Cairo, population 25 million and growing daily, is home to almost one in three Egyptians. Feb 13, Friday and prayer day is bright, unusually clear and sunny, crisp with a morning chill. Perfect. We are up half the night, have breakfast in and take off for Giza – during the week a one-hour drive, but on Friday thankfully only 15 minutes. Long enough to drive the ring road which could hold 5 or 6 lanes of traffic (no lane lines) on very uneven pavement lined with garbage on each side, and watch the illegal squatter housing zip by. Endless blocks of unfinished (to the unpracticed eye) blocks of housing, built on former agricultural land until owners realized they could make more money building unlicensed housing and renting it out (or selling it? not clear). The outsides of the buildings have open holes for windows and look half-way abandoned. But the garbage is a giveaway – people must live there because their garbage is on their neighbor’s roof. Garbage is just a fact of life. No one notices it or seems to care. It is entangled in trees, concrete, under rocks, in swept-up dirt. It encircles houses and buildings and just is.
Giza, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Saqqara’s step pyramids and ancient tombs. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen; they are just astonishing. Cairo spreads right up to the Pyramid parking lot, which is full of Egyptian tourists and a few westerners. The view from Saqqara is softer with the ribbon of green and date palms surrounded by desert hills. In the tomb of Queen Idut, where we are completely alone, I sneak a few pictures of the remarkable wall carvings that are almost 4,400 years old.