This weekend, I had a few hours to spare for a walk along the seaside in Alexandria, Egypt. This was one of those destination-free, wandering walks you do because you need a recharge – a change of scenery to help decompress after dealing all week with the challenges of a big project. I got exactly what I needed out of this and I have to share with you that a lot of it has to do with the local Egyptians.
I don’t recall ever being anywhere else with more friendly, engaging people. Being a light-skinned guy with a big, red, fluffy beard, I don’t exactly blend in; the locals recognize immediately that I’m not from around here. In some countries, that can prove to be problematic as the global media-fueled sentiment toward Americans often misrepresents the majority by constantly propagating the impressions of the minority. Pause there and I’ll share with you something that I’ve learned from traveling the world since a small boy: No matter your religion, skin color, socioeconomic status, political affiliations, or geographic ties, most people in this world only want to live in peace, with a roof over their head, some food in their belly, good health, good friends, a loving family, and some sense of security about their existence. In those things, I find it easy to share this common ground with all the many wonderful people of this world. The Egyptians seem to have a keen awareness and appreciation for this. A single smile shot in their direction and they’re happy to engage you in conversation. Nowhere else have I been asked by more strangers to sit with them to share a cup of tea or a meal. These warm souls in the sunny home of the Great Pyramids are the epitome of old-world hospitality.
Walking down the boardwalk on this lazy Friday evening, a number of the local people came up to introduce themselves to me and the guys with whom I’m working. All together, we represent the United States of America, Brasil, and Norway. These boys were eager to know where we’re from, and what we think of Egypt. This evolved into everyone taking numerous group photos – they love their selfies with the compulsory selfie-stick. As we meandered down a jetty that juts out into the Mediterranean, our entourage walked along with us. At each place we stopped, they wanted to take more group photos. This activity resulted in some older boys coming alongside to get in on the action.
Out of curiosity, I was watching the people near to our little commotion and took notice of how carefully they studied our interaction. One in particular, an older gentleman, was keen to see how we handled this friendly assault on our foreigner’s bubble. Fortunately, the men I’m traveling with are all good natured and as equally pleased to make their acquaintance with the people of the country in which they’re traveling. We had a good time with these young men and I sensed they, too, were happy about our spontaneous meeting. After our band of little brothers had dissipated, this older gentleman who had been watching us approached with purposed steps. He didn’t speak any English but his facial expressions didn’t require any words to communicate to us that we had won his approval. He then politely motioned for me to take a photo of him with my buddy, Nathan, from Texas.
The whole experience proved to be the most agreeable and pleasant distraction that I was hoping to find. More than that, we all were given a memory of each other that stands to perhaps challenge any previously held notions of what the other was like. This was Nathan’s first trip outside of the United States so I’m overjoyed that he’s had such an experience to take home with him; you can’t buy that in a gift shop. Media tries so hard to be louder than truth/reality but the unmatched affect of a single interaction between two people has the power within itself to uproot these campaigns against good will and peace.
Two men perched atop the jetty patiently wait for their reward to tug at the end of the line. This jetty seemed to be the favorite spot for this activity.
We walked back to the boardwalk and continued along its path, passing by a group of men on the beach who worked at a shop that refinishes small boats. As we passed by, they shouted a “Welcome to Egypt” followed by inquiries about where we were from. After our brief conversation, they asked me to take their picture.
A few paces further we were engaged by the “Boss”. He was a happy man who seemed to have won the hearts of his workers. All the men there had a light spirit about their work and their working together. The Boss asked me to take his picture as well. One of his employees snuck up behind him to give him some antlers. The Boss tells me that this guy is crazy as he throws an approving arm over his shoulder.
A minute or two further down the boardwalk, this guy stops us for pictures and brief conversation.
Further along the boardwalk we found a path that led down to a cafe in a small bay. Tea, coffee, and shisha (tobacco) smoked in hookas were the popular choice among its patrons. The coals used in the hookas come from a fire box such as this. When a hooka needs fresh coals, the waiter will transport them between the firebox and the table with these ornately decorated metal containers.
Quintessential Egyptian reliefs are stamped into the body of the coal vessels.
Long, dark shadows along the bay as the sun made its final appeal for daylight in Alexandria.
From there we walked to a restaurant which overlooks that bay. After having a nice meal out on the restaurant’s open patio, it was time to call it a night.
While waiting for our ride to arrive, I grabbed these last two shots of this remarkable city’s busy road along the seaside.
I sure do hope you enjoyed this evening’s post. It was a pleasure recalling this recent experience in order to share it with you. I hope, too, that it leaves with you a taste of the impressions that may be made and had when you explore this great big rock we all live on. Thank you Alexandria, Egypt for the memories of your people’s kind and inviting ways.
Peace to you and many blessings,