Background

The Day of Ahmed's Secret, by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, takes place in the bustling city of Cairo. The book tells of Ahmed's typical day of work and at the conclusion of the story, reveals Ahmed's special secret.

Cairo is the capital of Egypt, located just south of the Nile Delta. The Nile Delta is the area where the longest river in the world, the Nile, splits into branches before draining into the Mediterranean Sea. Cairo is the largest city in the Arab world, Africa, and the Middle East. In fact, Cairo is so crowded that a quarter of a million people have no where else to live but in Cairo's cemetery district called the "City of the Dead." (Komatsu, p.60)

Most life in Egypt thrives along the banks of the Nile because of the precious water resource. Because the region along the Nile, known as the Nile Valley, is so densely populated, one of the goals for the future is to expand development westward. The Nile Valley is unable to support population growth and agricultural demands. By accommodating the population growth, precious agricultural lands are decreasing. Egypt needs the land to help feed its people.

From the hustle and bustle of the city of Cairo, one can clearly view the pyramids located in Giza, southwest of Cairo. Egypt has the longest recorded history of any country in the world. (Komatsu, p.48) Thus, Egypt's strongest economic treasure today is tourism. The economy of Egypt is largely supported by tourists that travel in search of the pyramids, temples, and tombs that have withstood the sands of time. It is said that, "man fears time and time fears the pyramids." More efforts have been made in Egypt to support the tourism industry.

I traveled to Cairo and Luxor for a week during the summer of 1997. From my own personal experience, I was amazed to actually see the importance of the Nile; beyond the fertile, green banks of the Nile the land is barren. The months of July and August, unfortunately fall in the hottest season of the year. My interactions with people and visiting the Muhammad Ali Mosque, led me to discover the predominance of the Islam religion and Arabic language in Cairo.

What an experience it was for me to actual see the pyramids and Sphinx with my own eyes.

While in Cairo, I visited the Cairo Museum, which houses many treasures discovered in the tombs of the pharaohs. Despite the rich evidence of the ancient world in Cairo, the city has a McDonald's and Pizza Hut; the United States really has an influence worldwide.

While in the area, I had the opportunity to observe children at work in a carpet factory. I was amazed; the fingers of these little children work like machinery as they create beautiful rugs. It's an amazing process and skill. The children are instructed by an adult as to what the pattern is and the procedures to follow. These children work just as Ahmed does to help his family.

During my flight home, I was fortunate to sit by Muhammad, a college student from Egypt, attending a university in Oklahoma. From him I learned that many young adults come to the United States to get a better education, then return to Egypt to help its economy and more importantly its people.

Cairo holds a special place in my heart and I am excited to share my own personal experiences with this lesson. Most of the information is based on the things I learned while I was there. I found a great web site (http://www.us.sis.gov.eg/front.htm) and I read Egypt: Children of the World, by Yoshio Komatsu (1991), which shows the lives of two young boys growing up in Cairo.

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