Monday, March 19, 2012

Fuel for the Journey

Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance.
Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901–1978)

The journey to the homeland begins. One of the nice things about Luxor airport is the cafe in the check-in area. For $5 you can get a good cappuccino and a beautiful tart as fuel for the outbound journey.

There is a fuel crisis across Egypt these days. In Luxor, it is common for gas stations to have no fuel to sell for four or five days straight. When news gets out that a station will receive a load, the line up begins with every size and shape of vehicle imaginable: cars, service taxis, small trucks, big lorries, tour buses, water carriers. I've seen vehicles lined up two abreast for the length of four city blocks at 8:30 in the morning and there is still a line-up at 4 pm. Of course, two abreast means that traffic wanting to pass by must create a 'new' lane in the on-coming traffic. This being Egypt, everyone accommodates the situation and somehow it works.

People find ways to continue to work within the problem. Many, like this service taxi driver, carry an extra supply of fuel in jerry cans on their roofs. Other drivers store larger containers at their homes, which is neither healthy nor safe but the alternative is to be out of work for four days while they wait for the next fuel shipment. It's noticeable that service taxis are not as plentiful on the more distant, out of the way routes as they were before the crisis was initiated as drivers don't want to make the longer trips for the same amount of money. The country runs on this form of public transportation, so the crisis is touching many citizens.

I have been told that the situation wasn't as bad in Cairo, but one lane of the major highway that goes across the length of the capital (the "Autostrad") was a kilometer-long parking lot of people waiting their turn to buy gas at this station. My driver says that there isn't such a shortage for the higher grade, more expensive gas; but, of course, that's not what most people can afford to put in their tank. They are being reminded on a daily basis that democracy comes at a price. Some remain defiant. May their resolve fuel their journey.

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