Last year, I traveled to the middle east with my husband, Joshua's DU Daniels College of Business cohort to Egypt and Turkey, and it shaped my soul as no other trip has yet. The student (and some partners) "business" trip is designed do business projects and ventures, setting up meetings in a foreign region--in two major metropoles: one developed (Istanbul), and another underdeveloped (Cairo). As an artist, I painted in our hotel room (in that part of the world, a woman should never wander alone, much less paint on the street!!!). I did, however, sketch at the Great Pyramids and Sphynx, accompanied by a band of eager artists ranging from four-11 years old Egyptian children, who seemed homeless.
I got to accompany the business meetings, tours and events, all scheduled business casual at schwanky hotels, and spectacular local restaurants. Ironically, it was during the holiday of Ramadan, when muslims fast all day from water or food, but this wild business school MBA group was ready to party and drink and eat robustly. In contrast to the millions of covered-up Muslims never imbibing in alcohol (but definitely partaking in the hookah!), the class was scantily dressed, and ready to conquer the world with their business acumen and fabulous wit. On one occasion, I actually hid behind a papyrus tree guzzle water to shield myself from thirsty onlookers across the baking street. People languished around in oven-hot August, daydreaming of sunset when life begins and festivals and feasts ensue, during Ramadan in the The City of a Thousand Minarets.
As an artist, Egypt: the haunting earth tone colors, and cyclical calls to prayer from the minarets peaking above the dusty smog and constant reminders of bygone days. The people with the calousse toughness, but bright humor. Istanbul with its beaming Bosphorous, showcasing the palaces and history of evermore. Getting sick on pomegranate juice (or Nile water), made way for an interesting trip to the Egyptian Museum (I almost threw up in a sarcophagus, but made it to a full bathroom, and upchucked into a trash, where the attendants were surely grateful for my helping them through a day of fasting a la Ramadan!
The trip was meant to juxtapose the two cities, the two lifestyles, the two economic systems, infrastructures (or lack thereof), and the two cultures.
While in Cairo, everything was hot, inhibited, icky, judgy, depressed, ancient, wondrous, inhibited, everything about Istanbul was sexy, with exotic history and features fit for a lifetime of jewel-toned hues lining the magnificent Bosphorous, featuring palaces of antiquity and grandeur.
Since the trip, the Arab Spring happened, and we muse over the ways of the humble and hilariously funny Egyptians, who I found so charming. But the abject poverty and extreme disappointment in their crumbled society. The Turkish, on the other hand, were more mysterious, as is the elusive past in that cradle of civilization.