After I returned from Spain, I had a week and a paper until Alice came to visit me! I had quite a weekend planned for when she came to visit and it ended up being a pretty fun adventure for us. Alice came on Wednesday night and my friend Cassidy and I had a time catching a taxi to go get her at the airport-- the airport is about 30 minutes from AUC where there are hardly any cabs. We finally arrived at the airport and collected Alice then braved traffic in the taxi to head downtown where Alice and I checked into a hostel, then the three of us met some other friends at Felfela takeaway where Alice got to try koshari and shwerma and I enjoyed some delicious rice pudding and koshari
. On Wednesday we just hung out around downtown and Zamalek then headed back to the hostel. Thursday morning, we went to the train station where we managed to successfully buy two train tickets to Alexandria, Egypt. Alex, as it is referred to, or al-Iksandria in Arabic, is the second most populated city in Egypt on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria is well known for its Grecco-Roman history mixed with ancient Egyptian history, quite a sight to see. We spent the day navigating to a hostel, after much difficulty we finally arrived then went to explore and grab dinner. After dinner, we made our way to the new Alexandria Library. The Library of Alexandria was at one point one of the greatest treasures of the world holding many sacred texts from all over the world, but it disappeared years ago and a new library has recently been built. The library is magnificent, probably the most modern thing I have seen in all of Egypt. Alice and I then wandered around Alex, then ended up getting coffee outside of the library overlooking the Sea. We reflected on how lucky we were to be sitting by the Mediterranean Sea sipping coffee in Egypt after visiting the new library. Sometimes we do not realize how blessed we are to have the experiences we have, but sitting there, we reveled in our great luck and shared many of our wonderful experiences which we gained over the past semester.
The next morning, we got up for our "tourist" day in Alex
. First, we grabbed breakfast, then headed to Pompey's Pillar (see pictures). The pillar was pretty neat, very tall, and had two sphinxes which flanked either side. After, we walked to the most famous sight in Alex, the catacombs. We walked under the earth a bit until we came upon the tombs where people were buried. However, as flooding had happened in Alex recently, we could not go down all of the way. Next, we took a taxi to the Alexandria Museum which was a really great museum covering all types of Egyptian history and focusing on the Greek and Roman elements in Alexandria. Then we went to the Citadel at Qietbey right on the water, which was my favorite part of the trip. The weather was fantastic and the water was so blue! We then grabbed lunch then headed back to Cairo.
On Sunday, I had class and had to study a bit. That night, though, Alice and I attended my last English class downtown. The class took their final exam, then we had a pot luck party where we all celebrated and said goodbye to each other. It was so rewarding teaching this semester, and my class was great, and always willing to learn! We left, then met up some friends before heading back to campus. Tuesday was our "tourist" day in Cairo. Finally, I made it to the pyramids to experience them the right way. I am glad I waited until the end to see them thoroughly. Many people are disappointed when they first go to the pyramids, but after keeping my expectations low, I was able to enjoy the awe inspiring moment which always comes over me when I see the pyramids. This moment was another one of those, "am I really doing this" moments. Really, how many people get the chance to see the pyramids whenever the want? My friends and I in Cairo were successfully jaded by the end of our stay, but sometimes we do realize how lucky we are to be so close to such wonders
. After doing the typical pictures and whatnot at the pyramids, Alice and I rode camels to the Sphinx. It was quite a ride and the first time I had been on a camel-- they are so tall! After wandering around the sphinx and the pyramids a bit more, we left Giza and then met Cassidy and our friend Omar where we then went to Khan al-Khalili. Going to Khan al-Khalili is always an adventure and Cassidy and I had fun messing with the touts in Arabic while Omar helped Alice bargain for all of her goodies. We then took some time to drink some mint tea and smoke the obligatory sheesha at a cafe in the Khan. Alice left early the next morning and I went with her to the airport before class. The taxi driver on the way turned out to be a woman! First woman taxi driver I have seen,ever. I had read a story on CNN about Egypt's new female taxi drivers, but I had yet to see one.
After Alice left, I had the week from hell as I prepared for the last week of classes, mixed with exams at the same time. I made it through all of my papers and tests alive, and after, I had a few days left in Cairo to just relax and explore. One day, a couple of other girls in my Arabic class and I went to our professor's house for dinner then to the cinema to see a movie. The food was excellent and home cooked-- as always in an Egyptian house-- and the movie was amazing! The film was named: 6,7,8 and is about harassment of women in Egypt
. After living in Egypt for four months, the film was so enlightening and spoke to so many elements which all women face living in Egypt, whether Egyptian or foreign. Also in the last week, my Arabic professor took some of us to buy gifts for our families and friends in Maadi (a relatively wealthy, foreigner enriched area where she lives). After shopping, we had lunch at Lucilles, which, according to Time Magazine has the world's best burger. All of us had the discussion whether if it was the "world's best" of if the writer had perhaps just lived in Cairo without American food for qutie some time before trying it. Either way, the burger was pretty fantastic! Along came my last day in Cairo which was pretty amazing. I finished my packing, then met some friends downtown so that we could go out for dinner, then to do some last minute shopping at Khan al-Khalili. I did my shopping and bargaining in record time, then we went to a local bar where my friends and I brought in my 21st birthday before Cassidy and I headed to the airport. We left for the airport at 1:30 because it is outside of the city and Cassidy's flight left really early in the morning. The last few hours we had in Cairo were very bittersweet. While we all had a great time celebrating my birthday, we kept thinking about all of the great times and people that we were leaving behind in Cairo. I said my goodbyes to Cassidy at her terminal, then headed to an airport cafe where I relaxed and had one last sheesha before I headed to my terminal. I was given one last reason to love Cairo when the man at the airport gave me free weight for my luggage after I told him it was my birthday. I made it through the airport flawlessly, then waited for my flight to Geneva. I am certain I made a great decision in going to Cairo for the semester, while the city and country is not for everyone, I loved it. The desert sand became a part of my soul and I am certain I will return, hopefully sooner rather than later-- insha'allah (God willing).
Well, as you readers probably know, I am already home, but for the sake of writing about (nearly) everything on my trip I am going to rewind a bit to cover the last few weeks of my trip. Here I go: