…And the Countdown is Over!
I have finally made it to Cairo! Still a little jet lagged but in good spirits and just so excited to be here. The apartment here is wonderful. It is very spacious and has a ton of nice furniture and all the gizmos and gadgets required for cooking. So far I haven’t spent more than 2 minutes in there, however, as the staff here keep us well fed and our daily schedules have us constantly going out for food (don’t worry its all paid for so far!)
The giant living space of the apartment, the beautiful kitchen, and my bedroom.
The first place we went was a floating restaurant along the Nile, what an AMAZING view and way to be introduced to Cairo. The food was incredible and everyone was so friendly. Despite how tired I was, I didn’t want to leave the table. I could have sat there and chatted all night.
This is the view from the table where we ate. The whole restaurant is indoors but giant windows along the side made the view possible.
My first impression of Cairo is that it is a very large version of NYC’s Chinatown combined with the poverty of Mexico, splashed in a beige color and then all converted to Islam. What I find most odd is the way people dress. No wonder there are no good pictures to google for “Egyptian dress” or “Women’s clothing in Egypt”. The whole spectrum is covered. Women walk around covered head to toe in Hijab’s, burkas, and the long black robes, only exposing their eyes, right next to women of the same age wearing tight skinny jeans, high heel wedges, cute blouses, lots of make up, and expensive (looking?) jewelry. The menswear also covers the full spectrum from robes and sandals to jeans and hoodies complete with big sunglasses. The noise here is unbelievable. The streets are always emitting honking, shouting, sirens, dogs, or humming motorcycles. Oh and don’t get me started on the traffic! It is almost indescribable. No stop lights, no lanes, to traffic signals… no nothing. Just sticking your nose out and hoping you don’t get hit. The smell of burning plastic/rubber also hangs in the air and the smog is pretty bad. So far my body hasn’t been affected but the hazy, dark clouds are very easy to see against the bright blue sky. The weather is cool (50s) but generally sunny. No complaints so far
The morning after we ate along the Nile we were greeted with a 9 am Arabic class. The combination of a very fast paced two hour class and still being very jet lagged took every ounce of energy I could muster to stay focused. But the teacher was incredible and I am already using Egyptian colloquial terms and grammar after just one class! Following class, we had two lectures. One on Egyptian life the other on the recent Revolution. The revolution lecture was fascinating. Hearing the story being told by such a passionate Egyptian gave me chills. I took very good notes and quoted the professor word for word on numerous occasions. Hopefully I already have one great resource for my thesis! Today we had more presentations. One on health in Egypt and then one on safety while abroad by Mrs. Chris. Both were very helpful and despite being a bit depressing, we did finish on a good note. Excursions! Mrs. Chris didn’t go into too much detail but we have some FUN trips planned and I am sooo excited! One includes a cruise down the Nile River… for 4 days! And of course, a trip to the Valley of the Kings/Queens. Sunday we are planning the excursion I am most excited for.. THE PYRAMIDS!! Including the ever popular camel ride. But before I get ahead of myself, I failed to mention the highlights of today.
Following Mrs. Chris’ presentation we hopped in a van and headed to the Cairo Museum. One Word: WOW. The place was huge. I could have spent days in there and still not seen everything. Unfortunately, we only had two hours. I was slightly disappointed because I am such a “history junkie” but I can’t complain because the fees were covered by IFSA and the tour guide was beyond amazing. I learned so much that it would take pages to write it all down. But in all, if you are ever in Cairo, go there. It isn’t like American museums. Things are out and very touchable. There are no ropes. Just millenia year old statues and sarcophagus’ sitting in the middle of the giant hallways. No guards are around either. It was almost unsettling just how much freedom we had to look and touch. After the wonderful trip downtown we came back to the office to watch an Egyptian band perform live Arab music. I was very impressed by their skills with the instruments but I think I’ll stick with Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts.
On left: Miriam, Matt and me in front of the entrance to the Cairo Museum and on the right: the Egyptian band plays music for us
In all, my first three days in Egypt have been very successful. Many of my stereotypes have disappeared and I am learning a great deal about what it means to be Egyptian. Hopefully this trend will continue for the next four months! Thank you for reading, and until next time…