Exit Through the Gift Shop

gift shopI took a parlor car tour of parts of the American West, starting in Rapid City and ending in Salt Lake City. It was good; I enjoyed the sights; but my strongest memory was actually the on-board tour guide warning us that when we stopped for lunch we inevitably were forced to congregate in the gift shop before we left. The wonders of Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, the Tetons, Jackson Hole, but always tainted by the imported curios in the local gift shop.

I was watching Tony Bourdain taking his No Reservations travel show to Egypt and he regularly reminded the viewer and the Egyptian guide that he was in Cairo but he wasn’t going to see the pyramids. True, you could see them from the hotel balcony off in the distance, but how could you go to Egypt and eschew such impressive and ancient monuments? Well, Tony made a good point by suggesting that he didn’t want to exit through the gift shop. After all, what does Tony need with chotchkes when he’s in search of good food (and a cold beer).

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Akhenaten and the Elgin Marbles

Elgin MarblesA Tenth Grade education à la Max Rafferty dictated that a student ground-out a full year of world history. Back then it was world history since it was a recognized fact that Western Civilization was redundant (in a post-colonial asshole way). My teacher was nice and prim and unmarried at an excessive age (probably early 30s but this even predated the ‘never trust’ mantra that was to gain popularity in a few years). She was fairly well traveled and an excellent source of delightful anecdotes about the pleasures of visiting ancient lands (not to mention the thrilling slide shows). But through the years I have thought back to what I learned in this class and am shocked and dismayed about the plunderers and terrorists our history books presented to us as heroes.

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No end in sight

MahfouzEgypt and the Arab world have recently had their dreams of dominance in the Middle East burst by a swift Israeli victory in the 1967 war. But the revolution is still the driving force behind the young people of the country. Naguib Mahfouz follows a representative group of young revolutionaries who congregate at the Karnak Café and discuss the politics of their country. We read of the events of their lives, whether love affairs or imprisonment and torture. After their stories are all told and the remaining young revolutionaries meet in the Café, they have one final look to the future.

Remember that in this country we are told that there is a solid Arab or Moslem jihad against the United States: every man, woman, child, dog, or goat in the arab lands is full of hatred for Americans and will stop at nothing to kill Americans and destroy the United States. True, it’s the later part of the sixties but wasn’t the anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment even greater then? But this is what Mahfouz writes:

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