building big

It all started yesterday afternoon in the office. Mustafa was reading the paper, Haythem was writing something and I was on the computer. With no clue whatever, Haythem suggested going to Mokattam, the highest point in Cairo. We agreed, and before the sun was down, we were already sipping coffee on the high hill. Far upto our sight we could see this amazing desert sprawl including the city of Cairo, Giza and Greater Cairo all together. It was difficult to say where one city ended and another began - such is the vastness of this urbanization. Right in front of us was the city of the dead - some ten million arabians resting in peace in tombs of their own. On the left were these new and old skyscrappers belonging to telecom and multinational companies. Farther left, upto the horizon, there was this new construction zone - with at least half a million villas being built in order to ease the congestion of central Cairo. Too bad I didn't take my camera.

Haythem and Mustafa went on talking, eagerly describing the many places on view. Straight ahead we could see the Pyramids of Giza - dim under the smog produced from millions of automobiles and numerous industries that produce items ranging from diapers to rocket parts. This view was so great, in fact I had never laid my eyes on such a view even in the capital of Japan. Personally I see New York as a laid-back town as compared to Tokyo but the view of this desert habitation right now was much compelling - it simply outpaced that experience when I had first seen the Japanese sprawl of Tokyo-Yokohama-Kanagawa. I turned back to look at my friends. They were smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee while I was beginning to imagine how this place would be like in the future - I mean, not twenty or fifty years from now but something like five hundred years down the lane?

Mustafa and Haythem were now busy laughing and joking with each other. I was confused with a few Arabic words I caught here and there from their conversation, but it seemed that they were laughing over an old joke. Myself, I was grazing with unquenched eyes, upon what seemed to be a rare vista of the greatest city in the desert. Amid all that air and confusion, I was trying to imagine, what sprawls like BAMA (Boston-Atlantic Metropolitan Axis, as described in Neuromancer), would look like in the future compared to this early 21st century Cairo? Will Cairo be one end of THE DESERT SPRAWL with other end as Dubai? I wonder. Will the population rise so much that people will eventually have to use up evey inch of land on this planet? What about underwater cities and such they constantly show on TV? Will they ever be built? Will technology allow to realize such dreams? What will the word urbanization mean in the future when there will be uncountable billions of Homo sapiens minding their own businesses in this common home-planet?

A large portion of questions like these will be answered only in the future and the best bet is to wait for the time and continue to seek new methodologies. Amid all these grand questions, yet, one thing is certain - human beings will continue to build big - either to surrender or to compromise with problems - or merely, to fulfill the dreams of building big.

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