Sometimes you have to go back into the past to understand the present. While we are all riveted to the images coming out of Egypt, there is a larger and very significant change happening right now that begs to be put into a larger context. It escalates the protests in Egypt into -- quite literally -- a historic and earth-shattering event.
Egypt is usually at the top, or near the top, of everyone's travel wish list. As children, they were introduced to the mysterious world of mummies -- humans embalmed for eternity, their organs removed, their brain sucked out through their noses. When they got a little older, they learned the names of the Big Boys -- Ramses, Thutmose, Siamun, Amenhotep, the rare female ruler Hatshepsut, and of course, the boy wonder, Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut.
If the interest persisted, perhaps they set out to learn hieroglyphics, which, unlike our own paltry alphabet, contained more than 2000 characters. They may have delved into the Egyptian system of numbering which, like our system, is based on units of 10. If they had a mystical or superstitious bent, they could purchase an eye of Horus pendant or pin to protect them against evil.
For anyone with an Egypt fascination, the must-see sites certainly included the pyramids of the Giza plateau, the temple complex at Karnak (it is the largest ancient religious site in the world and includes the monumental Great Temple of Atun), The Valley of the Kings and the Queens. In the latter, the beautiful Nefertari, in her gossamer white gown and golden crown, almost steps off he walls. The images of her are like an ancient Egyptian fashion show.
No wonder people everywhere on earth are fascinated by the Egyptian past and the Pharaohs... but how does that relate to what is happening in Egypt today? My contention is that it is at the heart of the protests, the brave Egyptians, who are defying curfews, guns and tanks, ARE PROTESTING AGAINST THEIR MODERN PHARAOH -- Hosni Mubarak. For decades he has behaved as though he were God-incarnate, carrying a royal staff, ruling autocratically over his minions, consolidating power, eliminating opposition.
Perhaps the most ardent Pharaonaphiles imagine that the ancient kings of Egypt were benign leaders who were worried about the afterlife and prepared their tombs long before their hearts gave out. Well, I am no Egyptologist, but I am sure that the words "dictator" and "despot" would not be inapplicable to many of the Pharaohs. They amassed unfathomable wealth and power, while the masses, as always, labored to survive and get by. They built huge monuments to themselves, big slabs of ego, to impress their followers and foreign powers with their stature and might.
Romantic? Hardly. Ruthless, yes. And, I am sorry to say, the Pharaonic mentality has persisted in Egypt for two millennia after the Pharaohs disappeared.
Which brings me to what is happening in Egypt today. It is monumental, just like the buildings of the ancient leaders. It is not only bent on overthrowing Mubarak, but reversing a history of autocratic rule and finally bringing power to the people.
Any student of the Hebrew Bible or history knows that iron-fisted rulers held sway throughout the Middle East for millennia. They abused their authority at every turn, killed off the opposition, tortured, maimed, plotted, connived, and clung to power by every means imaginable. And their legacy has persisted until today. Egypt. Jordan. Yemen. Saudi Arabia. Iran. Syria. In the Mahgreb: Tunisia. Libya. Algeria. Morocco. With their secret and overt police, their lackeys and suckups, they have controlled the people under their rule by instilling fear and throttling creativity, freedom, easy communication, democratic rule and dignity.
Until today. That is why the unfolding events are so significant. After millennia of various forms of oppression, the people are saying NO to Pharonic rule, NO to autocracy, NO to powerlessness.
It is messy, this revolution thing. It is dangerous and frightening. But the brave people of Egypt, and their counterparts in other countries of the region are changing history before our eyes.
Let the Pharaohs lie in their tombs. When this chaos and violence blow over and when Mubarak is history, tourism will return to Egypt and people will be as fascinated by the Pharaonic past as they have always been. But there will be a new sheen to Egypt, a new pride, a new power that resides exactly where it should be -- not with the historical and modern Pharaohs, but with the Egyptian people.
Author Bio: Judith Fein is an award-winning travel writer who has contributed to almost 100 publications. She is the author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel. Her website is http://www.GlobalAdventure.us