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Everything You Must Do When You're In Egypt

If New York City is the city that never sleeps, then Cairo is the city that never blinks.

Travel

Egypt is a bucket list destination for just about anyone. You don't have to be an avid traveler to have ever dreamed about standing between the pyramids, kissing the sphinx, or riding camel back over orange-colored sand dunes. The scenery alone lends itself to the imagination and you could easily begin to picture what the days of Ramesses II must have been. History is all around you at all times and well-preserved which immediately ties you to the proud heritage of Egyptian people.

Fast forward to modern-day Cairo, and things are very different but still reflective of the significance of the past that is etched into Egypt. Cairo is the largest city in Egypt and a bustling shock to the system that hits instantly. This city sits at the banks of the famed Nile River, and boasts a population of about 20 million people. Egypt alone has a population of approximately 105 million people. It is a predominantly Muslim country but still seems more progressing than I expected in its views and diverse in its current culture. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, then Cairo is the city that never blinks. There are people in every corner, there are shops everywhere you look, many languages being spoken in the same conversations, amazing smelling food and spices and of course sweet-smelling shisha. If there is one thing I can say about Cairo, much less Egypt, I felt surrounded by a robust culture that is steeped in history and pride.

Egypt is so big and there is a lot to take in all at once. Here were some of my top 5 favorites:

The Pyramids & The Sphinx

Writer Amer-Marie

So, small confession I really only came to Egypt to see these two things. By the time I left though, I realized how much apart of a bigger, grander tapestry of history they actually were. These two sets of structures were one of my earliest memories of me and father bonding over travel. I knew that being in their presence would be awe-inspiring. The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are located in close vicinity to one another. You can purchase a ticket at the ticket office and proceed through several security stops before walking into the main historic area. Once you are through the gate, you are literally standing at the foot of the first of three Great Pyramids. Be prepared because it will take your breath away.

Off in the near distance, you will be able to see the other two pyramids against the desert background. It is possible for you to go inside the first pyramid but that ticket must be purchased at the gate or you are out of luck. If you choose to venture inside the pyramids, be cautioned, it consists of crawling through a small tunnel while crouching to traverse both inclines and declines until you reach the final room. Here is where a tomb was found but is now located in the Egyptian Museum. The walk is not for the faint of heart and is very hot due to little ventilation. Honestly, you can skip that and instead take a walk around each pyramid. It is possible to climb up the first set of stones to take a photo and get up close to each pyramid.

A short walk down the road that winds between the pyramids is where the Sphinx is located. It is a separate structure with a complex all its own. Upon first glance, it almost seems small until you walk through the purification chambers and exit along a pathway that puts you right next to the head of the Sphinx. Here is where most people take their iconic photos kissing the Sphinx, holding the chin of the Sphinx or any other creative way to capture this wonder of the world. A few tips while visiting this area: go early and not on Friday, it gets crowded quickly. If anyone offers to take your photo be prepared to tip them. Pay for the camel rides, there are a lot of fun and you get great photos from the other side of the pyramids. Lastly, make sure you stop for a moment and take it all in.

Writer Amer-Marie

Visit The Mortuary Temple Of Hatshepsut

Writer Amer-Marie

A little background history to Hatshepsut for context first: She was the fifth Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second confirmed female pharaoh at the time. Now, you might be wondering if she was a woman, why was she not the Queen of Egypt? As the story goes, when she rose to power, she decided that she was going to rule Egypt in the same manner as the men who preceded her. This involved creating her own narrative and establishing herself as the God's Wife of Amen. Hatshepsut called herself a pharaoh in her story and even used male pronouns to refer to herself in her written story. In physical depictions, Hatshepsut is seen with the royal false beard and wearing a pharaoh's royal garments in many statues surrounding the temple, as well as in drawings on the temple walls.

She is regarded as one of the most successful and accomplished Pharaohs of her time, ruling for longer than any other female in Egyptian history. Her temple sits on the West Bank of the Nile River in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. It is carved into a cliff with a grand staircase leading to the central level of the temple. Here, you can see many statues of Hatshepsut as well as many columns and rooms for purification. On the top level is the chamber for the tomb that also showcases stories about the female Pharaoh's time in power. It is one of the most prominent structures in the area. The Valley of the Kings is known for the 60+ tombs that were found, including King Tut, but the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is the most prolific structure standing. Her story is one that shows the power of women leaders and is inspiring to women in today's society.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over The Valley Of The Kings

Writer Amer-Marie

Hot air balloon rides should be on everyone's bucket list. Personally, I hope to do this in as many countries as possible. However, I am glad that I got a chance to do it first in Egypt. I wasn't sure what to expect but the end result exceeded my expectations. This particular hot air balloon ride started in a large open space on the West Bank of the Nile River. Our projected flight path was over the Valley of the Kings. One unexpected feature of our balloon aircraft was the size of the basket. Originally, I thought the aircraft would consist of small baskets with 6-8 people in each. The reality is, the aircraft is a large basket that holds about 20 people with even splits on both sides of the balloon pilot.

Even still, takeoff was smooth as we rose to 700 ft above the earth. This was coupled with the exact moment the sun rose to reveal a kind of beauty that could only be seen at that height. There is a moment of quiet calm that happens at cruising altitude that can only be described as tranquility. This was truly a highlight of my trip and a must do in any country offering this experience. If you really want to turn up your experience, pop a bottle of champagne while in flight and cheer to a beautiful life.

Writer Amer-Marie

Cruise The Nile River

Writer Amer-Marie

One of the most famous rivers in the world, the Nile River, exists in Egypt and has a 5-star cruise industry. The Nile River is a north flowing river and is arguably the longest river in the world, coming in at 4,130 miles (6,650km). It covers the length of 11 African countries and empties out in a large delta to the Mediterranean Sea. The highest populated cities in Egypt, including Cairo and Aswan, are located along the banks of the Nile River.

Cruising the Nile River can be done in many different ways, from luxury cruise ships to the shorter felucca rides. Most cruises in Egypt take place between Luxor and Aswan, visiting cities such as Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. Each stop gives you a look into some of the oldest structures still standing from ancient Egypt. It also is an excellent opportunity to see the stark contrast between ancient Egyptian buildings and the more modern-day apartment buildings, hotels and restaurants. The Nile River itself is a rather wide river with amazing scenery that changes from mile to mile. You can easily go from city scape, to mountains, to small village, to lush farmland in a matter of minutes. The luxury cruises are the way to go with a smooth ride down the Nile while being hosted by amazing staff that provide the comfort you need to relax and enjoy the jewel of Egypt.

Visit The Nubian Villages

Writer Amer-Marie

Before traveling to Egypt, I did not know much about the Nubians. So, this was a welcomed surprise! The Nubian people are a part of one of the oldest civilizations known to Egypt, and are descendents from areas in modern-day Sudan and Egypt. Currently in Egypt, the Nubians live in what is considered ancient Nubia. They are farmers, shop owners, or they travel to work a variety of jobs in other Egyptian cities. Their buildings are brightly colored stucco structures stacked neatly together against the mountain side. Almost reminiscent of Mykonos but will more vibrant flavor. The people are welcoming as soon as you set foot on the Nubian soil, saying things like, "Wow you look like me, are you Nubian?" The goods sold here reflect the African culture from which the Nubian people derive their skin tone and heritage. The tiny streets are filled with shops selling local artwork depicting the deep-toned people of Nubia, spices, teas, and more. Camel back is the transportation of choice, and the Nubians traverse the small winding streets with ease. It doesn't quite feel like home but it feels familiar. This is a must-see and shop stop on any Egyptian itinerary.

So, that's it for my top five things to see and do in Egypt. I want to also give honorable mention the city of Alexandria. The ancient city contains a lighthouse called Pharos, which is regarded as one of the ancient world's seven wonders. I did not get a chance to visit but here are a few things to check out there: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Montaza Palace, Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa and the beaches. Also visit the bazaars and perfumeries in Cairo. A few tips for the bazaars: know how much you want to spend on any item; most things are very cheap so haggle, haggle, haggle; if they won't budge leave and watch you spend exactly what you wanted.

These are my suggestions but Egypt is a big country, so there is much more to explore and discover.

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Featured image by Amer-Marie/Instagram

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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