The Development Curve

Giza Governorate & Cairo, Egypt

From The Development Curve

I feel constantly like Egypt is a very conflicted country, caught between progress and tradition to an extent that I never felt in Jordan. When you look at the carvings on the walls of ancient mastabas, it is no exaggeration to say that the peasant class along the Nile has lived in much the same way for over 5,000 years. They still farm with donkey-drawn plows, hoes and scythes. They still fish from rowboats with nets.

From The Development Curve

At the same time, the city of Cairo has some amazingly modern infrastructure. The Internet connections in both my apartments, and the wireless in cafes and restaurants all over downtown, is faster and more reliable than you can get almost anywhere in Jordan. You can order delivery from almost any restaurant in town that delivers over the Internet. The technology available at the American University for our daily use is state-of-the-art. I would say the same for the newsroom of Al-Yowm As-Saaba3 we visited last Sunday. The number one Website in Egyptian cyberspace, at this newspaper every reporter had his or her own laptop, all wired into the network to keep submissions running smoothly and the Website updating every 5 minutes.

From The Development Curve

And yet among the latest model cars, you still see donkey- and horsecarts around the city. Some are bringing produce in from the countryside. Others are dragging the city’s trash out to Garbage City, where it will be sorted, shredded and recycled by hand. When I went out to Giza to “hear” (from a friend’s roof some distance from the actual concert) Andre Boccelli at the Pyramids, we rode in an ancient VW van from the quite modern Metro out to the very modern Sound and Light Show at the Sphinx.

This, I know, is the state of most of the developing world: great modernity mostly in the places where you’re likely to find the foreigners who are accustomed to such things, while the local farmers and herders out in the sticks are still using the old methods, too poor to afford better without assistance their governments can’t really give them. This is where microloans are so helpful, and mobile phone networks for farmers to contact providers and customers, and solar panels where electric infrastructure doesn’t reach, and thousands of other innovative projects in development all around the world.

In the meantime, the contrasts are stunning.

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