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Columnist, Sheila 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, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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The Pyramids....

The Pyramids

We 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 garbage piles.

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 preferences. 

Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss

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