Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My lovely trip to Cairo last month :)

Well, I'm finally getting down to posting about my trip to Cairo to visit my friend Hady at the end of April.
I will divide it up day by day to be organized as I go over all that which transpired.
Here it goes!

April 24, 2013
On April 24, I didn't go to school, and headed to the bus station in Moharram Bey along with the AFS Alexandria chapter leader, Nagwa, where we met up with two other ladies from the chapter on their way with Nagwa to an AFS training in a hotel in Cairo.
Shortly afterwards, we boarded our bus from a company called West and Middle Delta, and made decent time - having left at noon, we arrived in Cairo just after three.
Hady came to pick me up at the stop where we got off, and then took me to his {beautiful} home, which is located on a really neat little neighborhood called Manial, which is situated on an island in the middle of the Nile, where I met his mother Hoda and his two sisters Haidy and Hadeel.
Shortly thereafter, we went out to dinner with an awesome group of Hady's friends to a restaurant called Spectra in a neighborhood of Cairo called Dokki.
Two of them - a guy named Yehia, and a girl named Reem, study at the American University in Cairo. One, named Mohammed, studies at the German University in Cairo. Two of them - two girls named Liza and Hoda, will be studying in American universities starting next year, at Tufts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, respectively. And one named Janan, who is an American student adviser at the AUC.
And it must be said that everyone present spoke beautiful English - many of them, despite the fact that they had never gone to the United States or any Anglophone country, had an incredibly sophisticated vocabulary, and a surprising knowledge of colloquial expressions. I was thoroughly impressed.
Before we went there, Hady had joked that we were going to meet Egyptians that spoke better English than him and me. I laughed at it beforehand, but meeting these guys sure set me straight! xD
In any case, it was a very fun evening out. I got to meet these incredible people, and we talked endlessly about all kinds of things imaginable. On top of everything, the food at Spectra was delicious.
I remember thinking very contentedly to myself several times that evening, "these nights are the kind of memories that I wanted to do this for." :)
So, that evening is a very cool memory for me, and a lovely start to my three days in Cairo.

April 25, 2013 
This day was a school holiday - Sinai Liberation Day, celebrating the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied Sinai Peninsula in 1982 - which meant both that I didn't have to take it off from school since there wasn't any school, and that there was considerably less traffic than usual, because lots of people left the city for day trips in the early morning.
In the morning, Hady took me to see something that I have hoped to see for many years: the Egyptian Museum.
This was truly an incredible experience for me. As I've made clear several times in the past, I have been interested in ancient Egypt for many years (which was one of the factors that resulted in my desire to come here for my exchange), so seeing this iconic museum was a little dream come true for me.
This museum has just about everything an Egyptology junkie could be happy with and more - a total of 120,000 items overall, 11 mummies on display, papyrus scrolls, jewelry, sarcophagi, hieroglyphic inscriptions, statues, amulets, entire columns and sections from temples, animal mummies, historical records, and just about anything else one could think of.
My two favorite spots that we saw were the Jewelry Room, which has some really lovely pieces of jewelry that have been recovered, and the Tutankhamon Room, which exhibits the artifacts recovered from the legendary tomb of none other than King Tut himself.
Seeing his beautiful, signature golden mask gave me goosebumps - it was so mesmerizing to look at.
I unfortunately have no pictures to show you, because it was forbidden to take pictures inside the museum. But hopefully the words I've written (and the multitudes of pictures of the Museum that you can find on Google and Wikipedia :P) will be enough to paint a picture in your heads, so to speak.
Later that night, I went out again, this time with Hady, his sisters, and a friend of theirs named Mahmoud, and we went to a cupcake bakery called Nola in a lovely, somewhat upscale neighborhood of Cairo called Maadi, for a quick, late-night dessert, which ended up being quite fun. :)

April 27, 2013
Although this was the last day of my trip, it was certainly the busiest by far.
In the morning, Hady and I went to a neighborhood of Cairo called Heliopolis, to have breakfast with Carson, my American AFSer friend from Oregon, at a Starbucks in a large Heliopolis food court called Tivoli Dome.
I'd hoped that our fellow AFSer in Egypt, Annika from Germany, would be able to come as well, but she was on vacation outside of Cairo.
In any case, Hady, Carson, and I spent some nice time together chitchatting calmly over breakfast, which was very fun and relaxed. :)
After that, we said goodbye to Carson and then went to the Old City of Cairo to visit two very fascinating places of worship: The first was the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
This synagogue is fabled to be built on the spot where the baby Moses was found.
And it was, honestly, very beautiful. It was very elegant, colorful, and in spite of its unmistakable structure, menorahs, and Hebrew inscriptions, looked as though it had a bit of Islamic influence in its design.
It also had a feeling to it as though it were sort of frozen in time - the Jewish community in Egypt, while once quite large, has dwindled to less than 200 individuals, and so the Ben Ezra Synagogue isn't really used for religious services anymore.
After that, we headed to the Hanging Church (also known as the Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church, which is a Coptic church that dates back to the 3rd Century C.E. It also has 110 icons, the oldest of which dates back to the 8th century.
It had many paintings, and the distinct Coptic art style, in my opinion, is interestingly reminiscent of the art style of the ancient Egyptians.
And, as I've mentioned before, I have a thing for Coptic churches for some reason, so I couldn't help but feel in awe a little bit.
After that, we took a quick peak in a small church nearby, and then headed back to Manial so we could meet up with my friend Ahmed Nada, who stayed in my hometown of Ann Arbor last year.
Since I've only been able to meet up with him once since I got to Egypt - and it was all the way back in November - I was delighted to have an opportunity to catch up with him. :)
We sat together in a cafe for a little while, had something to drink, and then headed back to Hady's home, because at that point I had to eat lunch, pack up, and get ready to head back to Alexandria.
After I said goodbye to Hoda, Haidy, and Hadeel, and had eaten lunch and packed up, Hady, Ahmed, and a friend of Hady's gave me a ride to the hotel where the people from the AFS Alex chapter were staying.
I very reluctantly said goodbye to my two good friends, and then headed back home to Alexandria with the other people from the chapter. We got back just after 10:00 pm.

In the following days, I suffered from some melancholy feelings reminiscent of those that I felt in the first days when we had just gotten back from our trip to Aswan and Luxor back in January. I really wanted to go back, and was sad that I had had to leave so soon since the trip had been so much fun.
But other fun things have happened lately which greatly brightened my mood (more posts about them to come).
Thanks for reading about my amazing trip!
Hope you all enjoyed.

A picture from the night we ate at Spectra:
Left row, starting from the end: Reem, Janan, Huda, Liza.
Right row, starting from the inside: Me, Mohammed, Hady, and Yehia. 

PS: I forgot to mention - today marks exactly eight months since the day that I arrived in Egypt.

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