Cairo, Two Sides

Sun over Dashour's Bent Pyramid.

Sun over Dashour’s Bent Pyramid.

Nearly full moon above Cairo's congested streets.

Nearly full moon above Cairo’s congested streets.

I am so glad that I didn’t listen to the news, or the concerns of my worried mother (sorry, mom!), or the incredulity in which people responded when I said I was going to teach in Cairo, which had just had another tumultuous overthrow in government. Had I done so, had I taken the safe and secure choices laid before me, I would not have had this wildly brilliant experience of sharing here these past two months.

There are two sides to every coin.

My flight into Egypt arrived in the early hours during curfew and I could not leave the airport for ages. A strange welcome, yes, but this same curfew allowed me to enjoy a much edited version of Cairo social life my first weeks here, one that was unusually compatible with my morning yoga hours.

I was harassed by a taxi driver–the fourth or fifth one I’d ever ridden with on my own. Yet, the lovely man Muhammad who drives me around now is the taxi driver who witnessed me hopping out of the slow-moving vehicle after I had fended off a very poor attack on his part. And like everyone else I have met here, Muhammad has looked after me with such warmth and sincerity. That we can barely have a conversation, his English is sparse and my Arabic is non-existent, makes no difference. (I want to add that I haven’t experienced any other harassment since that incident either).

These last days, being a tourist, visiting the Pyramids and the places of worship that date back thousands and hundreds of years, have shown me a calm Cairo so different from the Cairo’s chaotic streets that I’ve become so familiar with since my arrival here. Same soulful, high frequency sort of energy, just two very different sides of it.

Living in Cairo is not easy. The politics of instability has created day to day chaos, on the roads and in the more subtle byways, the minds and bodies of its people. There is a lot of pollution, repression, trauma, frustration, a lot of dreams deferred. And with that, there’s a also a lot of spirit! I have to say that this is a part of what makes teaching here so very rich, what makes this work so incredibly worthwhile.

In its little-BIG way, yoga offers its practitioners an experience of centeredness and stability, of quiet and peace. And that’s a whole lot when the world is like constantly shifting sand in the desert.

There are two sides to every coin. What you see it depends on how you see it. What I see: so much good here, so much love, so much potential.

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