Sunday, 15 February 2009

Egypt From Above - an unlikely perspective (Mands)

This was indeed an unlikely perspective. I had never intended to find myself in a plane again on this Trip, but last weekend I received news that my Dad was unwell, so of course - being in the extremely fortuitous position of northernmost country to Europe - I jumped on a plane to England for a weekend with my parents.
So there I was, seeing Egypt from Above. We had joyfully been reunited with the cars the previous day, so the Team had set out in our old faithfuls six hours previously from Aswan. In a uniquely Mands-type calculation, based entirely on guesstimation, I fancied I might even be able to spot Jangano below me, roughly half an hour into the flight around Luxor. Afterall, there is only one road that follows the Nile from one end of the country up to the other. How fanciful! How naive!
Of course, the plane was flying far too high for me to spot anything so small as our two cars, but I had been classically deceived - my mind had interpreted the optical illusion below me as being much closer than it was. I sat transfixed by the window, looking upon the baked mud-pie below, broken up by centuries of weathering, marking the desert with cracks and crevasses. Hang on a minute! I'm falling for the trick again - these 'cracks' in the parched land are actually huge deep valleys. Everything is on such a massive scale down there - a perspective we simply don't see from the car's 2D angle. Egypt from Above is so much more of a dry, dusty desert than I had imagined.
Except where the majestic Nile wends its magical way, of course. And it truly is magical, for in the midst of this endless cracked land, there is an extraordinary lush green band searing through it. Nothing exists beyond the emerald green margins bordering either side of the River Nile. I am in awe. In fact, I am in a daydream. Hypnotized by the nilotic snake slithering through the country below, I imagine how the others are doing in the cars, driving this route oblivious of the 3D enormity of Egypt.
I am stirred suddenly by recognizable landmarks that appear: a factory of sorts, albeit in the middle of nowhere. I look to the hazy horizon and see the beginnings of civilisation. Isolated patches, surrounded by sandy desert. A couple of roads, but not a single tree yet to be seen. I've lost sight of the Nile. Maybe it's on the other side? Another stretch of Nothingness: just flat and featureless. Oh! Now it's cut in two by a 6-lane highway, out of nowhere! I am instantly excited, as the thought of possibly sighting the famous pyramids at Giza leaps into my consciousness.
The plane descends, coming round. I still don't see the sprawling mess of Cairo - instead, there is more desert. How bizarre?! I think I hear the undercarriage activated; are we going to land in the middle of the desert? We turn again - I am now disorientated. As we approach the airport, details of Egyptian life below reveal themselves to me. I see flat-topped roofs, construction sites, mosques with their minarets, squalid blocks of flats, roads jam-packed with stand-still cars. Welcome to Cairo!
We land and everyone claps. I join in, not because I feel relieved to be on solid ground, but because I am grateful for the stunning show I've just watched of Egypt from Above.

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