With my personal travel-ability reignited in 2022, I challenged myself to tick off as many “bucket-list” destinations as I could during the year. While I technically had always wanted to visit these places, I hadn’t previously made it much of a priority, instead I traveled to places because I liked visiting them previously or simply because I had never been there. This year, however, I focused on finally hitting some of the destinations I has always dreamed of experiencing. If I were a betting man — and I’m not — I’d guess my bucket-list mimics many others’ out there, and as such I encourage everyone to do so. Don’t put off tomorrow somewhere you can go today — and near the top of my all-time dreams is to see the Great Pyramid and Great Sphinx of Giza. As such, sitting at number seven on this year’s TopTenTravels is the greater Cairo Region of Egypt.
Last day on a short stay in Egypt. I pop up, break the fast on some suns-out, guns-out shit. I’ve got cotton sleeves on my arms, its just that it’s well past suhur as I hop out of the Uber pulling up to the Giza ticket booth. Trying to keep up, I fork over the 300 Egyptian pounds for an entrance ticket. Exactly 77 seconds later my man Muhammad is on me. Like prayers on rugs. Like ham on burger. Huh? It’s cool, I’m early and totally prepared for tout level five thousand that I’m guessing will park early afternoon. If you don’t know what that is it’s because American English slang doesn’t seem to have a word for it. Probably because a critical Americans don’t have passport stamps. I think it makes sense on the surface once articulated. I learned the way it is overseas a decade ago and been learning ever since. I mean, it’s a verb in our vocabulary, we just ain’t got a slang version of it as a noun outside of betting on races. TOUT. Think, pestering solicitation. Wiki it. Maybe urban dictionary. I dunno, Inshallah we can talk more about my feelings on it all later. For now get in the hot tub and yallah back to two nights ago.
“No matter what race creed or color. We gotta get all together and love one another. All your sisters all your brothers. Do your own thing, you don’t need no other.”
The deep groove on The Universal’s “New Generation” bangs my third eye into proper form; rewiring my pre-frontal circuitry into optimal operation; setting this whole shit the fuck off. Seat back is up, tray table yallah-ed as I land into nation numero cuarenta y uno. 41. 3rd country on this trek — making it now feel much more like something akin to the three weeks of flights around the earth I took six years back, in the good ol’ before times. Right now, after a non stop go go go for 5 days in Jordan (the culture cipher on my collection of the worlds acceptably agreed upon bordered-peoples), I’m now in Egypt, rolling in a dusty ass taxi on the 6th of October bridge. Denial is a river. A nation with one million mosques. And a shit ton of ancient civilization and history.
Originally I was to spend a previous annual celebration of my solar return here… that was like 372 earthly rotations past. The reservation as I recall was a one way flight to Cairo, starting here on a 2-3 cruise down the Nile, meeting up with a 2-3 bad ass globetrottin’ Australian gals I met in Malta. This was all, you know, back in the year of our lord and savior Panda Corona 2020. Equal to hindsight. Endangered. Did it really happen, Mo Amer? For motherfuckin sure the pandemic popped my entire Egyptian glory plan in the poop chute, San Quentin prison gang rape style. Squirrel master couldn’t save me, Kenny. It’s cool though, it’s already past Iftar when I land and the Friday night streets are flooded via my airport taxi window. It’s like Saturday night for Americans, I think. I’m not sure, it could be Tuesday or Wednesday. Doesn’t matter. I got three nights here. I am bout to do the damn thing. After a quick check in and shower I’m wandering around downtown; solo on purpose in a new city and a new country; this is high up on the list of favorite things — just adjacent to long bicycle rides. It’s a whole other flavor of faves, comparisons are futile and I’m digging the flavors of this feast of middle eastern food and red wine… alone by design in some underground restaurant. That’s a goddamn lie. Not the underground feast indulgence part…. the solo on purpose part. I legitimately asked at least three or four people to join me here for the weekend. Probably more like 7 or 8, knowing me. And I know me. Myself and I. No takers. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nil. I have three days. They have rationalizations. It’s ok though, everyone has their own jam happening and I have my mine. And I’m glad. Glad glad glad glad glad, Dot Matrix. Instead I now (like, right now) have the privilege of remembering how much more in depth dinner conversation abroad can be and usually is. As the creepy guy eating and drinking, a lot, alone, I’m engulfed with a shit ton of variably-pronounced English spoken words in here. Lots of gorgeous people having these gorgeous conversations hanging out on pillows and couches. Hookahs and shit. Tables and chairs too. I eavesdrop like a mug. How much eavesdropping would a mug eavesdrop if a mug could eavesdrop mugs. I dunno. I want to join. Really intriguing shit going on. I don’t. I purposely treated myself to a “posh” hotel downtown. An oasis. It means more solitude, unlike my typical communal hostel accommodations preference. Whatevs, after a week of dry Ramadan Jordan, Cairo is a little looser with 8 days left of fasting. The lightweight that I am has has me attempting to pour a third glass out of this $18 bottle of wine with the cap still on. Ugh. Am I supposed to be more disappointed with myself or that it’s got a cap and not a cork. Does that matter? Does anything matter? Back to to the conversation surrounding me – it is either intellectual or pseudo intellectual, whatever you want your convoluted gray matter to believe. Conversation identifies with the pronoun IT. It’s nuanced and sexy and full of commitment to all sorts of things that Americans couldn’t even a flying fuck about. Fir reels. Fur rhealz. Four Reals. I take my time, and some of the convo isn’t in Englandy-accented English with a slightly something else twist. Kinda weirds me out a bit because it means they’re American or Canadian or Mexican. North America bitches. So. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m known to be wrong quite often. Either way. I’m still ecstatic as fuck to be back on my fully nomadic overseas tip, finally. It’s a warm and fuzzy kinda glad. No, that’s the wine. Really though, it’s a refined, worldly and educated glad. I’m happy feeling like maybe I’m those three things. I might not be, yet I’m glad to feel like I might be. Across from me sits a man and two women, holding a conversation in English, though it’s clearly their second language. So they don’t all know each other that well. Honestly, I’m pretty sure they’re like one drink away from a sexy ass threesome. Well sexy except for the cigarettes. Boo. Quit that shit, yo. Then the bill comes and the dude — an Italian looking bro with a pony tail, sort of bails on the bill. Wtf dude. My man that’s not cool and should not be allowed. I need to ground myself, I’m not here for any of that. In fact the fact that I’m solo channels me into a groove of self reflection; hopeful for a small dose of brain unfuckery-ing. Like my life is the structure fire and some solo QT is the wet stuff going on the hot stuff. Ok so back to getting my mind right. Write. That’s what I enjoy. Started drawing again too. Writing this feels good. Maybe no one ever reads it. Maybe not. I don’t care. It’s therapeutic; an outlet for I-don’t-know-what. An outlet nonetheless. No dead end streets. No cul de sacs. Like being silent for 90 minutes in a noisy restaurant; people watching and contemplating why the hell I am not dead yet. I knock off the rest of that red whatever in the name of Gil Scott Heron, wander back to the telly and face plant into my king bed with the lights and my clothes on….
Wake up… 5am to discover the aforementioned tomfoolery last night caused me to miss noticing the god-loving-balcony overlooking the mother fucking Nile River! Hello sunrise!! I have no plan. I have only this room for it’s shelter, shitter, and wifi. Wait. There’s two restaurants, a jazz bar, a rooftop pool bar, and airport style screening at the front door. Fuck yeah. I hit the gym and treadmill with one hell of a view. Praise be Allah, Buddha and probably Ulysses S Grant, somehow. Until recently, I despised gyms – preferring instead to “work out” outside doing something competitive, social or just plain old fun. Basketball. Street hockey. Dodgeball. Bikes and Yogging and Parkour and all that jazz. Indoors now make sense too. At least for cardio. I am going in on this view. Mindfulness supreme. I like working out because it gives me time to not be on the go, if you can cram to understand, MC Lyte. I’m typically doing or contemplating what I should do instead of maybe not doing. 14% incline at 5 mph on the other side of the world will do that shit. Today I do little, maybe the local market. Khan Al Khalili Iftar is some amazing shit, its basically the oldest mall in the world.
Ok. Whew!! We’re now all caught back up to me getting out of the Uber in Giza at 7am on morning numero dos. And Muhammad – I’m not calling him Moe because my good friend back home Muhammad goes by Moe. This Muhammad, he’s not my friend, though he starts with “hello my friend”. He goes straight in on #1) not being a tour guide #2) not wanting money #3) feigning curiosity about my background – “where from”. There’s legitimately no one standing near the Sphinx when I snap the photo, yet this motherfucker is still up in my ear. He’s telling me we can see the pyramids “the Egyptian way”…because I look Arab. He’s connecting me with “the energy”. Ok my friend, I’m just trying exist in some peace and quiet right about now. Thats the energy. Two hundred pounds later and I pay him off to at least pass me off to the camel guy. I forget his name, let’s call him Ali. Ali’s got twin baby girls, aged 5 months. He’s definitely walking his ass off whilst I sit and cook on top of a camel named Casanova. Casanova’s a bad dude too. Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good. We communicate telepathically and I’m thankful Ali doesn’t talk my ear off, aside from the occasional insistence of taking photos of me. Like holding the pyramid top, jumping, a weird rock thing – the kinda shit I’m sure every corny ass IG “influencer” lives for… but I’m not here to influence shit. I’m an expertentialist and a documentarian. Real life, I’d rather no one pay attention and leave me alone. Casanova gets it, why can’t the humans? Por favor, Allah?
There are nine pyramids at Giza. Set free after a couple hours around them, Ali kills my vibe with his insistence on more money. Like what happened to all that “pyramid energy” here bro? Capitalism. That’s what. You got a price in mind? Name it up front, otherwise you gonna get what you get from me. Homie don’t play that. And by homie, I mean the proletariat… i.e. me. Workers ain’t wealthy. This all feels like literal literary foreshadowing as I make my to the Great Pyramid, eager to find a little shade alongside it and have some quiet reading time. I dodge tout after tout. Solicitation after solicitation. Pest after pest. Can I live?! My best technique is to self discipline myself into silence. Buddhist monks wouldn’t buy anything, though they might commit genocide against Muslims in Myanmar aka Burma. Rohingya still. So when some Egyptian guy comes up to me with anything, I shake my head no or I give him the Obi-Wan Jedi mind-trick-hand-wave and keep on moving, Soul II Soul. It generally works. Sometimes they stand next to me for longer than I wanna stand there so I silently step a few feet away and continue to ignore them and they move along. The best is when they go on a long impressive display of the languages they speak, hoping to figure out how to communicate to me. Arabic? English? Spanish? Italian? French? They never try sign language though.
Hot to deaf. There’s no shade anywhere; it’s noon. Fuck, they buried the workers (aka slaves) who built these pyramids ride beside them… a lot of people have died here before me; I get the picture and create my own shade — hoping to stay alive under the sun gods directly beat down upon my face —- Arafat would be proud at what a fashionista he’s become.
After a couple chapters from a book on brain unfucking, I’m really in touch with the vibe here at this ancient site. Isn’t the whole world an ancient site? A sacred burial ground? I think so. Some places are simply easier to connect with, this is clearly one of them. I silently repel a dozen or more capitalists earning a living walking the 200 yards back to The Great Sphinx. Chilling there for a bit I realize this thing is under constant reconstruction due to decay. It’s got scaffolding. An American gentlemen wants to gather his family for a photo, I offer to take the shot and we become single serve besties. They’re from Utah, though I don’t think they’re Mormon because mom and dad are in their 50s or 60s and now live in Cairo. And no magic underwear either. Neither Muslim nor Mormon, we never exchange names, yet I bump into them again on my way out to an endearing, “there’s our friend from Buffalo!” I smile and bid them adieu, denying thirty four solicitations for “taxi?”; leaving the touristic area and walking into the streets of everyday Giza.
Thirst is a thing as I dip into a store, about to fall for my final and biggest capitalist scheme of all. Probably a “pyramid” scheme right? Exploitative fucks, they don’t even hold the holy month sacred. Perusing the beverage options, I’m greeted by a gentleman and his daughter. He’s got jeans on and she’s 11 years old, rocking a pink baseball cap over her head scarf and some new balance kicks. Dads gotta be mid 50s in his aviators, telling me he’s an English teacher from Alexandria Egypt in town to see the pyramids with his daughter — he’s definitely looking like the Arab Benjamin Prat. Dead on. Ben’s English is solid; we’re talking about Siqqara and the pyramids there and he says that they are going that way. He offers to buy my water because it’s Ramadan and he’s teaching his daughter about generosity and different cultures. Ok sure. Five minutes later I’m all like fuck it and get on the bus with them, headed south to what I’ve read are more impressive pyramids and such. We switch to a tuk tuk. We hit another store, Ben’s daughter wants to buy me a snack. I’m not hungry. I am definitely in between places and checking my 360 nonstop; I’m getting a bad feeling about this, Chewy. Ben mentions a really old pyramid discovered and controlled by the Egyptian army — our tuk tuk driver is gonna take us. Next thing I know it’s trespass like that movie with Ice Cube and Ice T. We knock on a gate and get let in. We push aside some fence. We walk along a couple walls, clearly this actually is Egyptian military territory. We come to this whatevery sorta pyramid — complete with garbage strewn everywhere. Ben wants everyone to sit while he puts his hand on the rocks and “feels the energy”. I play along with hippie shit but I’m not feeling a goddamn thing. On our walk back these motherfuckers stop and ask me for 2,200 pounds! Ben. The tuk tuk driver. The little girl. I knew it. Holy month shit my ass! Fucking exploitative fucks. God damn long term effects of colonialism, feudalism and all that shit. This would never happen if we had anarchy, like actual Social-Anarchism. I legit have 400 pounds on me. Give it to the guide. Explain that there’s no way I have that kinda money. I’m a working class civil servant; I’m not wealthy and would have never agreed to pay that for anything. I repeat that I’m here for the experience – not to spend money I don’t have. I tell Ben that if he’s paying that kinda money for this then he’s much better off than I am. Shit bro, you got a daughter. I can’t afford no kids in America, I can barely take care of myself. THE WHOLE FUCKING VIBE CHANGES once I’ve made myself perfectly clear and that there’s no blood to be drawn from this stone. Their faces all sour at me. The driver/guides moves fast in front of me. Ben and child sink slowly backward. Ah fuck. Spidey senses tingle. Alert. We pass back out the gate, a look back and Ben is gone. The guide with no name waves some sort of signal to the soldier standing 150 feet away and then starts to run the other direction. Oh hell no. I take off running. He looks back at me. I do not look back. I easily catch up to him, then I pass him. I keep moving and moving. Running at least a mile or two without looking. Finally I duck into some shade in the next town up. I turn on my phones international day pass and call for an Uber. That shit was too intense, I’m going back to the hotel and jumping in the rooftop pool, the other pyramids are gonna have to wait for another time.