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Mother of the World

By Evan Kleiman

    Sultans, belly dancing, endearing eyes, black cloth that protects women’s skin from exposure, lives devoted to prayer, cobras rising out of handmade woven baskets, gypsies, magical carpet rides, minarets that reach the sky, camels, Bedouin villages, ancient tradition, shisha hookahs, smoke poetically rising, public transportation; the Nile of course, horseback and or camelback, desert for miles, dehydration. All preconceived notions of “the mother of the world.” I was very mistaken, the half African and half Middle East fusion of influence, religious history, tradition, pyramids, artifacts, archeology, new-age technology, strong transnational presence, buses, trains, airplanes, etc.--all this is the reality of Egypt.

    While it still does preserve the many ancient, historical, and traditional aspects, influence and man-made wonders in the world, the sand is now paved with roads, buildings rise high in the sky, fast food restaurants have made their way into the tight spaces in between.

From Cairo to the pyramids I rode camelback, from the pyramids to Luxor, I rode a train. I traveled from Luxor, Africa, to the Middle East (the Sinai peninsula) in an airplane that was built in the states but is made up of different parts from all over the world, into an American made car with Asian cloth cushioning the seats, drinking from a European made water bottle with a straw made in South America traveling on a boat made in Africa, using a satellite phone that connects the world and is serviced in New Zealand, built in Australia and billed from Canada. It's almost impossible to escape the impact that globalization has had on people all over the world, in particular Egypt.

    Traveling throughout Egypt is like taking a time machine from thousands of years ago to the present and its future technologies all found solely on one street in the heart of Cairo.

    In her book chapter "Relocation and the Creation of a Global City,"  Farha Ghannam's analyses of “the mixture of actions, buildings, people, and activities gives the impression that the entire world is represented in Cairo and that it represents the world. The diversity of its neighborhoods, old quarters and new-Western style areas, high-rise buildings around the Nile, satellite dishes, foreign fast food chains (such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I can't believe it's yogurt), the World Trade Center, the crowded streets, the walls that are covered with advertisements for many International companies (such as Sony and Citizen), and the life that never stops- all of these phenomena blend together to give Cairo its magic and recreate the feeling that this city is the “Mother of the World,” and that it has something to offer everyone."(25) Cairo was an experience to say the least. It makes perfect sense that in that perfect geographical location, with a constant cash flow from the Suez canal amongst numerous other sources that Cairo would have absorbed a transnational influence, and even in looking towards the future its historical presence will remain. No matter how much Cairo develops the Pyramids will be visible. The fusion seems more balanced compared to many of the other global cities we have seen, thus making  Cairo an urban site rich with vernacular/transnational research and study.


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