Size Doesn't Matter
Saturday, April 09, 2011 - 01:55 PM
As the rumor of Sarah's arrest was gaining steam, we were driving back from the pyramids.As Sarah's friends and colleagues exchanged anxious tweets, we were coping with... camel stench. Sarah thinks camels are handsome.
We went to the ancient site with Amr and Mohammad, TV producers of whom you will hear much more this weekend. They are city folk and as such, do not frequent tourist sites, even ancient ones. They had never ridden camels before - never wanted to - but they are gracious Egyptians, so we were able to force them. The tombs of the pharaohs are lonely places these days, few visitors, lucky for us, not so lucky for our camel drivers. We asked them about the men on camels and horseback who rode down from the pyramids to storm the demonstrators in Tahrir Square before the revolution and they said those men were paid, but might well have gone anyway. Their livelihoods, already marginal, were at risk. And it's true. The local tourist trade ain't what it used to be.
The pyramids, though very impressive, are smaller than I expected. The sphinx smaller still. But isn't that usually case? Monuments, movie stars, expand in the imagination. Size is not what makes them impressive.
Tahrir Square also is smaller than it looks on TV. In fact, that may be the most impressive thing about it. It's the idea that fires the imagination. The universal wish of humanity to live forever is bound up in the pyramids. The ceaseless desire for freedom and justice finds expression these days in a large - but not very large - city square.