Recently I saw a television insert on the level of animal cruelty at the Giza Zoo in Cairo, Egypt. I often wonder how these animals are doing right now as there is a high level of political instability in the country. Egypt is a country I really love. I enjoy the chaos in Cairo, but I equally enjoy the tranquility found in places outside the beaten path on the country’s rural areas.
When I was in Egypt I realised a huge level of animal neglect. There were clearly unfed cats roaming the streets with many appearing to be homeless.
When I gave several cats a piece of bread I had just bought for lunch I remember a young man looking at me and shaking his head at this act. His disapproval made me feel uncomfortable, but then I couldn’t let the cats that were surrounding me, begging for some of the food go hungry. I ignored him until he eventually asked why I was sharing my food with them. I explained that they were skinny and it was evident that they are seldom fed and they need to eat. He never responded but continued to give me a disapproving look.
In the south, near the town of Abu Simbel in a Nubian village we were taken to a local family and we dined with them. We were then shown around the village and one of the places they take tourists to in this modest village is a place where they keep a live crocodile. This is to show tourists how tough the men in the area are as they manage to capture these dangerous creatures from the Nile.
Many of the tourists there that night were not happy though. A South African doctor who lives in New-Zealand asked the locals why they hadn’t found a bigger cage for the water beast so it could stretch out its tail a little bit. Others questioned the reasons behind the crocodile’s capture and the Nubian man who was trying to show his strength by showing off his catch soon found himself being scrutinised by the predominantly western tourists.
I remember ordering steak in a restaurant of a nice hotel in the southern town on Luxor. The menu did not explain the type of steak I would be getting and the elderly waiter could not explain it as he struggled understanding English.
Food had been an issue on this Egyptian trip and like many tourists I would often end up in touristy restaurants or McDonald’s – something I always try to avoid whenever I am in a foreign country. At a certain stage I had told myself that I should probably go vegetarian for the trip. When I saw the menu in the hotel restaurant I got excited about food for the second time here. The first time was on the streets when a taxi driver showed me sweet potatoes they call batata in Egypt which is what we call them in the Zulu language as well. My lady friend’s spaghetti bolognaise arrived and it looked good so I was hopeful. The smile on my face didn’t last long as what was delivered was a small, dry piece of meat with white lining. I thought I would brave it and try to eat it, but I couldn’t even cut it. I later realised that it’s impossible for Egypt to have good steak if the cows that I saw on the streets were as skinny as they were. It is also equally impossible that it would be healthy as the country doesn’t look after its animals well and people often question those who feed the animals.
It was in the desert that I realised that people treated animals better as they would share their food with the small wild foxes that would come to steal a piece of meat as we were sleeping under the starts.
There is a regime change taking place in Egypt at the moment and people have demanded to be treated better by the leaders of this North African state which is the gateway to the Middle East. I hope that as they continue to fight for their rights Egyptians also learn to treat their animals a little better too.