Lessons from Egypt

Written by
Written by

Deolu Akinyemi

There is so much to see about Egypt, interestingly there is so much to say as well. The Egyptian civilization is the oldest dated civilization. They have islands and temples that date back to 5000BC. Some of the sites are breath taking and some of the history, mind boggling. Egypt has managed to preserve a lot of it’s history, maximize the use of the Nile and  sufficiently diversify it’s sources of income. 

One thing you cannot but notice about Egypt however is how grossly similar with Nigeria Egypt is. I have traveled to a few countries, but I’m yet to see so much similarity. Egypt also is a land so blessed, but it’s people so poor. When I listened to our tour guide describe Egypt, and the resources he knows that Egypt has, my mind wanders freely back to my country. I’m not every normal vacationer in Egypt, my eyes are covered with the lens of my nations transformation. Wherever I go, one this is on my mind – what as a Nation can we learn from these other countries to better the lot of our nation Nigeria? So, today, from the Land of the Pharaohs, from the land where life after death means more than life on earth, from the land of many temples and rich history, I bring you Lessons from Egypt!

In no particular order other than my own personal bias, here are a few lessons I believe that every sojourner that travels through Egypt should learn. These lessons are important to us, not only as individuals, but even as organizations, even as a nation!

1. Life is Temporary, Eternity is Not.

Very well woven into Egyptian cultural history is this amazing reality – True Life begins when we die. I went to visit the 3 magnificent pyramids of the pharaohs, while somewhere in the dusty recess of my own mind, I had imagined a different use for these pyramids, I was shocked to discover, that these monstrous structures were nothing but tombs for just one man each. Can you imagine that? These were monstrous structures of heights reaching about 150m, each boulder in these structure weighs about 2 tons, while the base of one pyramid is in square kilometers. All that for a tomb? Well if that amazes you, then you need to see the museum of Tutankhamen – this became one of Egypt’s most popular pharaohs simply because he was the king with the most intact tomb after 3000yrs. In this tomb, they were able to recover over 5000 items, 4 shrines inside each other, 4 coffins inside each other, a facial mask, items of top quality gold, his accessories e.t.c. Why so much investment into death? It’s the philosophy of Egyptians – Once a Pharaoh is enthroned, his priority is not the house he’ll live in for his temporary existence, the first project he begins to embark on, is the building of his tomb. The afterlife is seen as most important, and so while there are not so many palaces for people to see after 2000yrs, there are tombs. Even though this philosophy is expressed in a different way from my fundamental beliefs, I like the undertones of it. You and I will live better and more fulfilled lives, if we live with the consciousness of eternity. Our leaders will lead us better, if they lead like they want to be remembered. Our nation will be better if our leaders spend the nations resources on things that will outlive and outlast them. Life becomes meaningful the day we define what we want to be remembered for in death. 

2. Diversification of Resources

Egypt, like Nigeria is blessed with a number of resources, but unlike Nigeria, they are not putting all their eggs in one basket. The number one income generator for Egypt is Agriculture, this is followed by Tourism, then the Suez Canal, then oil and gas. These areas all generate significant income for Egypt. To gain a little perspective, the annual earnings from the Suez Canal placed at number 3, is about $USD 5billion! In tourism, Egypt has 8-11million visitors per annum and over 350 4-5Star Ships cruising the Nile! As we descended into Cairo Airport, the entire landscape was brown! I’ve not seen so much sand in one place, it made sense that in Nigeria, we sing “the land is green”. You really don’t know that Nigeria is green until you come to Egypt, Egypt is a desert. Interestingly however, Egypt derives it’s highest revenue from Agriculture. They have one river, the river Nile, and that river is the lifeblood of Egypt. All the settlements are around this river, this river was the basis of their early civilization, but more importantly this river is their only source for irrigation, electricity and tourism. The Egyptians have oil like their Arab neighbors, and like Nigeria, but unlike us, they are well diversified. Focus is a good tool in developing particular segments, diversification must however be the overall strategy. Egypt’s wealth is well diversified and makes it a really rich nation. The problem that Egypt has though is similar to the Nigerian problem – it’s a problem of political leadership, enlightened followership and social equity. The question to you however is, how many basket’s are you putting your eggs into? Are you putting all your eggs in one basket? Or are you diversifying? What will happen to you if one of your baskets gets rocked? Which basket are you relying to heavily on?

3. Learn and Capture History

In the last few days in which I have been in Egypt, I have seen a lot of historic places and heard lot’s of myths. People actually go to University to study Egyptology! Interestingly too, there is nowhere I have gone that I haven’t witnessed other buses bringing loads of foreigners to come and watch and learn. Is it in the temple of Isis? Was it at the Lynx? The Pyramids or the Temple of Combo? Is it the the Papyrus factory or Nubia Perfume factory? Or is it the museum in Cairo that has the capacity to keep you in for 9yrs at one  minute per item? In all these places people trooped in and out. Why? Egypt has very rich documented history. Unlike many countries who had just one set of colonial leaders, Egypt has been ruled by the Pharaohs, the Greeks – Alexander the Great, by the Romans, by the Ottoman Empire, by Christians and by Muslims. One would assume that passing from hand to hand like this will make the Egyptians lose their history, but no. They have it carefully documented through the ages. Their history and their stories were built to last. The Egyptians started using Hieroglyphics to write on the walls and on the papyrus. They immortalized their Pharaohs and their great men, they immortalized their gods and their temples. They transferred their cultures and traditions from age to age. Perhaps the most interesting development in Egypt in the past was the ability to write with Hieroglyphics, they had learnt early to develop a way of ensuring that their thoughts and words were immortalized. It reminds me of one of the reasons I started this blog. I wanted to create something that will continue to live and breath after I was gone. In this same way, you as an individual need to think about immortality. You need to capture your present moments – write, take pictures, own a website. Do something to make sure that you are more than your body – stretch and express your full potentials. As an organization, you must think the same way. What is there to show about your company? What are it’s founding legacies? What are the principles you hold dear? When in the future it is asked, “what did your company look like 100yrs ago”, what should the answers be? As a nation, we must seek for our history. We must institute a course called Nigeriaology – the study of Nigeria and it’s surrounding myths. We must organize tours together to dig out our past, take the pictures and create learning opportunities from them. Someone needs to start a blog on each culture, on each language, on each community. We must be able to have virtual as well as real tours. There is so much in our history that needs to be available on the global space, so much in our culture that we need to transfer. Those who will be celebrated, those who will be sought after and visited, are those who have knowledge and wisdom emanating from ancient times. Those who do not know the mistake of the past are bound to repeat it, and to the past we have no knowledge of, we remain children. Start documenting your own personal history today!

4. Celebrate the Small things

The more see, the more I know- In the parting words of Michelangelo, “Still I am learning”. I have found out, that this life does not belong to the exceptional genius. It doesn’t belong to the man that is so high and so different from the rest. What sits a man or woman on high, is seldom talent like no other, but little things done with exceptional detail. That more often than not, people will learn not from the best, but the one that is positioned as informed. There have been times in Egypt I have been tempted to ask the questions that suggests the chorus of a song “kini big deal” – What exactly is the big deal about all these? But alas, it’s not in how big, but it’s in how much value is placed on the thing, no matter how big or small. Egypt has a dam constructed at the south of the Nile in Aswan, this dam supplies electricity to Egypt, they had to enter a treaty with other nations to be able to execute this, but thankfully the relationships are working and Egypt has power 24/7. Considering that we have River Niger and River Benue, and a number of dams that are not currently functioning,  is that a big deal? Egypt has many temples that are quite old and serve as great tourist attractions. If we think about the temples of Sango, Ogun, Oya and so many scattered around different parts of Nigeria is this a big deal? We went to a local perfume shop where we were shown how they make perfumes by extracting them from flowers, and how and which perfume formed the base oil for particular popular French perfumes. If we place that side by side, with many medicinal herbs that our local herbalists have discovered in time, is that a big deal? Yes they are have become big deals, because we have refused to celebrate our small things. Let’s take that away from nations and put the search light on you. What do you have that you have taken lightly? What are you not celebrating? What great potential do you have that you are taking like it’s no big deal? What? Nothing is big or small beyond the value we place on them. I have seen Kanji Dam before, but I still took a picture of the high dam, why? Because it was made to look special 😉 I have been to Osogbo before to see the wizards of the forest, I have been to the temple and shrines in Ile-Ife, but I still took pictures at the Lynx and at various temples. Why? Because it was celebrated. There are so many things that are good about you, about your company and about our nation that are looking small and insignificant. We need to begin to celebrate our small stuff.

As soon as I’m able to catch a little bit of the internet again you’ll read from me. These days I don’t even know which day of the week we are on anymore, here on the sea all looks the same. I’m missing you all and it shows, but guess we can always keep in touch from here, this year is one in which I intend to tour a lot more of Africa. H&C is heading for Paris in July, and you also can be there. Salam all…Shukra!

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