Pigs and Pyramids
Intrepid reporter and avowed misanthrope Fred Fletch takes a trip to Egypt in search of culture, after grappling with the difficult matter of getting there
Travelling is a great opportunity for my agoraphobia and misanthropy to get together and take a shit down each other's throats.
Don't get me wrong, I really like different people and cultures; Hadji was my favorite character in Jonny Quest. It's just I prefer those people and cultures from a distance, say, fighting crime in a volcano with two confusingly muscular bachelors.
The problem is I married a backpacker. A woman with weaponised breasts and feet to match. She'd been travelling the globe since she was 18. While she was born filled with an insatiable sense of wonder, I was born wondering why the fuck they cancelled Bucky O'Hare. We are chalk and very fuckable cheese: a girl-shaped comet, trailblazing across the universe, and a lovable Bruce Willis who landed on her with a rag-tag bunch of oil-riggers and drilled her until she exploded.
She was born to run, yet she paused for me. So if it was ever going to work, I was going to have to travel.
Since I'd always wanted to die fighting a mummy, we agreed on Egypt.
Considered the cradle of civilization, Egypt offered us a journey into history and culture. She promised the trip would broaden my mind and enrich my soul. I Googled 'grappling hook' and 'scarab-cream.'
Being 'somewhere' doesn't bother me too much. It's the getting there that fucks my everythings. Like handing in my sense of control, privacy and dignity to airport security to be unfussily finger-banged by a stranger with a metal detector. I'm not saying they shouldn't be security conscious, but if you think I could kill anyone with a tube of toothpaste, you shouldn't be telling me off. No, you should be excitedly thanking James Bond for choosing your piss-poor plane to fly on. But after eight hours on a cramped seat I made it.
Egypt is split into two distinct sections. There's the tourist part, where you experience a package holiday of dreams as an impossibly clean fantasy of sun, drinks, pools, Scorpion-King-free luxury. Everyone smiles at you so hard it's like their lives depend on it (and they fucking do. $11million a year comes from tourism alone, so you better believe the government wants you to enjoy yourself). But step across that illusion into Cairo, and you find the part of Egypt steeped in actual history. And, even more actually, with pig-crap.
Those impeccably clean tourist spots give way to streets leading to exactly the most mummy-filled parts of Egypt. These are awash with garbage, animal faeces and the less-than-smiley atmosphere of poverty.
The government has tried to clean up its act several times in the past by employing multinational agencies to clear away all the rubbish. Not for long though, they found it generally better to pick up their cheques than anything that smelled of grumpy-camel. Desperation led them to enact a plan overheard at a fucking-stupid-convention. Yes, they unleashed a million pigs onto the streets to eat all the garbage. The pig plan worked right up until the point that it didn't. The million pigs eating the contents of a city that doesn't have plumbing, unsurprisingly, began to die. Now, I'm no mathematician but my calculator doesn't even have a button for 14,000 tons of rubbish plus 1,000,000 dysentery-hogs.
If you can ignore this side of Egypt, and pretty much everyone does, you can find the pyramids. The iconic monument of man's achievement. In all honesty it looks much better on TV when Brendan Fraser is being punched by zombies. You can also find the Sphinx, and you can absolutely look at it from over a wall while a hundred street-sellers passively aggressively try to convince you to buy bullshit. There's a McDonald's across the road and you can visit a museum stuffed full of mummies. Then you go back to your hotel. You order room service. You swim in the pool. You don't go back to Cairo. It's almost worse than TGI Fridays.
Next time you complain about all the Polish shops 'taking over your town' picture this: the place where writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government were born, with iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, where the legacy of human development and Egypt's rich cultural heritage forms an integral part of its national identity can be summed up every hour, on the hour, by Egyptians dancing while covered in light-up buttons to YMCA by the Village People.
Some of them can't afford the food they're serving.
My wife suggested South Africa next year. Tarzan lives there.