One of the strangest things about Cairo is the poverty. In the US, we have rich sections and poor sections. Not so here. There are slums between all the gorgeous, opulent mosques. Sidenote: there are more houses of worship here than you could ever imagine. Crosses and minarets are EVERYWHERE. And they’re all so beautiful. Anyway, the poverty is inescapable.
We all watched Slumdog Millionaire on the plane over (sidenote: Lufthansa rocks and could not be more different from various us airlines). That was either an excellent idea or a terrible one. There are small children everywhere, trying to sell things. A friend wanted to give them money, until she realized the truth: the money often doesn’t go to them. Children here, like in all poor areas, have far more responsibility. They walk around alone, buy groceries, and 9 year old girls are often in charge of their younger siblings.
People hand you stuff or offer to take your picture, and then say thank you repeatedly or follow you until you pay them. If you ignore them or say le shukran (no thank you) in a stern voice they usually go away, it’s only if you engage them (or don’t realize that in Egypt nothing is free) that you end up as their target. They’re harmless, just annoying and sad.
The saddest thing about poverty in egypt is the realization that this is one of the richest countries on the continent. People are clamouring to get here so they can live in these slums.