Poverty is one of the most serious problems in the world today. In the world ‘s poorest countries in terms of GDP per capita, the African countries of Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Niger, Mozambique and Liberia are in the top five each year. It is only in the 14th country, in the already mentioned ranking, that it lies outside Africa, and Haiti is often mediated by the mentioned country. According to this list, Egypt ranks 95th. But that’s not so bad. Or is it? In fact, this article shows how the people of Egypt live, who face daily difficult lives similar to the people of the poorest countries.
Egypt is experiencing significant population growth each year. Currently, 98.7 million people live there. In the last 20 years alone, this number has increased by 30 million. What do these numbers mean in practice? This means that even after deducting all deaths, there will be one inhabitant in the country every 16 seconds. But under what conditions are children born there and what way of life is destined for them?
For a complete list of the world’s poorest countries, visit Global Finance magazine’s online portals.
Journey to Luxor-poverty on every corner
I have been to Egypt 4 times, but mostly only for recreational purposes. But how do you get to know the culture there? Hatching on a beach chair under a parasol is probably hard. We have always visited Egypt because of the beautiful corals and animals in the Red Sea. But Egypt is amazing in that not only does it have an incredibly rich sea and is suitable for a holiday, it has an amazing history and it is also a place where most of the historic buildings and artifacts have been preserved to this day. In addition to the pyramids, I have always wanted to see the historic city of Luxor. The Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Karnak, or the Colossi of Memnon. All this was just a 5-hour bus ride from our resort in Marsa Alam.
The opportunity to embark on such a one-day trip could not be refused, so at 4:00 in the morning we were looking forward to the reception, waiting for the bus to take us to the long-awaited place. The bus arrived on time, we settled comfortably and prepared for a long journey across the desert. Respectively, we thought that we would see the sand of the Sahara desert all the way from the bus window. The truth was quite different.
Culture shock in Egypt
The real surprise was when, after only two hours of driving, we came across cities crowded with people. Most of them were next to the road, but also garbage can be seen in the wider area. More people drove there on donkeys than by cars. The inhabitants wore their traditional robes. It was just from the bus window, but we saw their culture. If I were to say in one word what we saw in that country, I would say that there was poverty everywhere. Looking those people in the eye and feeling the stench they live in has been a lifelong experience for me.
Specifically, this day was the best in my life. Paradox? A little yes, but this day really opened my eyes. I can’t stand when I hear someone cursing at Slovakia. No, we are not perfect or richest, but just look at any developing state and every reasonable person should understand how lucky we are.
This article consists of photos and my personal feelings and experiences, just during the bus ride through the slums and cities of Egypt. All the following photos were taken from the bus window and usually even while driving, so they are blurred and relatively poor quality. Nevertheless, it is a good record of this journey and a small example of what poverty looks like in the world’s 95th poorest country.
Mother with pram
Mothers pushing a pram are usually seen in city parks. That is how it should be. What impression do you get by a photo of a mother and child on a street full of garbage and dirt?
During our trip, we also had two Czech-speaking guides on the bus. One was a well-known Egyptian scientist and several times he participated in the creation of various documentaries on the history of Egypt. The other, his name was Ahmed, and he was, so to speak, an ordinary man of the people. Their task was to bring us closer to their lives and thus life in Egypt. It didn’t take long for us to notice that Ahmed did not speak objectively, on the contrary, he tried to idealize life there, but about it later..
Interesting facts from the environment of Arab culture in poor Egypt
Without a traditional cassock, not even for a step.During the trip, it was not possible not to notice the clothes of the locals. While in larger cities you could see coloured shirts and jeans, in smaller villages men necessarily wore dark blue or gray cassocks. The symbolism of these colours was explained to us by our guide. Sutana serves mainly to cover social differences between the population. Each looks about the same. Originally, white cassocks were worn, but over time, the white color began to symbolize conceit, and so the Egyptians switched to the traditional gray and dark blue color, which are not at all distinctive and look quite common in them, making the cassock its purpose.
What about women and veiling bodies
Women in Muslim countries tend to have veiled hair, or sometimes their whole face. It depends on their status. They can have so-called hijab, chador, nijab, or burqa. Women can’t go out on the street without covering their heads. So can they? According to Mr Ahmed, women can go to the streets without their traditional clothing. But as we immediately learned, it would certainly not be accepted in society.
Young unmarried girls usually wear nijab and not having it would mean disrespecting their culture. If a girl or woman decides not to wear a hijab, she must ask the permission of her parents or husband, and they will not allow them to do so. They themselves cannot decide on the covering of their bodies. Nevertheless, Ahmed told us that in Egypt, women have more rights than men. Do you agree with such a statement?
It is necessary to indulge in warmth
Africans, or rather the people of southern nations in general, are used to saying that they do not work enough, as they are too warm in that tropical weather. I can confirm this thesis. Whether the laziness there is caused by long-term evolution, the lack of work offered, or really just warm weather, I do not know. But what I do know is that the Egyptians really get used to just sitting on a bench and doing nothing. They watch people passing by swinging a tourist bus (like ours, which goes to Luxor). I think this photo captures it really well.
Poverty thrives here and hygiene does not exist – children take a bath along with a carrion
Probably the strongest moment during the whole trip was for me to see floating carcasses in the canal. The fact that the dead animals thrown into the water really stopped me, but what was even more outrageous was to see small children swimming in one and the same canal. Indeed, at a distance of about 100 meters from 7-10 year old rejoicing children, a donkey’s carriage swam in the water. It is clear to everyone that the concept of hygiene in Egypt is completely unknown, but the life-threatening line of non-compliance should not really be accepted anywhere. One thing is to hear about the horrors of the world and it is another to see the problems of millions of people with your own eyes.
And how in Egypt does a man ask a woman for a hand? We received this information from Ahmed, who of course wants to show his country only in the best light. But what is the whole truth? It still remains under the guise of secrecy. Reportedly, when a guy in Egypt likes a girl, he must first ask her to choose whether to marry the girl to her parents. If they agree, he asks the girl. If she agrees, a six-month date follows. This means that potential spouses will meet under parental supervision for half a year. Under no circumstances should sexual intercourse occur during this time. If the couple understands each other during this probationary period and neither of them changes their mind, the marriage will begin.
It is quite common for a close family to contribute to local weddings with several years of savings, as it is celebrated as the most important thing in life.
Another subcategory related to marriages is female circumcision. When asked whether this custom is still practiced in Egypt today, the guide answered with a clear rejection, claiming that this life-threatening custom is no longer a tradition in Egypt. However, the truth is that strongly orthodox families still practice female circumcision to this day. These are often made using rusty razor blades and outside some medical facilities. Unfortunately, this often leads to girls’ health problems in the future of death, or even death due to bleeding or non-sterile treatment.
Ahmed already mentioned marriages, as in our country, unfortunately sometimes do not go as planned. The tradition of divorce has not bypassed the North African state of Egypt. But what does marriage entail, and how to proceed in the event of divorce? The rights of women to end marriages also show their oppression in Muslim countries. In Egypt, the divorce rate is really high, with up to 40% of marriages divorced there. If such an initiative comes from a man, there is usually no problem and the couple can get divorced happily. The property is then divided in half. But the real obstacle arises if a woman wants to divorce. Such a trial must take place in court (which I really can’t imagine in those poor settlements), and the woman needs several witnesses to testify to her statement.
There are really a lot of obstacles in the way of women, as one of the witnesses should be the parent of the husband. However, they usually testify in favour of their own son (if he does not want to divorce himself) and thus the application for divorce is rejected.
Poverty also affects transport
Public transport is the exclusive privilege of rich cities. How then does it work in the poor? Many residents have at least one means of transport, most often a scooter, bicycle or donkey. There is no traffic compliance here and people drive as hard as they want. As far as safety is concerned, I saw the whole family riding a small scooter. And the whole family means a married couple with three children. So 5 uninsured people, including small children, went on one small motor vehicle at the same time.
Traders form one big separate chapter here. These people have no restraints at all, and as soon as they notice a tourist, they are desperately trying to sell them anything and for a high profit. This means that they will hang all kinds of gorillas on your neck without hesitation, force souvenirs into your hand and immediately want money from you. in another case, as we had in the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, did these people shine a completely discharged flashlight on the picture on the wall, make it absolutely incomprehensible, and guess what they want for this amazing interpretation? Well, money.
We move on. You are warm, as it is usually around 50 ° C in the Valley of the Kings and you want to unwind with something. A salesman comes to the call and presses a piece of torn cardboard into your hands (which you then have to return to him) and it would already be suspicious if he did not want money for such a service. Another situation: A merchant at the Temple of the Goddess Hatshepsut snatches your cell phone, takes a photo of it, and then wants what? Money.
Behaviour of traders
I certainly do not want to alleviate the difficult situation of people from socially weaker families, and above all I know the fact that their lives are often narrowed by many more problems than just financial ones. In the end, however, this does not justify the brazen behaviour of traders, who, due to the vision of profit, treat tourists almost violently and have no respect.
We financially supported several of these people, but the behavior of many of them deprived us and other tourists of their comfort and especially their sense of security. (Still, you don’t feel well when you are surrounded by six Egyptians at once and everyone begs for money)
I firmly believe that you liked this article and that I provided at least some insight into the way of life there. In conclusion, one great lesson emerges from this whole report. Let’s appreciate where we live and how we live. Our way of life in Europe is a privilege that most people have not and will probably never have.