Shadows and dust

Revisiting Saqqara, one of the oldest sites in Egypt. Five thousand years since the first stone was laid here. In its heyday, it must have looked magnificent: Djoser’s stepped pyramid overseeing halls, streets, temples, apartment complexes, plazas…

…and now, Saqqara’s magnificence has gone the way of all things. On my last day in Egypt, I feel sad. But it’s a good kind of hurt. A pain that keeps you humble, knowing nothing we create can truly endure, and that to think otherwise is arrogance.

Several of the many pyramids here are barely recognisable as manmade. The vague etchings of Ti’s tomb and the odd remaining bit of pigment on stone testify that all we can ever build will eventually crumble.

All is just shadows and dust.

And on that note, I take my leave of Egypt, for now.

It’s an amazing place, Egypt, the verdancy of the Nile Valley contrasting with the hardscrabble hopes of the desert and the hardline fundamentalism of Islam with the friendliness and tolerance of its people. And Cairo is a worthy capital. Like Tokyo and Paris rolled into one with the technology drained out, architecture and infrastructure creaking and patina’d but kept functional by twenty million pairs of practical hands, hands permenantly dusted with the oil of an engine, the flaky crust of a warm pita, or the sand that laughs at our attempts to keep it back.

This city in the sand contains a million little adventures, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them, from Fahti’s little metre-square museum to a shop selling nothing but pepperpots, from the contemplative moments over a mango juice in the Excelsior coffee shop to the frentic cotton and carats of the souqs.

Even Cairo will, one day, be just shadows and dust. But until that day, it’s a little bit *my* city too.

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