I was up at the Ohioana Library for an excellent Ohioana On The Road today, and as I was leaving I noticed a complex of apparently abandoned industrial buildings that I’d never really noticed before. No doubt the neighbors see the buildings as a scene of urban blight, and the weeds and broken bottles and debris substantiate that view. Seeing it with the eyes of a visitor, however, I thought the combination of the weathered exterior, the fading pastel colors, the rust, and the checkerboard effect of the boarded-over windows also gave the buildings a certain beauty.
Egypt is the latest Middle Eastern country teetering on the brink of chaos. Each day brings fresh reports of battles between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood and dozens of new deaths on the streets of Cairo.
I can’t fully appreciate the religious, political, and social issues that are playing out in Egypt. I can understand, however, what a loss it is for the world that Egypt has become a place that is not safe to visit. It means that many people will never see the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, or the other relics of the ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile.
That loss is a terrible tragedy. The Sphinx, the pyramids, and the temples of the pharaonic era are the greatest surviving sites of our ancient past. They are not merely historical sites, but a tangible link to the early development of human culture. Their very existence shows what our forebears were capable of, even if we don’t quite understand how they were built thousands of years ago. Their immense age, and their equally immense significance, are the reasons why standing in their presence on the Giza plain is such an awesome experience, and why so many people, myself included, have long dreamed of making the journey to Egypt to have that experience some day.
But not now. Although the pull of the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings is enormous, it is not irresistible — not when a visit puts you at risk of finding yourself in a mob of angry, screaming men or confronting soldiers ready to fire at any moment. That means, for me at least, that the pyramids and Sphinx are lost for now, and I don’t know when, or even if, they will ever be safe to visit in my lifetime. That reality makes me very sad.