Cairo is doing everything it can to put on a good show.
Buses are flooded with tourists, and it seems only a man in an orange hard hat could get a seat aboard.
The pyramids are shimmering in the sun as the thermometer hits the century mark, and tourists walk around in pyjamas.
Yes, Egypt is determined to show that its tumultuous past hasn’t descended on the nation.
As gaudy as it might sound, a girl on a public bus is belting out a hit from her favorite album — Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” Two ballerinas are leaping and spinning in acrobatic fashion for a performance on the Nile.
New Year’s Eve hasn’t come and gone but this is Cairo’s top tourism destination.
Archaeologists have just finished pouring water over a 30-foot-tall effigy of god Osiris, represented by a giant figure emerging from a slot, raising his arms to the sky to welcome the new year.
Oasis of cool
For an instant, the rest of Cairo seems like it has taken a break from the heat of June.
The smell of cloves and smoke from incense crackles as smoke belches from car exhausts. The crowds have slowed to a crawl as young people take a breather from the streets.
The immense “Egyptian Museum” is beginning to show signs of reopening. Many young men, who stood in the lines wrapped around the entire museum, are now sitting inside the museum with sharpened thoughts for autocrats.
“Maybe it’s not fair. They [the regime] have been here for a long time, so it’s possible they’ll do something stupid,” says the high school senior. “But the day you say the words ‘I have corruption to cover up,’ then you’ll be out.”
Across the Street
Outside, two men walking down the street are weaving in and out of the rush of people as they pass a huge “Jesus Christ Birth” statue.
“The government needs Jesus,” says the man, gesturing at the statue as he walks. “And they need the money because we’re all communists.”
Not the Road
It feels as if you can always stop on Avenue of the Sphinxes, at the top of Giza.
The twisting road climbs over the desert, past pyramids and past the tomb of St. Mark.
It’s a sight that should be starkly apparent to a visitor, particularly as the Middle East region approaches the July 6-14 holy week of Ramadan.
The road is lined with markets, crowded with pilgrims and tourists who are passing through Egypt.
Water and trucks
In the direction of Mount Sinai and the main pyramids, there is a huge ancient water well.
As it slowly refills with water, workers pour pails into the hole. To the right is the pyramid of Archimedes, King Solomon’s grandson.
The fountain constantly bobs up and down. During the hot weeks of summer, which have historically peaked in July, visitors often squish into the bubbling well to cool off.
The 19th-century Egyptian government built a fountain at the bottom of the well in order to draw tourists to the site.
But these days tourists aren’t rushing to the water for a splash. The water level is low. Cars idle in the traffic. A man, only wearing pants, sits on the ground in the shade.
Gone: the need for water.
Beyond the well
In the distance, the entrance to the Khufu pyramid, dating back to over 3,000 years ago, is illuminated by sunlight.
Women sit in the shade, children run around and men carry items.
Many are Egyptians with their familiar scarves tied round their heads. A young African woman swarms the entrance with her youngest child, so small it’s hard to tell which is girl and which is boy.
More than any other Nile landmark, Giza, the ancient city the water falls from, is a reminder of history, of civilization, of security.
Of much more recent past, of unrest.