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Cairo: A Globalizing City

By Carrie Benson

            It is easy to forget that Egypt is a modern place, where modern life takes place because it is a country so rich in ancient history.  After my second day in Cairo I realized that the incrediable sights of structures such as the Pyramids and the Sphinx had also taken me in.  I had been able to look past the modern city of Cairo, forgetting that many people currently live and struggle in the same city where the Pyramids were once built.

f            As I a result, I spent my remaining time in Cairo trying to see it as a modern day city.  When I opened my eyes I saw a colorful city full of sheepherders walking their sheep down very busy streets, and donkey carts competing for road room with large cars and busses.  I saw how the Muslim religion plays a very big role in life in Cairo because I was able to hear the call to prayer five times a day no matter where I was in the city.  It was clear to see simply by studying the streets of Cairo that there is a lot of poverty.  In fact, affordable housing is currently a very big problem facing Cairo.  Mike Davis wrote in his book, Planet of Slums, that housing is so difficult to find, that often times people have to live on the roof tops of houses and apartment buildings.  He also wrote about how many Cairo urbanites are forced to move to the outskirts of the city where housing is more affordable even though most jobs are located in the city.  When I, personally, looked over the tops of houses and saw people on their rooftop houses praying, I realized the large degree of poverty in Cairo.

            However, when I looked away from the donkey carts and to the other side of the street I was able to see many signs of a transnational city.  There was a Hilton Hotel sitting on the banks of the Nile, with western architecture.  I also saw more western chains such as, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays in Cairo than I had in any other city Semester at Sea had visited.   Restaurants and hotels were not the only global structures in Cairo.  A World Trade Center had been built, demonstrating Egypt’s desire to become a global city and to participate in global trade.

            In conclusion, Egypt’s ancient history is an incredible sight and as a result has been bringing tourists to Cairo for hundreds of years.  Unfortunately, with the large numbers of western styled restaurants and hotels it is possible for a tourist to come into Cairo without ever knowing that Cairo is also home to some of the biggest slums of the world.

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