Egyptian Holiday (part 2): New Eyes

Ever since I was a child the pyramids and sphinx have fascinated me. I’ve wanted to see them. Never did I think that I would make friends with a fabulous Egyptian woman like SS who would show me, not all, but much of what her country has to offer and would take such good care of me while personally guiding me through it.

When you see photos and postcards of the pyramids and sphinx (and all the other monuments and temples) usually that’s all you see. Maybe there is the odd camel in the photos but mostly, you just see just the monuments.

When the big day came and I finally arrived at the pyramids I felt discombobulated. There were many metal-detecting checkpoints and lots of armed guards. There were thousands of tourists milling around. There were hundreds of hucksters hawking their made-in-China products. There were lines of Egyptian children and their adult supervisors trekking through the sites. And, there was garbage – cigarette butts, squashed pop cans and water bottles, bits of plastic, paper and more.

I was distracted by all of this activity and found it confusing. I felt irritated. I wanted it all gone. What do I focus on? I wanted to just experience the pyramids and sphinx. I wanted to step back in time and feel like what it must have been like to live thousands of years ago. No possibility of doing that with all these modern day people around doing modern day activities.

Gradually, I came to realize that we North Americans live in a two-dimensional world of time and space. We live in a young world – even 500 years is young. In Egypt it was like I was experiencing another dimension – history – thousands of years old. People who grow up in countries like this take for granted this dimension. For them, it’s like breathing – it just is there. But it has an impact on people. I’m not sure exactly what the impact is but there is one. I realized that this impact of history was something that I was missing. I had not grown up with it. I felt, not deprived, but less rich somehow. It’s hard to put into words. Perhaps, ignorant on some level – simple, uncomplicated, child-like, in that I was lacking in experience, knowledge and even sensation.

Once I ‘got’ this added dimension, something shifted in my perception. I started to look at the country and all it had to offer in a new way – as a juxtaposing of the ancient and the current. I started looking at the current buildings with the pyramids in the background. Looking at the pyramids with the many skyscrapers in the background. I saw a donkey cart with its driver carrying the vegetables to market going down the road alongside the trucks carrying their loads. I saw trucks filled to the brim with sheep and their shepherds. I saw modern day buildings with their crumbling walls near buildings with their ancient restored turrets rising above. I saw the oldest library in the world in its ultra modern current day architecture from an ancient fort. I saw farmers riding their donkeys to work in the fields along side highways with cars and trucks carrying people to their work (or their sightseeing). I saw young women wearing their hijabs and their jeans. Hiking up Mount Sinai I saw Bedouin guides, dressed in traditional style, with their camels, taking sightseers up and down the mountain. The modern pilgrimage. Our young Bedouin guide wore jeans and a jean jacket with LONDON printed across it.

Even on top of Mount Sinai as the sun rose and the skyline turned many glorious colors there was a jet flying through it, passing over our heads, leaving its widening vapor trailing in a not-straight line. And as I watched the sunrise slowing taking place I see my dear friend SS, frustrated, shivering in her shawl with her back to the sunrise, trying to send a message on her Blackberry – unable to get a signal.

I saw it everywhere I went– juxtaposition of the ancient and the current. I loved my ‘new eyes’.


Dr. Bea Mackay

P.S. If we can get ‘new eyes’ on our relationships, amazing things can happen.

Comments are closed.