"An old book smells like ancient Egypt." - Ray Bradbury

Lazy Great Pyramids day
I've now been living and teaching in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt for nearly 7 months. My time here has both flown and crawled, just like my experiences here have had several peaks and valleys.

I've seen the Library at Alexandria, dipped my toes in the Red Sea in Sokhna, climbed to the peak of Mt. Sinai to walk in the footsteps of Moses, hiked the colored canyon in Nuweiba, explored temples and tombs in Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel, rode camels at the Great Pyramids of Giza twice, driven through "Garbage City" to visit a church carved into a mountainside, rode a horse in the Faiyum, walked in the Nile, and so much more.

I've also stared in horror at my friend's face after she was badly beaten by her Egyptian boyfriend, assured another friend that her sexual assault was not her fault, had to yell at random men who aggressively try to trick and scam you outside every monument and site, argued with taxi drivers in broken Arabic, and cried for our planet every time I breathe in heavily polluted air or see men, women, and children throw their trash on the ground without a care.

The Cave Church in Cairo
Cairo is alive. It's loud, horns honking, dogs barking, children begging, women selling, kiosks cooking, bar hopping ALIVE. I never realized just how spirited this city is until my eldest sister came to visit me for 10 days and reopened my eyes to the insanity and fun that can be Cairo.

I've become dull to seeing children racing donkey-carts through rush hour traffic and deaf to men's shouts at me; but with her here, it was like I was seeing it all again fresh, for better and for worse.

So how do I feel about Egypt as a whole now that I've traveled around it from the Mediterranean Sea to the north, almost the Sudan border to the south, and all the way to the eastern side of Sinai?

Cairo

My humble home and the primary source of my love/hate relationship with Egypt.

Pros:

  1. You can get anything and everything delivered to your doorstep via Instashop, Otlob, or Elmenus. Groceries, toiletries, food from almost every restaurant - it's enough to make almost anyone lazy.
  2. The Pyramids are an amazing sight to behold.
  3. My students are here and I love them for no plausible reason.
  4. There's vibrant nightlife, plenty of malls, restaurants, theatres, bookstores, etc. Getting bored here is difficult with so many options.
You haven't ridden a camel until you've done it with your sister

Cons:

  1. There's not much nature that is easily accessible and green for me to frolic through and there are almost no sidewalks, so taking a long walk isn't super safe.
  2. There are more dogs than cats.
  3. The hustlers at the Pyramids are bold and rude. Pro tip: once you've bought your ticket and are through the metal detectors, you don't need to show your ticket to ANYONE except if you are entering a pyramid or museum. Ignore ALL the a******* that scream "TICKET!" at you as you walk up to the Great Pyramid. They are scammers and you need nothing from them.
  4. See con #1 again.

Alexandria (North)

I loved sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, people here were very friendly, and the city is lovely! I wasn't there long, but I will definitely visit again. I did notice that more women here wore traditional clothing than in Cairo, but that's pretty much everywhere outside of Cairo that's not a tourist resort/beach location.

In mid-March, the weather was warm in the sun and too chilly for my liking in the shade; however, the views more than made up for the temperature and I now know that it's going to be my late spring/summer weekend spot.

The library left me underwhelmed but happy. I was happy to see it, but I couldn't help walking through the modern stacks and wishing I could see what it would have looked like in all its splendor in antiquity. A fairy tale, I know, but one I can't help trying to read nonetheless. I was also saddened with the fact that the admission ticket (only 70LE), didn't include almost any of the museums inside, the rare book and papyri room, or anything else besides the main library/reading room. I know it's more of a tourist attraction than a library now, but I found the entire experience wanting.

I also was able to amuse myself by looking at their selection of classical works and found Virgil under "Classical Greek Poetry" and Homer listed under "Classical Greek Speeches." My sister didn't find this as funny as I did, but alas.

The Sea is calling my name again and I'm always up for a good library with a large selection, so Alexandria will see me again.

Luxor (Upper Egypt)

Felucca sailing and Nile wading
Probably my favorite place in Egypt. It's quiet, simple, green, and has more temples, tombs, and monuments than I've been able to see in my two visits so far. Karnak is tied for my favorite temple with Philae and seeing (what were supposed to be eternal resting places) Valley of the Kings is always humbling. There's also a great restaurant, Sunrise, in town that has wine and delicious food.

In Luxor, I've had the pleasure and privilege of visiting:

  • Karnak Temple Complex
  • Luxor Temple
  • Temple of Hatshepsut
  • Valley of the Kings
  • Valley of the Queens
  • Deir El Medina
  • Colossi of Memnon
In January, it was hot during the day and cool at night. In March, it was boiling during the day and hot at night. However, after leaving chilly Cairo each time, I was ready for the heat. It's also much cheaper in Luxor than in Cairo and most people are friendlier. 10 for 10 would visit again! 

I would live in Luxor, but outside of tourism, jobs aren't really booming down there.

Wandering through the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak

Aswan (Upper Egypt)

Smaller temple at Philae
The Temple Island of Philae made Aswan worth the 4 and 1/2 hour drive from Luxor. The carvings are incredible, the variety of temples makes it worth the 140LE entry fee and 200LE/person boat ride over, and the scarcity of people (at off peak times) makes it worth the heat.

The Nile is very wide in Aswan, so staring at it while eating salad and drinking white wine with my sister helped me love this part of Upper Egypt a bit more. I wandered around the temples and tried to stick my head into every doorway, nook and cranny that I could find, but the heat eventually won out and we headed back to the boats after only an hour and a half in search of fresh water.

However, I know that it won't be my last time visiting Philae - I still have way too much to see and way too much time left in Egypt not to fully explore temples as beautiful, well preserved, and and fascinating as these.

Aswan alone isn't the city for me, but this temple and the Movenpick Hotel make me want to go back again and again.

Until next time, Aswan! Only next time, I'd better see some Nile crocodiles.

Feeling dwarfed at Philae

Abu Simbel (Nubia)


What's all the way down here that Marilyn wants to see besides the Great Temple at Abu Simbel and Nefertari's Temple? Nothing! 

I went for the temples and they did not disappoint. Huge, beautifully carved, excellently saved from drowning and moved, gorgeous to walk through. The scenes painted on the insides and the statues helped me fall in love with these houses of the gods.

As my friend and I looked around the outside of the Great Temple, we noticed that there was a huge stone resting on the ground. I walked over to inspect it and noticed an ear on it - it was the missing face for the fourth statue. I touched it, excited to be touching ancient stone, wishing that I was there on one of the temple's perfect alignment days. However, it was still a visit to remember and I cannot wait to visit Ramses there again.

Dahab/Sinai Desert (East)

Dahab was like being in a non-conservative country for a week. Women walked around in shorts without men staring like they were aliens, prices were higher, tours were everywhere, and I found many street cats to dote upon. Ideal vacation life. 

Hiking Mt. Sinai was tough. I took the steps way instead of just riding a camel up because I'm hard headed and I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from summiting unaided. So I huffed and puffed my way up and was rewarded with a beautiful sunset and a feeling of being closer to Biblical history.

My guide, a very sweet Bedouin, showed me the way, took photos with and for me, introduced me to some trail dogs and puppies, and was patient when I needed a break every 23 minutes. Of all the random guides standing near monastery that I could have chosen, I'm glad I picked his kind face out of the crowd. He also did the entire hike in his long robe, sandals, and turban, giving me major Pemba Lama vibes.

I walked through St. Catherine's Monastery on my way back to my taxi sore and tired, but feeling oh so good.

I have more Sinai adventures in me.


Sokhna (Red Sea)

 My sister and I stayed at another Movenpick here, used their day pass option to relax on their windy beach, chill by their pool, eat lunch by the Sea (included), and get incredible massages for 350LE each. I need to go again every weekend for the rest of my time here and just do that.

Egypt is mostly good to me and I try to be open minded about it. Some people I meet make me want to leave immediately and others make me never want to go back to my uncomplicated life in the US. Sometimes my students make me want to walk out of school and never look back, and other days I want to follow them through secondary just so I can keep teaching them. 

These months have been kind to me and have allowed me to see amazing things. I'm glad I have the chance to see more.

Comments

Post a Comment