Privileges to Poverty

A Place of Extreme Wealth and Deprivation Within the Same Land.

Movenpick Resort in Ain Sohkna (Source- Maria Asaad).

By Maria Asaad

I remember looking up towards the blinding ball of fire that stared back at me and the rest of the people in this ever-shining country. Having grown up in the UK for the majority of my life, it amazed me how much the sun came out and shone over this highly populated country. A part of me couldn’t help but feel sadness and a longing to stay just that bit longer in this magnificent country of wonder.

I started my journey in Egypt just 7 days prior. Mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement gripped me as I exited the airport to a flood of bodies lining the pavement eagerly waiting to greet their loved ones and visiting friends. The organised confusion of cars all over the road with no structured system reminded me of how far away I was from home.

I opened my window to breathe in the hot, polluted air that filled the hustle and bustle of the streets and tried my best to register the million and one things that were happening around me. The lack of systemised organisation both amazed and astounded me. I was ready to delve into the culture and unfamiliarity of this overwhelmingly interesting place.

Piles of rubbish and waste in streets of Cairo (Source- Maria Asaad).

Having spent the first couple of days of my trip in the hustle and bustle of Cairo, I was ready to indulge in a more secluded and peaceful environment. Just an approximate one hour’s drive away from the capital is the remote region of Ain Sohkna. Surrounded by mountainous landscapes, it seems like a world away from the chaos of Cairo.

As I settled into the 5* resort I was about to spend the next four days in and looked out of my sea view balcony, I couldn’t help but appreciate the natural beauty of deep the blue sea and golden sand that lay just meters away from my room. Breathing in the crisp sea air was a huge contrast to the polluted smog I was used to inhaling just the day before.

Dinner time is usually my favourite time of day whenever staying in a fancy hotel. Aside from the chance to dress up and look prim and clean after a heavy day of sweating and sunbathing, I love the chance to admire the array of beautiful foods on offer. The buffets are always neatly presented with fantastic shapes and colours, from the salad bars to the dessert displays. Taking in the wonderful smells and shapes of the food completes the whole exciting buffet experience.

My four days in Ain Sohka were a slice of heaven. I felt so privileged and lucky to have been able to spend a few days of my trip in such a breathtakingly beautiful place. From the astounding scenery to the unwavering service of amenities and cleanliness, my time in this place of paradise will never be forgotten.

As I made the one hour car journey back to Cairo, I rested in the back of the car still in the relaxation mode of the past four days. That, however, quickly came to an abrupt end. I was suddenly awoken by endless beeping horns and random shouts from drivers. It was clear that I was out of the luxurious cocoon of Ain Sohkna, and back to the hostility of Cairo.

Movenpick Resort in Ain Sohkna (Source- Maria Asaad).

I opened my eyes to the endless streams of brake lights and the smell of smoky car exhaust pipes. The hot air that came from my open window was overwhelmingly suffocating; the crisp sea air I had previously inhaled seemed like a distant memory now. I mentally prepared myself for the next couple of days I would have to spend in the Capital, away from the luxury of the resort I was just indulging in.

The main purpose of my trip was to conduct an interview with an Egyptian icon named Mama Maggie, deemed as the ‘Mother Theresa’ of Egypt. The bulk of her work is amongst the most unfortunate in Egypt who live in extreme poverty. I of course had to travel to one of these remote areas to conduct this very special interview.

As soon as our car entered the region where we would be meeting Mama Maggie, I unintentionally held my breath; both from the smell and the anticipation. Piles of waste and rubbish lay in the streets, making it hard for even cars to get from one end of the road to another. The sight and smell of the area was a compete juxtaposition to what I had previously been immersed in just a couple of days ago.

We stepped out of the safe hub of our car and attempted to cross the street amongst the piles of waste and rubbish. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could places like this still exist in today’s modern world? How is it possible that just a few hundred kilometres from here lay a place of luxury and pure indulgence? I couldn’t get my head around it. It was a shock watching young children play in the dirt of the street; compared to the children I had just seen playing in the clean, golden sand.

On my plane journey back home all I had on my mind was the contrast and divergence of life I had just witnessed and experienced in my trip. How could the same country hold such riches and such scarceness on the same land? The wealthy live by one extreme and the poor by another. As I gazed out of the window onto the country that left so many questions on my mind, one thought left an imprint on my conscious- the blazing sun never fails to shine brightly on the people of this wondrous place, both rich and poor.

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