flowing through me at every encounter.  And I laughed and joked with them as they laughed and joked with me.  On two occasions when they saw confusion and uncertainty on my husband’s face with the price of something, they said, “Not happy?” and held the money out to return it to him. Once when I tried to give money for no merchandise or service, the young man refused to take it.

At least this was my experience. I have to confess here that my experience is not always the same as everyone’s. So if you’ve been to Egypt and didn’t feel what I felt, I’m not surprised. I’ve seen people extremely unhappy and feeling used and abused by the methods of the Egyptians’ salesmanship.  But then I have the same experience here in this country.  Where people won’t see others the way I do or having similar experiences won’t have the same perception of those experiences I have.  It’s that way for all of us.  What is one person’s pain could be another person’s joy. It’s all in the looking. 

What was my favorite part of the trip?  Two things, the fresh pulpy, delicious, dessert-like tall glasses of cool mango juice and the calls to prayers.  Everywhere, all throughout the cities, as well as in the temples, the mosques, at the pyramids and the tombs, 5 times a day without fail there would begin traveling from one place or spot to another, the beautiful singing calls to prayers.  The sounds of the beautiful male voices rising above the cities and in the holy places, even in the airports, the banks, the markets, magnified by microphones chanting lovely incomprehensible sounds that were always answered.  Everywhere groups of Muslims would remove their shoes and bow down in answer to the calls.  In the streets with traffic whizzing by.  It didn’t matter. They would touch their heads to the ground, then rise up and lift their arms to the sky, then touch their heads again to the ground and repeat the action, saying something I couldn’t understand. I didn’t want to stare disrespectfully so I can’t be accurate or detailed about the ceremony. I only know what I felt, a kind of awe in the presence of something quietly holy that has been going on for centuries in open praise of God in a way I’ve never experienced here.

I was amazed to learn that some tourists were finding this prayer calling annoying and interfering. How do we ever justify finding anyone’s ancient spiritual traditions annoying?  Especially when we are the visitors?

We had some experiences that weren’t so fun, mostly in the traveling, but the overall experience is something I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.  The history and the pyramids, you can see on travelogues and read about online or in books, but the experience and the awe inspiring sight of these monuments in person while listening to an educated Egyptian guide tell you the story of the past adds rich and colorful layers to it all, bringing the experience to life in a way that is impossible unless you’re there. Tour guiding is not just a job in Egypt. It is a respected profession and in our guide’s case required a college education. Her name is Ola and she speaks perfect English and has the ability to organize our schedules to the minute without a single glitch, as well as tell us in descriptive story-form the history of everything Egyptian. 

And now I have a whole new world of God’s children to know and love personally and to bless and pray with. The world is a much smaller place for me and God is an even bigger Force. The words Eternal and Unlimited have much more meaning for me now.  This isn’t because God has changed, but because I have.

is salaam ‘alaykum  peace be upon you.


Responses

  1. Sharie,

    You are such a generous, sweet soul, but I’m not surprised that the respect, compassion and love you feel for others shined in Egypt, too. It’s so easy for Americans to disrespect the Islam faith because of what has happened, and stopping to pray five times a day is something most of us can’t even imagine!) Thank you, as always, for a lesson in joy, no matter where you are.

    Love,
    Pam

  2. I love you, Pam. Have a beautiful day. Love, Sharie


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