Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Travel: Discovering mythical places (
A much better than usual travel piece by Oliver Phillips: "I am not saying it worried me greatly but at some stage in my life I wondered what had become of Thebes. It was a place that seemed to figure regularly in my younger schooldays, along with Babylon, Troy, Carthage, Mesopotamia, the Hittites, The Philistines and Thrace.
Somehow I had left them all behind, mixed up with the half-retained Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology, along with Hydra's head, Medusa, Achilles and that vulnerable heel.
And here we were, I discovered, with a feeling of meeting a long-lost childhood familiar, about to enter Thebes. I was pleased it had survived and flourished under the new name of Luxor. And it entranced me in its new persona, one much changed from the city about which Homer enthused.
By the time we reached Luxor, we had travelled down the Nile valley by train and come to terms with our shock at seeing Cairo, with its teeming millions beneath a haze of pollution.
I was surprised to discover the capital was the most populous metropolitan area in Africa, containing over two million cars, the majority of which are not only over ten years old, but involved in one gigantic, day-time traffic jam, which contributes to the general haze over the horizons.
It is a city of contrasts with impressive boulevards and large imposing buildings often to be found next to vast slum areas. The ancient Egyptians may have had a head start on civilisation but, as one of our party commented, they lost the thread when it came to dumping rubbish, particularly as they have, in the Sahara, one of the world's biggest landfill sites within easy reach. They estimate that some 4,000 tonnes of rubbish per day in Cairo is neither collected nor managed. It is just left."
See the above page for the writer's impressions of the sights (and sites) of Cairo.

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