Wed October 14th – Fri October 16th
Weekend in Cairo!!!
Train from Alex –> Cairo
– None of the computers at the station were working = no tickets = problem –> by some miracle one another Middlebury kid (VERY advanced language skills) showed up –> under his direction we took another train to another station where he negotiated for unofficial tickets for the train to Cairo –> we didn’t have actual seats so we had to move around in the cars a few times, but we got there!!
– Took the metro from the train station to the hostel
– Hostel = pretty nice
– Nearby Café –> fresh mango juice
PYRAMIDS with about 5 other Middlebury kids
– 6:00 am
– “Private tour” (one of the kids in the group fell for a scam – we were stuck with our “tour guide” for a while but finally got rid of him)
– “Private minibus” (the same kid fell for it again)
– The Great Pyramid
– The Second pyramid
– The third pyramid
– Walked a bit further and got a great view of all three pyriamids!
– The Sphinx
– Cab (I negotiated this one – no scam!)
Dinner at really good pizza restaurant –> Halawani (pastry/desert shop)
– Walked around Khan al-Khalili (famous souk [market] in Cairo)
– Beautiful mosques in Islamic Cairo
– Lunch at GAD
– Gamaliyya?? Another markety-area, though not sure if we were there or in another market…
– Talked to a nice Egyptian kid
– Juice at a café – problem = most places don’t have menus/fixed prices = you have to bargain to avoid tourist scams –> but we forgot to do that before we ordered… –> waited asked for 45 pounds = laughable (15 would be appropriate) –> we did not pay 45 pounds – we left 20 on the table (which was still expensive)
– Picked up our bags from the hostel
Wednesday October 21st – Saturday October 24th
All the kids from the program plus a bunch of their Egyptian roommates from the dorms
–> 2 buses (first one left at around 4/4:30; mine left at around 6:30 after the later classes ended)
–> 9 hours on bus.
–> Arrive at hotel at around 3:00 AM (more like a hostel but the café in the courtyardy area had great pancakes!!)
–> Sleep in until around 9:00!
–> Touristy activities (in two large groups via which bus you took from Alex)
– Mount of the Dead = awesome view of the oasis and the desert that stretches from the edge of it + tombs – ancient Egyptian tombs – you can walk inside some of them – BEAUTIFUL wall paintings – tombs!!!
– Citadel-type place where Alexander the Great hung out (can’t remember the name of the place since I am a bad tourist) + one of the oldest (?) mosques in Egypt (small/really cool architecture/chimney-like minaret)
– Cleopatra’s Bath – a kind of natural spring with SPARKLING Lisa-Frank-worthy water (dipped my feet in!!)
– Sat at a café on the same street as Cleopatra’s Bath (the pool is actually in the middle of a dirt road/rotary/type-deal) for several hours chatting and drinking mango-pomagranet juice!
– Rented bikes from near the hotel
– Rode said bikes to popular spot to watch the sunset over a marshy area –> it was cloudy that afternoon –> we couldn’t actually see the sunset haha
– Rode the bikes back in the dark – lol! Most of the road was without streetlights haha!
– Restaurant –> took them over 2 hours to serve us – not really sure why
– The group I went to the café with stopped on our walk to the hotel to play Frisbee with some Egyptians and they made me play despite my hesitation
– Free time –> some shopping in town (Siwa is famous for having the best olives [check] and dates [check] in Egypt) –> walked around Shali (ruined citadel dating to the 13th century-ish on a hill in town) –> more pancakes at the hotel
– Desert Safari!!! About 5-6 people in each jeep OOO they drove fast OOO we went down really really really big sand dunes OOO it was way better than 6 Flags
o The desert was so gorgeous
o The shadows on the dunes were amazing in the late afternoon sun
o Stopped at a mini oasis – a bunch of people went swimming but I dipped my feet in since I didn’t have the right change of clothes (def going in when we go on the trip again in the spring!!)
o Stopped at a mini hot spring – dipped my feet in again
o Stopped at an ex-lake/sea where you can see fossilized animals embedded into the ground – not joking – so awesome! Left my camera in the jeep so don’t have pictures of this one – sorry!
o Stopped to watch the sunset from a great spot on the top of a dune
o Some people went sand-boarding – I was happy watching and playing in the sand – the sand is so fine and soft!!
– Arrived at the camp –> food –> fire + Siwi music –> truth or dare minus the dare in the desert (really fun) –> Most people went to bed but I stayed up with a small group (mostly Egyptian roommates with some program kids) basically all night around the camp fire –> saw at least six shooting stars –> walked to a great spot to watch the sunrise with a couple people just before dawn –> got back to the camp just in time to ride back to town in the jeeps
– Breakfast provided by the program = 150-200 falafel sandwiches in a giant cardboard box – LOVE IT!
– Another 9 hours on the bus
– Back in Alex!!
a) I feel more connected to the country after traveling to different areas – I have a better sense of where I am geographically (same experience in Jordan too)
b) Hung out with EGYPTIANS MY AGE!!! I chatted a lot with one kid in particular – he is really really nice and great to practice Arabic with so I hope the opportunity to hang out with him arises again soon!!
c) I am def clicking with the kids on the program better – there are still a few that live up to my initial impressions, but some of the others are definitely fun to hang out with
Taking Arabic calligraphy lessons at an arts/culture center in Alexandria (usually twice a week)
– The classes are really small (normally me and a few other Egyptian girls)
– The instructor is really nice and gives lots of 1-on-1 attention
Two Middlebury girls randomly met another American girl studying/working here at the mall –> she extended an open invitation to a Halloween party at her apartment –> two Middlebury girls told me –> I went with another friend –> everyone there was really cool! It’s always fun to meet new people and expand the social circle!! (especially in a foreign country!!)
Over the Halloween weekend –> hanging out more with program kids = good
Moved out of Madam Fatima’s apartment to the girls dorm!
Dinner at Mohamed Ahmed’s (really cheap, really fast falafel/etc) with a few other girls
Love my new roommate!!
November 5th – November 13th
Trip to Upper Egypt
From Alexandria to Aswan: NINETEEN HOURS
Aswan Day 1
– Got to the hotel at around noon
– Souk (market)
– Vendors always shout out random thing but this time my friend and I got “Two angry women” with the inflection of a statement…?
– Turkish coffee
– Walked around the souk some more –> bargained and chatted with random shop owners
– Ciesta in the hotel
– Dinner at Oum Kathoum Restaruant (named after FAMOUS Egyptian singer Oum Kathoum)
– Bought pastries
Aswan Day 2
– Left hotel at 3am
– Drove through a lot of desert
– ABU SIMBEL at around 7:30am (the scale of the statues was incredible)
– Drove some more
– Small boat to PHILAE (temple complex on a small, but beautiful island)
– Short drive back to the hotel
– Excellent dinner at seafood restaurant
– Small group –> feluccia ride
– Search for hookah –> anti-hookah laws in Aswan = epic fail –> café –> restaurant –> we all practiced speaking Arabic in Southern accents (Southern as in Alabama)
Aswan Day 3 –> Feluccia Day 1
Walked around a bit
Finally found a colloquial dictionary and BOUGHT IT!
Boarded feluccias at around noon
– Seven or eight people on each boat
– Five boats
– Small sailboat
– Two guys did all the sailing and cooking
– The deck was fairly wide and flat
– We sat on blankets and cushions
– The deck was sheltered from the sun with a cloth roof
– Only bummer – no bathroom on board –> we took short breaks on the shore of the Nile…
– All the boats moored on the shore near a huge sand dune
– We all hung out
– Got some mosquito bites…
Feluccia Day 2
The Nile River
– Much calmer than I had imagined – the flow of the water was not that fast and the only turbulent waves we encountered were from the wake of larger boats
– Gorgeous! The shores are lined with vegetation but you can see desert hills rising in the background + stork-type birds
– Playing cards
– Lots of conversation
– It was soooo relaxing
Feluccia Day 3 –> Luxor Day 1
End of feluccia
– We were ready to get off by the second morning
– Beautiful temple
– Took a rubbing of some heirolgyphics (paper + colored pencil against a wall)
– Overheard a tour guide talking about a shrine: “I’m not convinced, though that is the most logical theory we have.” What?!?
– Hotel/shower finally!!
– Karnak –> closed = fail
– LUXOR temple at night = spectacular (the lighting was very romantic)
– Café with two other friends
Luxor Day 2
– Rented bikes with about 10 other kids for the day (everyone else took a bus)
– Had to cross the Nile –> took all of our bikes on a really small boat = fabulous!!
– VALLEY OF THE KINGS (the paintings inside the tombs were overwhelming)
– HATSHEPSUT’S tomb (the surrounding cliffs were intimidating – I understand why she chose that site – also decided that if she were alive today she would make a great Smithie!)
– Rode back to the Nile –> another boat
– KARNAK (magnificent – the scale of everything was SOOO BIG!!)
– Returned bikes
– Shower/short ciesta
– Most of us took two minibuses to a Coptic festival/fair about a half hour outside Luxor –> ate deserts
– Midnight snack from McDonalds (nothing else was open!!)
Mohamed Mounir/Cheb Khalid
– Took an early train from Luxor –> I SLEPT
– Arrived in Cairo at around 6pm
– Met up with a bunch of the Egyptian guys from the guys’ dorm at the restaurant
– Took bus to the concert
– It was huge! Huge stage with lights and fire and fireworks in the middle of a large field
– The guys all insisted that the girls stay in the center while they formed a border around us – when the crowd got pushy (that happened A LOT) they made sure that no one broke up our group since it would have been really hard to regroup in that crowd
– The music was great but by 2am we were ready to leave
– Took the bus back to Alex
Back in Alexandria
– Finally got back to Alex at around 2am on Friday
– Have a bit of homework
– Tonight we are all going to a café to watch the Egypt-Algeria soccer match live!!
– Planning out what to do the last few weekends of the semester!
– Reflections on the trip in general – I can’t believe that I basically just spent over a ween inside the Discovery Channel – I know it is really corny, but I feel really lucky and really privileged to be living in and visiting all the places I’ve dreamed of since the very first time I saw “The Mummy” – looking forward to all the adventures still to come next semester!!!