Midnight at the Oasis

Midnight at the oasis
Sing your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces romance in our heads

Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit song, Midnight at the Oasis, once epitomized an American view of the Middle East. It was a land of mystery and romance. In the intervening years though, realism has punctuated this romanticism, like the staccato bang of a suicide bomber’s vest. Three wars later (the First Gulf War, the War in Iraq and Afghanistan), America is a bit wary of the change, let alone revolution that is now sweeping across the Middle East. It is ironic that WikiLeaked comments by American diplomats, about the Tunisian president and his wife, sparked this conflagration. Once ignited though this wildfire quickly spread to Egypt and threatens to engulf the rest of the Middle East.

“You can’t do this to me, I’m an American.” – Marion, Indiana Jones, 1981

Once we were Israel’s friend, then we were offsetting the Soviets. Once we were the peace broker, as at Camp David. Now we fight terrorism and the harder we fight, the more there is to fight. I hope for the best in these turbulent times, things just don’t seem as good as they use to be. I offer up as an example the following bit of family history. When will the average American do this again?

In the mid-1990s my parents (John and Jackie) went to Egypt. This was just one in a series of overseas trips that they took in the last two decades. They also made quite a few trips to Europe, a couple of trips to Africa, and trips to both Australia and New Zealand. Does that cover it? Oh, I forgot South America. Egypt has been much in the news as of late and this is part of the reason that my Dad sent along these photographs, but another aspect came to light when I spoke with him about it. Of all the places that they visited together, they found Egypt to be the most interesting. Each of the photos shows Mom posing in front of some iconic landmark. Dad was behind the camera snapping these pictures.

John and Jackie’s Egyptian tour included the sites pictured, but also included a river boat cruise up the Nile to Aswan. From there they flew to Abu Simbel. The temples there feature massive statues of Ramesses and his queen Nefertari, of Exodus fame. They had to be relocated in the 1960s when the Aswan Dam was built and Lake Nasser flooded their original site. They had a great time visiting Cairo’s bazaar, when they walked there from their hotel, but found out later that this was considered to be a dangerous excursion. My Dad still says that the most dangerous aspect of Cairo was the traffic, it was lawlessness on wheels.

The days to come may bring more of a high noon rather than midnight at the oasis. We should remember our friends and also remember our values. We are not in the driver’s seat on this ride, but just along for it. My advice, just hang on!

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