The first time I went to Egypt was in 2009 during a study abroad program through my school. Mubarak was still standing strong in his almost 30 years in power. I knew nothing about Mubarak’s regime, all that I really knew is that posters of his portrait were everywhere with some gibberish writings that I was yet to understand. I also knew that Obama had given a speech in Cairo University in 2008, promising to build an even stronger relationship with Egypt. If you were American travelling to Egypt, this was the year to go. Egyptians would welcome us with tea and the sentence “we love you Obama”, upon knowing where we were from.
We arrived in Cairo on my birthday and it was a hot summer day to be expected in towards the end of July. I immediately noticed an abundance of men surrounding the airport trying to catch any tourist that will take their form of ride. The women were beautifully matching their clothe with their head wraps. I loved Egypt from the moment I landed, it was so foreign and different from what I was used to that I found everything fascinating.
We stayed in Cairo for less than a day and parted to Aswan located in the south of Egypt at the border of Sudan. Aswan is very different from Cairo. The Egyptian traditional values of Islam are more pigmented in their society. Although in Cairo you see a lot of people wearing the traditional attire, the galabeya (long dress) for the men and for the women the long dress is called abaya. You see the traditional values in their attire and behavior more in Aswan and the rest of Upper Egypt (south of Egypt).
When you arrive to Aswan, you immediately feel a heavy sense of peace. The river is so relaxing, refreshing and pure. You can hear from afar the children playing at the bank of the river and the birds chirping away.
Aswan gets extremely hot during the months of Summer, so most people do not come out until night-time and that is really where the life begins. If you ever been to Egypt you know that most people sleep throughout the day and stay awake throughout the night. This is especially true during the hot months and in the month of Ramadan(the month when Muslims all over the world have to fast from sunrise to sunset).
After staying in Aswan for 5 days we headed towards Luxor by bus. I didn’t take any pictures in Luxor. That was because we ended up not doing anything that was on our itinerary. Our study abroad teacher ended up quitting her responsibilities because of some problems that had happened in Aswan. Let’s just say that she was engaged in some fishie things. We called the school to report the situation and while we were waiting for the school to resolve some logistics we stayed in our hotel rooms until further noticed.
The director of the international department finally called our chaperon, the secretary of the African Studies department and gave her the permission to take charge. We were able to stay in Egypt for the remainder of the trip since it was already prepaid.
We headed back to Cairo, where we stayed for 4 days. We mainly hang around the hotel enjoying the pool but we were able to see some touristic sites.
We ventured out to ancient towns such as Al Husain and tried the traditional Egyptian meal “koshari”. The dish is fairly simple but very delicious, it’s basically made out of rice, lentils, pasta, tomato sauce and glace or fried onions. Basically a bowel of carbs. The picture bellow is not mine just a pretty picture of the dish. Disclaimer, the koshari that you will find in the streets will not look this pretty, but it will still be very delicious.
I was not able to notice the political situation during my first trip to Egypt. It was later on during my second and third trip that I was able to compare the implications that took place during the Arab Spring and how people’s daily lives have been affected. Unfortunately, the protests and the shift of power in Egypt is having a great social economic impact. Tourism is extremely slow which is one of the driving forces of Egypt’s economic and people are still not able to afford the basic needs such as shelter and food.
I will not go go into depth about my political views on this post, most likely I will share more when I post about the trip#3.