Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
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Online Since 1999
start our trip to Egypt at the logical place to begin, the pyramids. I
somehow got the idea that there are three pyramids. That's what
I always see in pictures. However, can you believe it? There are
hundreds, and they come in various sizes. We visited the Great Pyramid
of Egypt, a massive construction over 4600 years old and an awesome
monument to behold.
When it comes to pyramids, the ancient Egyptians thought "bigger
is better." However, after the Great Pyramid was constructed,
they essentially gave up trying to outdo themselves. Since we are not
allowed to climb the pyramids, we settle for looking up and gawking
and taking pictures of each other. We also visit the nearby Sphinx,
which is exactly as advertised. In the afternoon we take a short side
trip to see one of the earliest pyramids, where they learned to build
pyramids by stacking layers up like a wedding cake. This pyramid is
called a "step pyramid" for obvious reasons.
We are told that tourism is the third major industry in Egypt. The
fourth largest industry is street vendors who try to sell their wares
to tourists. "One dolla', one dolla'." They approach us at
every two steps until it practically prevents us from seeing what we
have come half-way around the world to see. It seems that in an area
that surely must belong to the state, the amount of entrepreneurship
could be controlled somewhat better so close to the pyramids.
Big tourist items all over Egypt are cheap beads, postcards, book
markers, and scarves. A barrage of vendors constantly follows us like
vultures on carrion. "No, no thank you, laa," quickly
becomes an overused part of my vocabulary. I don't know how I ended up
bringing home a suitcase full of souvenir beads and scarves.
The lifestyle of the Middle East is so overwhelming that I develop
culture shock trying to take it all in. While Egypt is progressive in
many ways, it is sadly lacking in others. Something as simple as
litter seems to be an overwhelming problem. At historic sites, we are
shocked to see plastic grocery bags blowing about helter skelter. A
canal that we drive beside is filled with floating plastic bottles and
other debris. While litter is a problem everywhere, it seems
especially offensive in a place that houses the heritage of mankind. I
wonder if the monuments of our time will be our trash and our pyramids
Among the dirt and filth blowing about are vegetable vendors with
carts of fresh vegetables to sell. We see an empty lot where goat are
grazing and wonder why goats are grazing in the city until we see a
goat being slaughtered and butchered right there on the side of the
road. Fresh mutton for sale. Stray dogs and cats roam about
everywhere, often in packs. While seeming harmless, there is no animal
control and dogs are not required by law to be vaccinated for rabies.
At the side trip to the Step Pyramid I don't want o climb to the top
of a flight of stairs to see the view. I decide to wait, a big mistake
I find out later. I am approached by vendors trying to sell trivia and
have no place to flee. Even the greeter approaches, acting friendly,
but eventually trying to beg for money. His teeth are yellow and the
front ones are missing. I am vulnerable, and find out the hard way
that a woman alone can be harassed.
A favorite ploy of street vendors is to act helpful and then to turn
it into you owing them for a favor. They offer to take your picture
and then ask for money. Of course, this happens in other places too,
but it seems more prominent and the beggars more aggressive and more
annoying. Tipping is a well-worn custom in a country where people are
poor and live largely by wit and will. "One dollar American"
is a phrase that is known by all and heard often. Egyptians barter for
everything from clothes to food. Imagine how much time is spent just
bartering for necessities.
It is a cultural immersion that makes it hard to remember everything.
Have I been here only two days? By the end of the day it is good to
retreat into the cocoon of the hotel which caters to American
Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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