In A Free State

In reading this, what I felt most was that Cairo is a tourist destination than anything else, and the implications that accompany that are depressing. It is no secret that this is the case, as Naipaul talks extensively about the various groups of people that are here, all of whom are sight seers or people from outside of this place. Naipaul writes, "perhaps that had been the only pure time, at the beginning, when the ancient artist, knowing no other land, had learned to look at his own and had seen it as complete" (255). To me, it felt as though the ancient artist, or others who had lived long ago, were seen to be appreciative of this land mostly because that's all they had, and had never been any other place. This quote speaks to one in the beginning of the epilogue which reads, "the ancient artist, recording the life of a lesser personage, sometimes recorded with a freer hand the pleasures of that life... It was the special vision of men who knew no other land and saw what they had as rich and complete" (251). These excerpts sort of act as bookends for this short epilogue, both describing an older era of pastoral innocence. It beckons to this pure time, one well before travelling tourists came to relax and explore in the city. I posed these exceprts up against the description of certain tourists here in Cairo, where a couple of them made a game of throwing sandwhich pieces to the children outside who scrambled to pick them up from the sand. Those who didn't pay this any mind were discussing other matters, ignorant of the spectacle. I thought this conveyed some of the effects of tourism. People from other places see Cairo, or other destination landscape, as a place which is theirs to experience. The wait staff, drivers, and other working class people are shown as being highly concerned with the tourists' experiences, one waiter at first shooing away the hungry children until another threatens to tell on him. At that point, the waiter beseeches him not to do so. It's clear these peoples' livlihoods is highliy affected by these tourists, and their experiences. The way this impacts the landscape in relation to its people is sad, especially when thinking of Naipaul's remarks about the ancient artist and how he likely saw his homeland. The landscape, Cairo, now seeks and works to mirror the desires of the tourists. It is an place of new wonder, but the people who come from this place are no longer the center, but the backdrop. Naipaul even discusses how the children seem to be a part of the desert sand.