In My Bottle of Sand - My Family Travels
Image of My Mother, Guide and Myself in the Fayoum Oasis

When one thinks of Egypt, widely known icons including the Nile, Sphinx, mummies, or the pyramids usually come to mind. This article, however is about none of these things. This article is about the Egypt I discovered, an Egypt no travel book could have prepared me for.

As our taxi took us from the Cairo airport to the  Windsor hotel, I found myself in an alien land. Donkeys and horses lined the streets, pulling carts full of giant heads of cabbage and dusty children. The dirt and paved roads were filled with people, many with cloths over their heads and draped in robes of a thousand colors. Trash filled every empty space on the ground, while plastic bags flew in the breeze like white, underwater jellyfish. I knew now this wasn’t Sacramento anymore.

A bus and jeep were scheduled for the Fayoum Oasis the next day. The jeep took us off the highway  through the road-less desert to the Oasis. One the way, we stopped in a little town to see a local tomb there. As we got out of the car, we were swarmed by children we have seen running, following our jeep. Boys and girls a few years younger than me were surrounded us, screaming “ben!” “ben!” “ben!”.  My mother explained that they were trying to say “pen,” which tourists often give them. Pen-less, and overwhelmed, I took out my wallet to offer some change. I have never seen such awestruck eyes as they crowded around me and my wallet. Our guide said that the children were saying that they haven’t seen so much money in their lives and were mesmerized. They got closer and I began to panic, worrying I’d soon be robbed. I gave them my offerings and left; their bare feet kicking up dust as they fled back to their tiny homes.

That memory stuck with me for some time. I felt regretful, sad, confused. Why is it that I was born into such wealth and prestige? Why was I not one of them, begging on the street and sleeping on floorless shacks? I thought about home and about my past. I thought about the times I cried when I didn’t get that expensive toy I wanted from Toys R Us, or how I was so much underprivileged I thought I was than the people who lived in the big houses down my street. My world was turned upside down.

Alone, I stepped out of the room we were staying in and walked into the golden sunset. I bent down on the cool sand and let it sift through my fingers, and the memories sift through my mind. I felt small, but had also had this faint, warm feeling. I thought about the bare feet, the robes, the money. I tried to keep all I could. I pulled an empty soda bottle from my pocket and filled it to the top. As I capped it, I knew this would be the end of my journey.

Perched on the high shelf, a soda bottle in Arabic print full of sand brings me back to a place so different then my home. It reminds me of the vastness of this world, full of different people, many less fortunate than me.  It taught me to respect what I had and realize that the world is something we all need to respect.  Ultimately, it provided with me with the inspiration to help the desperate people of the world with the opportunities that are within my grasp. It is now my turn to serve for the betterment of all.



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