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We fly from Amman airport to Cairo. The route is shown on an overhead video display, and we see that the plane must fly straight south to get past the southern corner of Israel, and then fly east-northeast to get to Cairo. The video also occasionally shows the airplane's orientation towards Mecca.

Approaching Cairo we see mile after mile of blocks of concrete apartment buildings, all 10 to 15 stories in height, without a tree or even a blade of grass visible. Cairo has an official population of about 19 million, but many estimates run much higher.

After landing we are met by a guide and a security officer, who accompanies us to our hotel.

Our hotel is the Gezirah Sheraton, a late-sixties style tower on the southern tip of Gezirah Island. There is a metal detector at the entrance, and security guards outside use mirrors on poles to inspect the undersides of approaching vehicles. (Security will be an inescapable presence throughout our stay in Egypt.) Our room has a magnificent view, and is very comfortable although rather shabby. From the bar on the 23rd floor of the hotel, we can see the pyramids at Giza.

In the late afternoon we drive through terrible traffic to our next meeting. In the Midan Tahrir traffic circle, one man washes his car while waiting for traffic to move.

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At 6:00 we arrive for a "round table discussion" at the Young Muslim Association. A huge banner over the door announces "Religious Dialogue" in Arabic. This exhausting experience finally ends at 10:00 pm. We have been here since 6:00, with no lunch, one power bar in mid-afternoon, and no dinner. We are exhausted, and we go find perhaps the only awful restaurant on the whole trip.


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We ride to a large complex of lavish new buildings, looking much like a school. We are ushered to an office where we meet Dr. Ahmad Al Tayeb, the Grand Mufti of Egypt.
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We then travel to Al Azhar University, the oldest University in the world, founded in 970 AD. We are ushered to the Office of the President of Al Azhar University for an interesting and sometimes depressing discussion.
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We then go to the old market, and some of us also visit Al Azhar mosque.


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We visit the National Museum. This is an amazing place, with priceless treasures housed in dusty cases with yellowing typed labels. The King Tut exhibit alone is staggering.
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We then walk a short distance to the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States, a lovely building near the National Museum. We meet with the Inter-Civilizations Dialogue Department of the League of Arab States.
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Next, we arrive at Cairo University at 1:45 PM. Here we meet with the Cairo University Dialogue of Civilizations Group.
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Around 6:30 PM we take a long ride to the Maadi district, a wealthy enclave. The neighborhood has many security checkpoints with armed guards. We reach the home of Elizabeth Thornhill, Cultural Attaché of the American Embassy. She gives a party in our honor, and it is attended by many Egyptian academics and intellectuals.


The next day we spend in Alexandria, particularly visiting the newly completed library. Our meeting with the Head Librarian is cancelled, but we are relieved rather than disappointed.


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On our last day in Egypt we visit the pyramids at Saqqara, and then the pyramids at Giza.

We then visit the old market again. Far into it, away from the tourist area, we find an old man with very bad teeth selling peanuts from a small cart. When we tell him that we're American, he beams. He loves America, he loves Jimmy Carter, says that I am a very lucky man, that California is very warm. He presses candy and peanut samples on us. His warmth seems genuine and we are grateful.

We also visit the Pyramids and the Sphinx. The Sphinx looks towards a parking lot and a row of shops. In front of the Sphinx, workmen are setting up for an upcoming motorcycle race.

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