Egypt: City of the Dead

Another little treasure (just as cool but slightly more dangerous than Garbage City) in Cairo is the City of the Dead. (Disclaimer: I don't actually know much about City of the Dead. If you want to know more, look it up online.)

Those of you still reading after that disclaimer will know that I, the adventurous spirit that I am, of course had to go to the City of the Dead. But it's not the safest of spots in the city (I don't recommend it to tourists unless you speak Arabic or have a guide) so BYU (meaning Jason and Spencer) insisted that if we wanted to go to City of the Dead, there had to be at least 3 of us but no more than 5 and we had to have a guy with us.

No problem, right? Nothing could stop Ginny (my friend) and I. So we recruited a male and went.

The reasons City of the Dead is so dangerous are many. It is a huge, ancient cemetery filled with both small tombstones and large stone houses for the dead. (The dead were usually buried beneath the ground and the large stone house built on top, I think.) Which makes it a perfect site for homeless people to come and live--either with their ancestors or with others'. Sometimes they just build on top of the tombs with cardboard boxes (and yes, there is electricity in those cardboard box houses!).

It also makes it a perfect site for drugs, harlotry, and other illegal activity. Even living there is illegal, but the Egyptian government does little about the several thousand who do live there--where would they go?

But don't worry, we went in the day. And I am pretty sure the locals were impressed by our awesome Arabic skills. The only thing that we feared was those who were begging for money.

This woman

was pretty good. She tried to give us some old dry pitas and then ask for money. But we didn't take her pita and pretended like we couldn't understand her, even though she followed us for about 10 minutes.

In case you are wondering why we were so thoughtless, if we had given her money at least 50 people would have come out asking us for money too.

That's kind of how it is in the Middle East.

But after walking through the cemetery/community and feeling sufficiently creeped out, we walked past a large tomb/house with children peeking out at us. Not wanting to pass up any opportunity (especially after they called us over!) we walked over and they invited us into their "home/store" to see their chickens. We were slightly nervous, terrified actually, that they just wanted to scam us or ask for money or do any number of illegal things. But they were all women and children, so we walked through the house to the back room, which was open (kind of like a 6 ft by 4 ft cement backyard...) They actually did have chickens, and the eggs had just barely hatched. And they had about 20 little chicks in their back courtyard!

After that excitement, we realized that we should probably buy something from these people--as a gesture of friendship (and safety). I don't know how many people lived in that tomb/house, but it had the front room (maybe 8x4), the bedroom (maybe 8x5), and the back courtyard. The front room was actually a store where they had drinks (water and soda) and a small selection of candy and cookies. They invited us to sit down and talk to them as we drank our sodas (it was Mirinda, in case you were wondering) and they offered us the only bed in the house as a couch.

Despite the warnings of danger, City of the Dead actually turned out to be a pretty sweet experience. I am not quite sure how they live that way, but most of them have no other choice. And living in a tomb is better than no house at all, right?

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