A Visit to Egypt January 2011: Just Before the Uprising

The ancient origins of Egypt make it easy to forget the country’s proximity to others in the modern Middle East. You can take a bus to Cairo from Tel Aviv, Israel, or Amman in Jordan. Libya and Tunisia sit on the Mediterranean west of Cairo. My wife Mary and I happened to travel to Egypt from the last week of December in 2010 to early in January 2011. Very shortly after we came home we sat watching on television as Richard Engel sympathetically reported the January 25th Uprising on Tahrir Square in Cairo: its earlier stages, the forcing of the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president, and at length the sinking of the revolution to a then indeterminate end.

We had watched the pictures of Mubarak smiling triumphantly on street signs as our bus tour of Egypt made its way around Cairo. The planners of our tour chose Tahrir (that is, Liberation) Square in downtown Cairo as the very last place we visited, not of course in anticipation of the Uprising there, but because the Square is the site of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities where we could review the wonders we had witnessed on our trip–places like the palace of Hatshepsut, a 15th-century BCE female pharaoh, and the Valley of the Kings. (The photo below is of Mary in front of Hatshepsut’s palace.)

Our trip began at a Cairo hotel that welcomed Western tourists, as you will notice below, during the Christian holiday season. From there we flew (for quiet reasons of security) to Aswan, the subject of my next post.

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