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Mosque of Ibn Tulun, 2021

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It’s nearly impossible for me to write here. The streets beckon, and I’m a street rat, for sure.

Right this moment, I could be in that bitsy Bab Al Louq café, having my first cup while watching people and traffic swarm by, or I could be on the subway, heading to Al Azbakiyyah, with its thousands of street stands flogging everything. Many have a tiny, tinny speaker looping the same pitch. Layered, they become a minimalist symphony of mutually cancelled come-ons.

Yesterday morning, I poked around Bab El-Wazir, with its centuries-old mosques all magnificent yet decaying. Passing that of Ibn Tulun, completed in 879 thus the oldest in Africa, I marveled at its Tower of Babel-like minaret, but I’m not really drawn to great sights. Small surprises hold me, and there is an infinity of them, for people are so delightfully fresh. At best, we’re here to amuse each other.

Entering a highway entrance ramp, a bus had to slow, thus allowing a middle-aged man to jump off, which he performed athletically. Out, he started to curse, his fist waving, at the disappearing vehicle. With it gone, he turned to an unrelated bus to continue his invectives, his middle finger wagging.

For ladies, old folks, cripples and perhaps foreigners, Cairene buses do come to a full stop. Wearing old brown shoes on his hands, a young man with lame legs dove off a bus and scuttled away, his face a foot off the ground.

In an alley, I puzzled over the statue of a white woman in a turquoise colored gown, her shoulders bare, her hair flowing. Egyptians chicks don’t flounce around like that.

Just like in Vietnam, people watching is a pastime, so many cafe patrons face the street. Unlike in Vietnam, many coffee houses keep their lights off during the day, so in the semi dark, men can more easily contemplate, brood or just space out, in silence or with music barely audible. Besides car horns, noise pollution is a serious problem, though many young tuk-tuk drivers do boom mahraganat beats as they drive by.

Twice I’ve been to Giza, and having walked for several hours through it each day, I can vouch there are no pyramids or Sphinxes there, only ragged sheep, stray dogs and cats, grim tenements with exposed bricks, lots of garbage in the middle of streets, invigorating markets, warm, smiling people, welcoming cafes and a Gannt El Moslem Nursery where your lucky toddler can learn since, math, English, Duetsh or Frech. It is sic, sic and sic.

All those who claim to have seen pyramids or a Sphinx in Giza are likely to believe in UFO, Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and other nonsense. Else, they were presented with holograms or even cardboard facsimiles. Had they merely stepped to the side, they could clearly see their precious “pyramids” were laughably two-dimensional. Don’t waste your time arguing with such clowns!

Remember those ancient days when you had to unfold an unwieldy map in the middle of a strange city to figure out where you were, thus looking even more out-of-place? With Google Maps on smartphones, even the dumbest ditz knows exactly where she is now, at all time. Here in Cairo, I have neither map, working phone nor guidebook, for it’s bracing to be lost. Exposed, I plow. The sun gives me directions, and I generally know where the Nile is. Back in my hotel room, I consult Google Maps.

With the Covid situation dragging on, I’m on an open-ended trip, so it’s best to be frugal. My seventh-floor room costs $23 a night, and my hotel is only thirty seconds walking from Tahrir Square. The bedsheet is too small to be tucked under the mattress. The square shower head sprays water sideways onto the bathroom floor. The elevator door doesn’t close, but if you’re dumb enough to stick hour hand or head out when it’s moving, you’re clearly hankering for heaven.

With business slow, they’ve given me a room with three beds. The last time this happened was in Zgorzelec, Poland. That hotel was so cheap, I started to wonder if I had booked a shared room by mistake. I went to sleep half expecting strangers to barge in at any moment.

In Cairo, I have a balcony to dry my laundry and even a midget fridge, which I’ve unplugged, for it’s a tad too noisy. On the back of the building, I face grimy walls with louvered windows, and covered walkways littered with broken furniture, plastic laundry baskets and half dead potted plants. With so much car exhaust plus dust from some nearby desert, Cairene air is always hazy.

Across the street, there’s a closet sized-store that sells a large bottle of water or a small cup of Turkish coffee for only 32 cents. Half a block away is an overpriced McDonald’s, so I generally pig out on koftas, kebabs and chicken panne at Gad, a short stroll east. Yesterday, its music was Koranic verses broadcast over the radio. Muslim or Christian, Egyptians are intensely religious.

Like Vietnamese, Egyptians also eat pigeons, so I tried it at Gad. Stuffed with rice, it was tasty enough, its dark meat rich and firm. Since a pigeon is no turkey, there’s barely enough protein for a cat, however. Still, they’re easy to raise, even in cities, so that’s something to keep in mind as your income tanks further.

Despite lax entry requirements, there are almost no tourists here, for nearly everyone is economically squeezed, if not kneecapped, with much foreboding. Who knows what’s next?

In twelve days of roaming, I’ve encountered only a dozen whites and five Orientals. All over, I’ve been greeted with “welcome” by regular Egyptians, with some shouting “Ni hao!” thinking I’m Chinese. Turning a corner, I ran into an older man who suddenly clasped his hands together and bowed, kung fu movie style, while mumbling something in Arabic.

In a dirt-poor alley, with horseshit in the middle of the road, I bought two small sandwiches, plus a cup of tea. One was stuffed with hand-dipped potato chips, the other with stewed eggplant. Kids played near me. Noticing the stranger sitting alone, a one-eyed fellow motioned for me to join him and four or five other men. With no common language, we just grinned and nodded. On a weathered wooden bench, we basked in the warm winter sun.

Later, the one-eyed fellow showed me a short cut, through a barren and dusty Muslim cemetery, back to the main street. If this was a Paul Bowles story, I would have been attacked by dogs, kicked by men, have my tongue cut out then made to dance. Hijabed women rested on graves. Seeing unlikely me, they smiled. Almost within sight were the ruins of a Roman fortress. The Babylonian one is gone.

I have a fondness for chaotic, messy cities, as long as they don’t smell too bad, and it’s a plus if they also have rich layers of history. Mexico City, Naples and Istanbul are favorites, of course, and now, Cairo.

ORDER IT NOW

Spanning so many centuries and civilizations, its architectural heritage is unmatched. From Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Ottoman, Coptic, Neo-Classical, Empire, Art Nouveau, Art Deco to Beaux Art and so on, there are so many stupendous buildings here, though most are in atrocious shape, sadly. There are also plenty of hideous structures, most notably the barebone housing projects thrown up during the socialist years, but something had to be done. Egypt’s population was exploding.

It still is. Through all the political disasters, military defeats and social crises, Cairo and Egypt endure, and not just in body and mind, but soul. They’re unapologetically themselves. In nearly all countries, the national dress has been mostly replaced by Americanized fashion, and though there are plenty of hoodies, T-shirts and jeans here also, the gallabiyah is still common.

Americans lead the world in having fake boobs and tummy tucks, South Koreans in modifying eyelids, Brazilians in pumping up their asses, but plastic surgery is not common in Egypt, nor in most Muslim countries, for an obvious reason. Their female bodies, and often even faces, are not on display.

Along with the intermingling of architectural styles, there’s also a coexistence of epochs, with donkey wagons sharing streets with SUVs, and wet markets that seems timeless, though selling also soft drinks and made-in-China plastic toys. Turbaned and cloaked Bedouins ride subways. Daily reminders of the medieval and even ancient are proofs that one’s culture isn’t just a succession of hyped ephemera.

Though not extensive, the Cairo Metro is clean, safe, frequent timely and super cheap, with most rides costing just 32 cents. On my first trip, I saw all these men exiting the station by climbing over turnstiles. Assuming they were broken, I did the same, only to be told by an attendant, in surprisingly clear English, “Hey, what are you doing?!”

“I thought it was broken. I saw everybody else doing it.”

“They’re Egyptians. Are you Egyptian?”

“No. I thought it was broken. I wasn’t trying to cheat.” I handed him my ticket. We both laughed.

Later, I would sometimes notice people climbing over the turnstile, in full view of station attendants, to get to the platform, so it’s allowed, depending on which station and whom you know. Like corruption, bribing, jaywalking or sometimes driving your car or horse wagon the wrong way, Egyptian laws are often bent, but there are certain lines you don’t cross, if you know what I mean. After all, Nasser was a model for the post-Colonial, Third World strong man.

With admirable resilience, Egyptians cope with whatever. At a café, I met a local who summed it up well, “We have a hundred problems, a thousand problems, but we live. Americans, they’re alone,” he points to a corner, “but we have family and neighbors, so we help each other. Maybe there’s a protest or riot at Tahrir Square, but at Talaat Harb Square [half a kilometer away], there’s a wedding, and by the Egyptian Museum, there’s a construction crew. During the civil war in Lebanon, Egyptians still went there to find work. Umm, what’s the word, fireline?”

“Frontline?”

“Yes, frontline. If the frontline is over there, we work over here.”

Even when badly housed and fed, they survive, and have done so for longer than just about anybody else. For vast stretches, they’ve also achieved greatness. Though the evidence may be grimy, corroded, blackened or crumbling, it’s more than stupendous enough to awe. In that sense, they’re champs.

With ordinary life still masked, quarantined, sanctioned and canceled in much of the world, I’m blessed to be in this magnificently alive city. Into its river, I swim.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Egypt 
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  1. “They’re Egyptians. Are you Egyptian?”

    So “When in Egypt do as the Egyptians do” doesn’t apply.

    And sure if you tell taxi drivers to take you to Giza you won’t see the pyramids – you have to tell them to take you to “Haram”.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  2. Wyatt says:

    We have a hundred problems, a thousand problems, but we live. Americans, they’re alone

    I’m always surprised when Middle Easterners who live in bombing distance of Israel don’t understand why America has the problems that it does.

    • Replies: @J. Alfred Powell
  3. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Commentator Mike

    Mike, you know full well the only haram out there is the cyclopic, anal sepsis one on the tush side of the dollar bill!

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  4. I guess the Covid religion is pretty low key in Egypt or Linh would’ve mentioned more about it.

    • Replies: @lloyd
    , @Kevin Barrett
  5. lloyd says: • Website
    @Joe Paluka

    Outside South Africa, Africa rarely figures in news of Civid. The figures of cases I have seen are proportionally minuscule. The exact opposite of all other epidemics. No social distancing apparent in Cairo which seems to be the only affective way of reducing spread. Curious, whereever one assumes 5 G is non existent or minimal, Covid-19 same.

    • Agree: Polemos
    • Replies: @Tom Welsh
  6. Franz says:

    Despite lax entry requirements, there are almost no tourists here, for nearly everyone is economically squeezed, if not kneecapped, with much foreboding.

    Sounds like Ohio since Big Steel moved out.

    But Egyptians got on with their lives, lucky them. Americans invest so much in their work they forgot the rest.

  7. Another delightful diary entry from Linh on his journey of world discovery that he so generously shares with us. Again, our collective thanks are in order.

    However, having closely followed Linh’s lovely and voluminous photographic meanderings on his website since his recent entry into Cairo, and having (unfortunately) also seen therein the omnipresent ugly-ass mug of the crypto-jewish traitor, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, over and over, smeared everywhere and on everything, like a horribly invasive fecal-based fungus, I was hoping that Linh might make light of, or comment derisively on same.

    And then I remembered that Linh is smart, that discretion is the better part of valor, and that he would probably like to leave Cairo in one piece, the same as when he arrived…….

    • Agree: Old and Grumpy
    • Replies: @Polemos
  8. Cairo feels eternal. It’s one of those cities that witnessed the birth of civilisation and will still be there when all the lights go out. One of my favourite places.

    The pyramids depressed me. My atheistic eyes didn’t see a wonder, but merely a wasteful folly. I thought of all the otherwise productive enterprise that was wasted when it could have been employed to build a more productive civilisation. Though I suppose the afterlife is at the front of one’s mind when earthly life is short and hard.

    • Agree: Mustapha Mond
    • Replies: @Alfred
  9. @Wyatt

    “Selfishness is planted in every bosom, and prepares us for the Slavery which it introduces.” Coleridge on London 1795.

    • Replies: @noname27
  10. Gannt El Moslem Nursery where your lucky toddler can learn since, math, English, Duetsh or Frech

    The average IQ in Egypt is 81. Our hardly impressive African-American friends boast a figure of 85.

    • Replies: @Peter Akuleyev
  11. It’s one of those cities that witnessed the birth of civilisation

    Except it didn’t. The city of Cairo is barely a thousand years old. It was founded by Arab conquerors. It’s centrality to modern Egypt is in many ways a symbol of the subjugation of native Egypt by Islam, but few Egyptians look at things that way these days.

    • Replies: @Sirius
    , @Marshal Marlow
  12. @Ray Caruso

    The elite class of Egypt is often very impressive on the other hand. Not surprising since the elites are presumably composed mostly of the descendants of the many intelligent ambitious conquerors who have arrived in Egypt over the centuries. The fellahin on the other hand have been working the fields for millennia and aren’t getting much brighter.

  13. Jim Smith says:

    Wonderful essay. Linh is getting better, bringing us with him: “With ordinary life still masked, quarantined, sanctioned and canceled in much of the world, I’m blessed to be in this magnificently alive city. Into its river, I swim.” It is almost to be thankful that he was cancelled by the usual scum in America, for now we are gifted with these superb, poetic, peripatetic musings. Thank you Linh.

    • Agree: Mustapha Mond, Alfred
  14. @Joe Paluka

    Islamic countries already have a functioning, viable religion. COVIDism is for COVFIRs.

    • LOL: AnonStarter
  15. Polemos says:
    @Mustapha Mond

    Right on. I think it is fun and educational to see how the photos do match but tell different (not opposing, but supplementary) stories from the text; Linh is a hypertextual journalist and it works in this medium. Subtext occurs in the audience as a function of their imaginative selves, and increasing the modes of representation increases factorially the amount of data arrays a brain can process for the mind. (Brains are a bottleneck {or cipher}, too)

    It helps to tell a multi-layered story if you are guided by the Storyteller and found your role in the Telling. . . . —If one is, guided. I mean, sorry. I’m just saying Linh’s a great story teller, and truth is perspectival for us.

    • Agree: Mustapha Mond
  16. Sirius says:

    Indeed, another great entry in Linh’s travel log. I just wish you could have done the same for Damascus!

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  17. Sirius says:
    @Peter Akuleyev

    Technically speaking, you’re right, but Cairo (Al-Qahirah) is on or near the site of Memphis and other ancient sites (like Giza) which were there since the birth of civilization.

    I don’t see why you refer to a subjugation by Islam. Cairo had some of its best years as an Islamic capital. Would you say Paris or London or any other European capital were all subjugated by Christianity?

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  18. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Sirius

    Hi Sirius,

    I looked into going to Syria, but no independent travelers are allowed in right now. I also tried hard to get a visa for Iran, including going to its embassy in Beirut twice, and getting Tehran acquaintances to pull some strings for me, but in the end, no luck.

    I just met a Syrian here. As a soldier in Lebanon, he was shot in the upper chest, near his right shoulder. He also has shrapnel scars on his legs. “The Israeli had F-16s. They tested them on us,” he drily said.

    He knows Lebanon better than Syria. “As a soldier, they move you around.” In 1985, he emigrated to Egypt.

    Linh

    • Thanks: Sirius
  19. HalconHigh says: • Website

    While the Keystone Cops were escorting the Brown Shirts thru the U.S. Capitol building the other day, Linh was taking pics of cats in a Cairo garbage dump.

    LOL

    Bartender….Another Vodka-Pineapple, please.

  20. Mr Din, I can’t imagine an educated European having such a low opinion of pyramids, that being in Cairo you wouldn’t even try to visit them.
    Weren’t you told in school that they are the one last, one remaining of the ancient 7 wonders of the world?
    The fact that the current Cairo, cacophonous as it its, did not manage to integrate pyramids (except economically) only confirms it (unless the said Cairo is one of the seven wonders in its own right).

    I also took notice that you have this Asian thing for noise. I remember having lived with Asians in a student house in Amsterdam and listening complaints how sleepy and quiet Amsterdam is in comparison to the never sleeping Asian cities. To be fair, Latinos like noise too.

    The mystery (not necessarily of ‘Tales of 1001 nights’ kind) is lacking in your description of Cairo.

  21. @Sirius

    I don’t see why you refer to a subjugation by Islam.

    You are being thoroughly dishonest or ignorant.
    The Coptic Language, the lineal descendent of Ancient Egyptian, was still widely spoken until the Arab Conquest. The liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the main Egyptian Christian Church, is still Coptic.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_Orthodox_Church_of_Alexandria

    After the conquest, the Arab Muslims persecuted the Copts and introduced new settlers from Arabia. Still in the 21st Century about 12% or more of the Egyptian population are Christian. The indigenous Christian population of Egypt have been subjugated by Islamic invaders with absolutely horrible results for them and their culture.

    In Western Europe, Christianity converted, it did not subjugate. No armies were involved. It converted the already Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. It did not change them from Welsh to English-speaking. Likewise, the missions to the Franks were to Germanic and Romance-speaking peoples. These peoples continued and continue to use these languages to this day.

    • Agree: Peter Akuleyev, Alfred
    • Replies: @tgordon
    , @Colin Wright
    , @Sirius
  22. tgordon says:
    @Verymuchalive

    On par with the Islamic suppression of Egypt, Christian Crusaders from western Europe invaded, conquered, forcefully converted, and suppressed the formerly pagan tribes of Prussia and the Baltic “under duress” (according to Wikepedia).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_Crusade

  23. TheBoom says:

    Great post. Now Linh quit being so lazy and post more. You are a great travel writer and in one of the most famous cities in the world so get some of that coffee from the nearby Cafe and start cranking these babies out at least once per week

  24. @Peter Akuleyev

    As I was typing I knew that I was begging for someone to reply with a “Well, actually…”. 😉

    • LOL: Peter Akuleyev
  25. @Peter Akuleyev

    ‘The elite class of Egypt is often very impressive on the other hand. Not surprising since the elites are presumably composed mostly of the descendants of the many intelligent ambitious conquerors who have arrived in Egypt over the centuries. The fellahin on the other hand have been working the fields for millennia and aren’t getting much brighter.’

    Well, the fellahin did get up on their hind legs a couple of years back — but the Jews of Israel made sure they got pushed back down again.

    Interestingly, something similar is going on here at the moment.

    People are going to have to decide which side they really are on. Bullshit just won’t cut it any longer.

  26. @tgordon

    ‘On par with the Islamic suppression of Egypt, Christian Crusaders from western Europe invaded, conquered, forcefully converted, and suppressed the formerly pagan tribes of Prussia and the Baltic “under duress” (according to Wikepedia).’

    Not really. There are still Egyptian Christians. There are no more pagan Prussians. In fact, none of the old Balt Prussians are left at all. Their culture wasn’t merely suppressed. It was obliterated.

    • Agree: Sirius
    • Replies: @Dumbo
  27. @Verymuchalive

    ‘In Western Europe, Christianity converted, it did not subjugate. No armies were involved…’

    ! Your ignorance is grotesque. Start with Charlemagne and the Saxons. Continue on from that point.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    , @Sirius
    , @Talha
  28. Sirius says:
    @Verymuchalive

    Before you start throwing around words like “dishonest” or “ignorant”, you better look in the mirror and get your facts straight and engage in some critical thinking, not some ideology of my way is right and everything else is wrong. This idea that Christians are always the good guys and Muslims are always the bad guys which you imply in your post is absurd. There is no black and white in history nor in life itself.

    Furthermore, in the context of the eastern Mediterranean/West Asia area (I do not favor the term Middle East) anyone who tries to separate Muslims from Christians or either group from itself and promotes infighting is, either directly or indirectly, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting the Zionist agenda. Nothing serves Zionism better than having everyone doing the killing for them, while they can sit back and enjoy the show or fan the flames.

    Muslims and Christians were quite united in Egypt during the last decade of tumult in Egypt, very often protecting each other, and hopefully will remain that way. Likewise, Hizbullah soldiers have protected Christians in Lebanon.

    Now, to your assertions.

    First, the word subjugate needs to be defined. Subjugate means to 1. completely control or 2. to conquer. I used definition #1 in my earlier post.

    Did Arab Muslims conquer Egypt? Certainly. Did they completely control? Most certainly not. Your own citation from the Wikipedia states that it took nearly 500 years after the Arab conquest for Egypt to become predominantly Muslim:

    Despite the political upheaval, the Egyptian population remained mainly Christian. However, gradual conversions to Islam over the centuries had changed Egypt from a Christian to a largely Muslim country by the end of the 12th century.

    That doesn’t sound like complete control to me. No immediate mass conversions, as often happened in Europe. People were by and large left to choose. Though taxation was higher on Christians, it was mild treatment for the standards of the times and Christians had no duty to serve in the army. A secular army was not much of a concept in those days.

    By comparison, in Europe at that time people were losing their heads just for “heretical” Christian teachings. Did you ever wonder why nearly everyone was Catholic in Italy? Not 12% something else, as Egypt is today still 12% Coptic Christian.

    How about the conquest? Again, from your Wikipedia citation, Amr ibn al-As, the Muslim commander was quite rough during the war, however:

    Amr “took none of the property of the Churches, and he committed no act of spoilation or plunder, and he preserved them throughout all his days.”[26]

    The reference uses a quote from the “Chronicle of John”, an eyewitness to the event. So, according to John of Nikiu, while plunder took place (pretty standard at the time and indeed even now arguably), the Coptic Church was respected. That was unheard of at the time (the 7th century). Even the Christian Crusaders plundered Orthodox churches five centuries later when they sacked Constantinople, a sack “unparalleled in history” according to historian of the Crusades Steven Runciman.

    Now, as to your assertions about Europe:

    In Western Europe, Christianity converted, it did not subjugate. No armies were involved. It converted the already Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. It did not change them from Welsh to English-speaking.

    Are you kidding? Who is being “thoroughly dishonest or ignorant” here? I can’t go into every time Christianity was forced upon the local populations. It would fill volumes. Oftentimes when the king accepted Catholicism, that was it, everyone had to be Catholic. Have you ever read a history of the Catholic Church? Did you ever hear of Inquisitions?

    And by the way, it’s not really a main part of the argument in my view, but you raised it and weakened your own case. How many Welsh people still speak Welsh today? I’ll take it further. How many Scots still speak Scots Gaelic? Or how many Irish still speak Irish, even after 100 years of independence from English rule? Regrettable, in my view, but it’s true.

    Now while to me it also regrettable that languages in the eastern Mediterranean like Aramaic (in natural Syria) or Coptic Egyptian have been greatly diminished, it has to be admitted that Arabic did not replace them overnight. It took many centuries in a very gradual process.

    It’s not different with the spread of English, Spanish or French. In fact, one could argue those languages were spread far more quickly, with much greater compulsion and much more recently. Oftentimes Christianity was part of the package.

    One last point: nothing has harmed eastern Mediterranean/West Asian Christianity in our current century more than the Zionist/American/Saudi invasions/interventions in Syria and Iraq, not to mention the eventual planned disappearance of Christianity in Palestine under Zionist rule. You want to save or defend Christians, try focusing on that!

  29. If you don’t mind it, look for fresh fried falafel, or fried eggplant, tomato and/or potato slices served with flatbread. Also, this might be hit or miss, but try to get a hold of some koshari (no relation) — a blend of lentils, noodles, and rice, with seasoned (sometimes spicy) tomato sauce and garlic.

    Don’t miss the fresh squeezed mango juice or sugar cane juice either. All fairly cheap, but good eatin’.

    (As a snack, shelled and salted sunflower seeds are dirt cheap.)

    • Replies: @Talha
  30. @Colin Wright

    Whilst forcible conversion to Christianity did happen, its contribution was small compared to peaceful conversion. Iceland, for example, was converted entirely peacefully to Christianity in the 11th Century.

    Lithuania was the last European state to be officially converted in 1387.
    Ethnic Lithuanian nobles were the main converts to Catholicism, but paganism remained strong among the peasantry. Pagan customs prevailed for a long time among the common people of Lithuania and were covertly practiced. There had been no prosecution of priests and adherents of the old faith. However, by the 17th century, following the Counter-Reformation (1545-1648), the Roman Catholic faith had essentially taken precedence over earlier pagan beliefs.

    Please note that there was no persecution of pagan priests and adherents. Forcible conversion was the exception not the rule. You really need to expand your horizons beyond Charlemagne and start reading more widely.

    Also, you miss my point about culture. The Church in the West worked within the culture of the peoples whom it converted. It didn’t impose Latin or a Latin-based language on them. It didn’t alter or deform the social system. Likewise, the Orthodox Church in the East. They even created a new liturgy based on Old Slavonic in order to convert the Slavs.

  31. @tgordon

    As said in #32, forcible conversion to Christianity was the exception not the rule. The Crusaders you refer to were The German Knights of the Hospital of St Mary of Jerusalem, AKA The Teutonic Knights. As there name suggests, their motives were more about promoting German interests rather than Christianity.

  32. Sirius says:
    @Colin Wright

    You’re much better at making concise responses than I am!

    • Thanks: Colin Wright
  33. Alfred says:
    @Marshal Marlow

    The pyramids depressed me. My atheistic eyes didn’t see a wonder, but merely a wasteful folly. I thought of all the otherwise productive enterprise that was wasted when it could have been employed to build a more productive civilisation

    You have been brought up on false narratives about the pyramids. The workers on the pyramids did it during the annual flooding of the Nile – when they could not work on their fields/gardens. It was a part of their religion. They had an economic surplus and they did not use it to attack their neighbours.

    Recently, at the south-easterly extremity of Egypt by the Red Sea, papyri were discovered that included letters from workers on the pyramids that explained their finances, their work, their rations and the fact that they were on vacation. These date from 4,500 years ago.

    Egypt’s Oldest Papyri Detail Great Pyramid Construction

  34. Alfred says:
    @Peter Akuleyev

    the elites are presumably composed mostly of the descendants of the many intelligent ambitious conquerors who have arrived in Egypt over the centuries

    Nonsense. My Egyptian Coptic great grandfather was a descendant of village leaders in Upper Egypt – near Souhag. My grandfather and his identical twin brother were sent to Cairo to study. They persuaded their father to move his construction business to Cairo. He became the biggest contractor in Egypt at that time. Here are some of the works he built:

    1- The train line from Cairo to Aswan – including all the bridges. It is 682km (424 miles). All his workers were from his region. The engineers were British.

    2- The 3rd and last stage of the old Aswan dam. He brought in Italian workers to make the stone facing. He provided them with a pasta factory.

    3- A multitude of dams and barrages that are still in use today.

    Here is a photo of the dam.

    The real problem is Socialism. The military clique that grabbed power in Egypt subsidised food, electricity, water, medicine and so on. This encouraged the poor and unintelligent people to multiply. After a few generations of Socialism, you get people with a much lower IQ and eventually collapse.

    Of course, the same process is in operation in much of Europe and the USA. The English of today are a heck of a lot less intelligent than those who created the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

    Like many others who don’t know anything about farming, you assume that it is a piece of cake. Soon enough you may have to try to grow your own food. 🙂

    • Thanks: Colin Wright, Linh Dinh, Talha, RSDB
    • Replies: @Peter Akuleyev
  35. Alfred says:

    I was born in Cairo in 1950. Egypt nominally had a king, but the British and Jews controlled almost everything. The British delegated much of the hassle to the Copts. The Copts are Christian and direct descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. The children of anyone who marries a Muslim can only be Muslim. As a result, almost all Muslims in Egypt are 90% of Egyptian descent.

    The Egyptian pound was more valuable than the pound Sterling. The pound Sterling was worth $2.80. Today, the Sterling is worth 21 Egyptian pounds. Of course, the pound of today is worth 3% of what it was worth in 1950.

    Egypt profited enormously from WW2. The British were obliged to allow people like my grandfather to build and operate factories. He made a mint supplying the British Army with camouflage paint. They even bought white paint from him to pass on to the Soviets so that they could hide their roads from German planes. He had a near monopoly as imports from the UK were cut.

    Instead of buying a big chunk of London or Paris for a song, he built a monstrosity of a building. It had a ballroom, a roof garden with two bars for guests, internal elevators, huge tanks underground for storing kerosene and fuel. He tried building a nuclear shelter, it collapsed with the death of 3 workers. Underground parking for 10 cars etc.

    I was the first child born into this building. It was designed and built by him to house his 3 sons and daughter plus all their future kids. It did not quite work out that way. He moved to Switzerland with his new young Swiss wife, his English wife went back to London. The sons dispersed to Canada and elsewhere. The government stole the factory, mine, agricultural land and house. Socialism.

    Here is a Google Map view of the triangular plot on which this building lies. The government squatted in the building. It was the HQ of their Ministry of Social Security. What irony! All efforts to dislodge them have failed. That is why the centre of Cairo is decrepit. Tenants pay peanuts in rent. Landlords have not maintained their properties for 50 years.

    https://tinyurl.com/HomeCairo

    Here is a photo of Heliopolis in 1950 – a shopping arcade. My home was also in Heliopolis. Cairo was a delightful city. The Heliopolis Sporting Club was 5 minutes away by foot – it used to be called the English Sporting Club. My mother could get membership because she was Irish. Egyptians could not. 🙂

    • Replies: @GMC
  36. Not a noise, but the sound of the mystery:

    • Replies: @Alfred
  37. Biff says:

    I remember there was a time when Cairo was seen as a slum ridden trashed out dump, but now compared to many American inner cities it is quite attractive on several levels. Funny how things go full circle.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  38. @Biff

    ‘I remember there was a time when Cairo was seen as a slum ridden trashed out dump, but now compared to many American inner cities it is quite attractive on several levels. Funny how things go full circle.’

    I assume Cairenes manage to refrain from shitting in the streets.

    • Replies: @Biff
  39. Biff says:
    @Colin Wright

    I assume Cairenes manage to refrain from shitting in the streets.

    Probably not, but has San Francisco surpassed its levels?

  40. Alfred says:
    @Another Polish Perspective

    When I was around 10 (1960), we had a school trip to the pyramids. I went to an Arabic private school – most wealthy Egyptians sent their kids to the Lycée Français (popular with girls), the American school or the German Gymnasium.

    The entrance to the big pyramid was closed for some reason. We had our picnic lunches in the desert outside – there were no buildings anywhere nearby at that time.

    A couple of my friends and I went to the porter guarding the entrance to the pyramid. We gave him a few coins and he was happy to let us into the structure. Egyptians are quite reasonable people. 🙂

    We had the Great Pyramid to ourselves!

    As there were no visitors, the neon lighting was mostly turned off. We wandered all over it. Our curiosity overcame our terror. There was scaffolding with wooden planks traversing deep fissures in the passages. I think they were originally traps for looters. When we came out into the sunlight, we were very pleased of our escapade and told the other kids.

    Another time, the second son of Gamal Abdel Nasser was in my class. A real arsehole. He passed away a few years ago. Once, we had a sports day. We went to a large military stadium not far from the school to do synchronised routines – a bit like the ones the Asians are so fond of. Kids in sports uniforms with hula hoops – that kind of thing. My grandfather came to see me performing with hundreds of other kids. Nasser greeted my grandfather. He invited my grandfather to join him in the presidential box.

    The next day, on the front page of the main newspaper (Al-Ahram) was a small article about the son of Nasser having performed with his school. By some amazing error, they put my picture there instead of the photo of this clown. But I had blond hair!

    I still have the cutting with my photo. It is in storage in Australia so I cannot put it up here. 🤣

    • Thanks: Talha
  41. Sirius says:
    @Alfred

    It sounds like you’ve had quite a colorful life.

    About the son, it seems that sons of powerful or wealthy men often turn out that way. I’m guessing you meant he was arrogant. A probable exception was Stalin’s son who seems to have gotten the short end of the stick when the Germans captured him.

    Thanks for sharing these stories. I’m kind of curious what your views on the big man himself were. It was his government that did most of the “nationalizing” of industries and companies. He remains a very controversial figure in the region to this day.

  42. @Alfred

    Great memories, you must be happy to lit your old days with them.
    I see you have some sentiment to the British…. I guess your parental family is of Coptic origin ?

    I remember reading rather crazy stories of some Albert Cossery, another Copt of Cairo.
    The stories convey the sense of dreamy world, like a haze, when nothing like a real life happens, only absurd outcomes, like the story of your grandfather’s building. It is a colourful world, and a cozy one, but you are stuck in. I remember that in contradiction to usual tropes, here you were stuck but kinda liked it, I mean there was no sense of tragedy like so often in stories who are set in Europe or America. In other words, Albert Cossery is the very opposite of Henry James.

    In Europe, I once talked with some Egyptian graduates of the American University of Cairo, and when I asked them about politics, they all answered in similar way: all the same, all the same (and that was the time of the Tahrir square protests). I heard the sense of certain hopelessness, of things immovable whatever happens but also kind of lack of interest in improving the lot of the people.

  43. SOL says:

    How prominent are Coptic Christians in the life of Cairo?

  44. Talha says:
    @Colin Wright

    This is a concise article on the subject from a Christian source:
    “ This issue, more than any other we’ve published, raises the awkward matter of forced conversions—”Be Christian or die.” There’s no sense in pretending this was an exceptional missionary tactic; for many centuries, it was the method of choice among Christian rulers and missionaries. The conversion of much of Europe and of Latin America is unimaginable without the sword…. But by the 1300s, no one objects anymore. The chronicles of the Viking kings, for example, laud them for using the sword to convert pagans.”
    https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/interview-converting-by-the-sword

    Peace.

  45. Talha says:
    @AnonStarter

    Oh man, the sugar cane juice or as I call it, “the mean green”. Looks gross, tastes great!!!

    Wa salaam.

  46. Talha says:

    Thanks for the memories, Mr. Dinh. Reminds me of the time I explored the old city of Cairo with a friend from UCLA. It was over 15 years ago but it was great! Handing over a few piastres to a guard here or there could get us access to some serious old buildings. I remember climbing up one of those winding minarets of a very old mosque and looking over the Cairo skyline from that height, absolutely beautiful! Food was fantastic and very affordable back then, never tried the pigeon though, but where I was staying overlooked a guy who was raising pigeons for food.

    Lots of old mosques and graves of awliyah to visit too. Imam Shadhili (ra) is buried many hours from Cairo, but the great Sufi saint, Shaykh Ibn Ata Illah (ra) is in Cairo proper.

    Thanks again!

    Peace.

  47. HalconHigh says: • Website

    Linh

    Chris Hedges just did a great interview on The Jimmy Dore Show.

    Hope you get to see it.

    Remember when I saw you on “On Contact”. Couldn’t believe it because I had been following both of you for years.

    Anyways, until your next article.

    Bill

  48. GMC says:
    @Alfred

    Alfred, You are as much of a surprise as – Linh is — keep writing and informing us of your adventures. Spacibo

  49. Dumbo says:
    @Colin Wright

    Not really. There are still Egyptian Christians. There are no more pagan Prussians. In fact, none of the old Balt Prussians are left at all. Their culture wasn’t merely suppressed. It was obliterated.

    There is not even Prussia anymore. There was no “obliteration”, people simply stopped believing in the ancient pagan Gods, and believing in an alternative, just as they now are stopping believing in Christianity (and believing in Social Justice and The Science).

    The idea that Europeans would still today be worshipping pagan gods and building temples to Odin were it not for Christianity is quite risible.

    As for Islam, it’s an even more alien religion to Europeans, it’s ugly and stupid, so I don’t see why so many pagan-worshippers like Islam. I guess it’s because of sharia for women. Many of these guys really hate women, like Andrew Anglin.

  50. @Alfred

    You said yourself you are descended from Copt village leaders. Would you really consider your ancestors fellahin? Probably more like kulaks.

    It takes a lot of intelligence and resourcefulness to be a successful farmer, when you own the land. But serfs, slaves and tenant farmers tend to breed for strength, endurance and docility, not intelligence.

    The people who created the agricultural and industrial revolutions were landed gentry for the most part, not the sheep farmers. America was successful for generations because we were a land of yeoman farmers, not peasants. Same is true of Switzerland.

    But I take your point. The ability of people of low intelligence to migrate off the land and multiply unfettered in urban environments is the real disaster in Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, etc. To some extent also visible in Russia. In the US, goes without saying.

  51. noname27 says: • Website
    @J. Alfred Powell

    And the ultimate expression of that selfishness being Jews and their usurious factional reserve money system, that guarantees grinding poverty wherever it is in operation, that is, across the world.

  52. Linh Dinh, please go visit Israel being in the neighborhood. Yes, I know that you consider Israelis to be evil. But surely you want to see Jerusalem. I don’t expect you to change your mind about the evilness of Israel and Israelis but I expect your reactions to be original, unscripted, and honest. Please do it. They’ll let you in for I doubt you’re on their shitlist. There are plenty of Arabs and other exotics in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel. And plenty to see. I just know that if you go you will surprise us by your reactions.

  53. Yahya says:
    @Peter Akuleyev

    The elite class of Egypt is often very impressive on the other hand. Not surprising since the elites are presumably composed mostly of the descendants of the many intelligent ambitious conquerors who have arrived in Egypt over the centuries. The fellahin on the other hand have been working the fields for millennia and aren’t getting much brighter.

    It is true that much of Egypt’s elites have foreign blood in them – mostly Turkish. But there’s lots of native Egyptian talent as well. For example, Egypt’s greatest writer, Taha Hussein, was born in a rural village in Upper Egypt – places that were untouched by migration patterns. He has a very “Egyptian” appearance, similar to that of Copts.

    Another overlooked component in Egyptian pedigree is Levantine blood, which entered Egypt during the various caliphates, as Cairo was the center of commerce for many of these Islamic empires. Lots of Syrian merchants came to Cairo during the Ottoman era. For example, Nelly Hanna wrote a book about a Syrian merchant called Ismail Abu Taqiyya, who operated his business from Cairo in the 1600s.

    I can confirm that even today, many in the elite have some sort of Levantine ancestry. But because of Egypt’s assimilative pull, and their genetic-cultural-geographical proximity, they do not stand out as much. My best friend has a Palestinian mother and darkish blonde hair only found in the Levant. Another school mate of mine came from a prominent Syrian family. Another – Jordanian, and so forth. I myself have a Saudi Arabian father (though the KSA is not in the Levant).

    I would caution though, that the Egyptian elite is not nearly as numerous, or as intelligent, as the Iranian, Turkish or Pakistani elite. The Iranian elite especially (before the brain drain), can go toe-to-to with any East Asian or European elite. The Egyptian elite cannot. But it is the best in the Arab World.

  54. Tom Welsh says:
    @lloyd

    “No social distancing apparent in Cairo which seems to be the only affective way of reducing spread”.

    I take it you mean that “no social distancing” reduces “spread”.

    Seems logical. With any virus, since you can’t hide from it – even if you’re Howard Hughes – you might as well go out and mingle and meet it half way. Then your immune system will adapt to it and you can forget about – like all those Egyptians.

    The snivelling policy of trying to hide from the virus reminds me of the old saying that “the coward dies a thousand times, the brave man only once”.

  55. Basically, Cairo is a Third world shithole with some very old charming features. And its women, though not white, would rather prefer features of caucasians women being that they are part negroid. And they, Egyptians, keep on breeding without having the means to support themselves but thanks to the AIPAC lobby in its zeal to protect homeland, i.e. Israel, forces American taxpayers to dole out aid in the billions… I would prefer the money given to both Israel and Egypt and the Middle East in general be given to Vietnam to atone for the sin of the military-industrial complex, Linh!

  56. Jiminy says:

    It’s a jarring image, that one of the robed local pushing his handcart seemingly straight from the past through traffic, juxtaposed with a modern expensive, black S class Mercedes. I suppose when you share your poverty with so many others it becomes the norm. I also wonder when living on a street food stall diet, is a complementary dose of the squirts on the cards.

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