Cairo, Egypt, part I

I was in Egypt.

Egypt is one of those rare places that are plunked into the mind of almost every Australian kid of my generation. We watched documentaries about it, and imbibed it through popular culture. We studied it at school, learning of Cairo and pharaohs and pyramids, of dusty desert tombs holding unimaginable treasure, of preserved human beings anointed and wrapped and transported to the afterlife. These were things of wonder to my young mind.

We were set assignments about Egyptian history, although they had the more friendly term ‘projects’ in primary school. In grade six I made a pyramid for my project. Dad helped me cut the plywood triangles just right so not only would they form the required three-dimensional shape, but you could split the pyramid in half and see the tomb inside. I plastered the outside and carefully marked out the ‘limestone’ blocks in the wet medium, and drew hieroglyphics inside the burial chamber. I was pretty proud of that project.


When I was young, the name ‘Cairo’ encapsulated all of the exotic wonder of that far off place, in the equally evocative ‘Middle East’. When The Stranglers released their masterpiece ‘Golden Brown’ in 1981 I was 10 years old. In the video clip, singer Hugh Cornwell stands behind an old-style spring microphone, bearing the name ‘Radio Cairo’. I have always loved the song, with its haunting harpsichord and unusual time signature. The video also featured vignettes of camels and pyramids and Englishmen sweating in dapper but inappropriate attire for that faraway, mysterious place. It was more fuel for my imagination.

Now, more than 35 years after my grade 6 history lessons, I was in Cairo. I had booked into a flat in the inner city, about half an hour’s walk from the Egyptian Museum. The drive from the airport gave me my first look at Cairo, at least from the back of the cab.


Cairo, home to over nine million people, is a sepia city. The vast metropolis is coloured in shades of brown, like old photographs with their white borders and curling corners. An endless, sprawling city under a hazy, dusty sky. We moved slowly along multi-lane roads of teeming traffic, past rows and rows of apartment blocks that seemed to go on forever.

After leaving the main thoroughfare, the driver negotiated streets jammed with people, cars and motorbikes. He pulled up outside an apartment block and announced we had arrived. I paid the fare, grabbed my bags, and headed inside to what would be home for the next few days. Would Cairo, gateway to Egypt, prove to be the magical, enthralling place my younger self had imagined?

To learn more about Cairo click here

Subscribe to Midlife Crisis Odyssey

Subscribe to receive new post alerts and a free monthly newsletter


2 responses to “Cairo, Egypt, part I”

  1. Sonya Avatar

    I think you should recreate your pyramid project and take photos of it next to the real thing…. we can grade you on your efforts 😂😂😂

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      I swear you couldn’t tell the difference between my model and the real thing! Except the size difference is a bit of a giveaway…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Midlife Crisis Odyssey