07-May-2007 -- Egypt is becoming a bit of a second home for me (the first being Yemen), and it was during my third visit in six months that I thought enough was enough and it was time to add an Egyptian Confluence to the record. This trip coincided with my birthday, and Claire had arranged a superb day showing me around the pyramid sites at Dahšūr and Ṣaqqāra. The former is especially alluring, as the dearth of tourists allows for a much greater appreciation of the pyramids' significance and enormity than the more stressful experience one finds at Gīza, viz. the commercialisation of the pyramids and friction arising from hustlers, touts, and nearly-naked tourists obliviously wandering around in this increasingly conservative country.
Unbeknownst to me, we were to stay that night at the former khedival hunting lodge, the Mena House Oberoi hotel, just opposite Gīza, which perhaps should have explained Claire's readiness to engage on another random hunt to nowhere in particular. 30N 31E lies exactly 13.15 km from the apex of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and a mere 22.6 km from Claire's apartment on Zamālik. After such a great day being a year older in the oldest (and arguably most important) tourist attraction in the world, it seemed churlish not to pop along to Cairo's nearest confluence point to see if there had been any further development in the three years since the last visit.
The point is extremely easy to visit - the most challenging part is finding the correct road from the chaotic junction by the Gīza pyramids. Initially, one needs to head south towards the Fayyūm oasis, before turning west onto the Baḥariyya road. The first right after the Mövenpick Hotel at Media City takes you to 400 m from the point, and a four-wheel drive can take you to around 150 m away with no difficulties. A short walk takes you directly to the target. New development can be seen to the South and West, and the area immediately around the Confluence consists of piles of rubble, carefully sorted into type, and scrubby bushes serving as magnets for plastic bags and other assorted litter.
So, 30N 31E, in keeping with previous reports, still lies in the middle of undeveloped land between a series of new housing projects - some occupied, some not. The whole area can be considered to be part of the commuter town of 6 October City - a kind of Slough for Cairo. Egypt's obsession with the date 6 October is sometimes hard to fathom: it is celebrated annually as a great victory over Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur/10th Ramaḍān War, a war that by any independent analysis resulted in utter defeat for Egypt (although in fairness, it can be considered an important step on Egypt's road to recovery of the Sinai). Regardless, it has a significant enough place in the national psyche to merit naming a whole new city after it, and it is in the yet-to-be-filled dusty wasteland gaps of 6 October's construction sites that this Confluence is incongruously placed, entirely unaware of the glorious and ancient cultural and imperial heritage to be found just 13 km east.
The latest Google Earth (c) satellite image shows the point's location nicely, including its position between the ancient pyramids and the brand new developments at Media City and Palm Hills. I expect that, in time, the whole area will be beneath concrete and asphalt, as 6 October City is a key strand of the Government of Egypt's strategy to relieve pressure on Cairene resources. But there's not much sign of activity around 30N 31E at present. Future confluence hunters in Egypt should make revisiting this point a priority, as doing so could result in a fascinating illustration of how areas change over time, and how important revisiting sites is to the goals of the DCP.
Notes: Phil Boyle and Claire Halperin work at the British embassies in Ṣan`ā' and Cairo, respectively. This is Phil's 25th successful confluence visit, and Claire's fifth.