Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How the "other half" lives

After weeks of "slumming it" in cheap hotels, Pete and I decided to spend the day at the swimming pool of a posh hotel in order to find out how the other half lives. Of course, I say this with more than a touch of irony, because we know we represent not only the richest half of the world, but probably the richest 10%. The high wall of the Mena House Hotel allowed its residents to forget about those on the other side of the wall - people struggling to make a living selling scarves, fruit or driving taxis. We were amazed at the lengths staff had gone to to create a "home away from home" for rich westerners. If it wasn't for the huge pyramid towering above us, we could just as easily have been anywhere in the western world. It was nice to spend our last day of 40 degree Cairo heat lazing by the pool, but we do prefer experiencing a bit more of real life.

When we arrived in Nairobi, the temperature was much cooler, so no need for posh pools. In fact, the other day a friend of mine took me to see how the "real" other half lives. We visited the largest slum area in Nairobi - it stretches for 200kms. He told us that 60% of people in Nairobi live in slums, and the majority in these slum areas are single families, with many people suffering from HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Cholera, TB and other diseases that are far less common in Australia. It was a stark reminder of just how lucky we are.

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