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A lifetime of waiting, stacks of National
Geographic half as tall as me, piled on
every step. A girl with nothing to do but dream.
The yellow-black jackets buzzed, I flowered
as I turned the pages. The relics of Tutankhamun
fascinated: gold, turquoise, lapis and the slaves
in mud-brick houses they live in still.
I longed to be the Pharaoh’s daughter;
I kohled my eyes.
Egypt called to me. Pyramids, deserts baking,
heat mirages, and oases of palms with still blue water.
The twenty-first century’s reality is far different.
Cairo teems with discontent, Mubarak’s campaign
posters hung from each lamppost.
Two weeks before the Arab Spring, I was there.
The only safety found behind the gun-guarded,
razor-wired gates of the upper class, and even then—
A country espousing religious freedom was killing
Coptic Christians in the streets, and bombing churches.
Cairo’s one poster child synagogue stood empty,
except for tourists—dark, decorative, haunting,
full of tales of Christ’s sojourn in Egypt?
The pyramids rose hen-pecked by pollution
through a surreal orange sky. Masked women
walk the male dominated streets. Women
live in fear in or out of the hijab.
The majesty of yesteryear, the pyramid of Giza
squats like a discard in the ashtray of desert.
Vendors and tourist litter the site.
Baksheesh is the only God in Egypt,
baksheesh and the horded water of the Nile.
First Published in here & there magazine
in the UK
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