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In the Newsroom

October 21, 2008
Sailing along the Nile in Egypt

Producer Sally Garner reported with Megan Thompson and Hoda Osman from Egypt. Sally describes how Egyptians view Americans and American politics.

View the story here: Egyptians express views on America

  

Nile River boatman Hussein Ahmed. Photo: Sally Garner

When I first saw Cairo from an airplane window it seemed to be a vast sea of brown, with three tiny triangles poking up from the monochromatic landscape. Tiny from the air — but you know you’re looking at the Giza pyramids.

Once you’re on the ground and actually at the pyramids, you realize that Cairo is pressing its irrigated edges right up to the those amazing monuments. The brown desert landscape gives way to green only because of the Nile. Egypt gets only two or three days of rain a year, so the river is what provides 95 percent of the water for the whole country.

We got a close-up view of the world’s longest river on a quick trip on a felucca [a traditional wooden sailing boat]. The striking thing about sailing along the Nile in the heart of Cairo is how suddenly quiet it seems. The river is at one of its narrowest points here, but it’s so wide and gentle that you never hear the roar of traffic from the main roads just alongside.

One of our assignments was to try to get a glimpse of what Egyptians think about America, so we took the opportunity to interview our boatman, Hussein Ahmed. While the current and the breeze were calm, he had plenty to tell us, volunteering his affection for “Ameryka” but his disdain for President Bush and the policies of the current administration in the Middle East.

As we sailed along past the former home of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, we heard about the “good” Presidents Carter and Clinton and how the “Bush family should go.” As we got off the boat, he said sadly that American tourists don’t come to Egypt as often anymore. He hoped we would come back because even though he was angry about U.S. political policy, he truly liked Americans.

It was a refrain we’d hear over and over and over during our trip…at the fancy indoor shopping malls…and in the street markets.

It’s clear that while Egypt might be mysterious to Americans, America is a daily presence in the lives of Egyptians.

– Sally Garner

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