arable land in Egypt. We were more inclined to believe the Tunisians! Though considerable desertification has taken place in North Africa since Roman times, it is difficult to believe that Egypt has changed that much. At present, 19% of Morocco's territory is arable, 17% of Tunisia, but only 3% to 7% of Egypt's can be cultivated. All three countries are torrid as you would expect in North Africa, but Egypt afforded us much the hottest weather we had ever encountered. At one point, we were in the 125 degree range with a searing and unrelenting sun overhead and no shade anywhere. That never happened while we were in Morocco and Tunisia, though people there were afraid that Ramadan in August would be brutal in both places. When flying over Morocco and Tunisia, we could see a surprising amount of green growing things so that those countries did not appear as barren as Egypt where the only green is alongside the Nile. C ITIES Cairo is a much bigger, more congested, and dirty city than the biggest ones in Morocco & Tunisia, Rabat at 3,500,000 and Tunis at 1,670,000 respectively. Cairo with its 22,000,000 inhabitants is one of the largest in the world.. Of course, the relative population sizes differ correspondingly: Egypt with its 80,400,000, Morocco with 31,600,000 and little Tunisia with only 10,600,000! All the more amazing is this population differential when you consider how little inhabitable land Egypt contains compared with the others. Seeing women in the streets of all three countries does not produce different impressions. In all three, women are seen in every kind of dress from Western casual wear to full coverage in burkas and niqabs. The majority in all three are equipped with head coverings like scarves regardless of what else they might be dressed in. It is difficult for a foreigner to assess how much all this dress is a requirement of religion, custom, region, or tradition. The guides in all three countries stated that women have the choice of how they want to dress, but acknowledged that family traditions and peer pressure in different areas of their countries have significant input into how “free” the women really are to choose their own mode of dress. And of course, age differences in dress are manifest even to a visitor: old women in all three societies are the most covered up though not even most of them wear the niqab; middle-aged women are less covered and less likely to be masked, and the youngest women appear in all manner of apparel.
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