Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Campus Festivities

On Thursday we made our first visit to the new campus. The commute is a little over an hour to get to the new campus. I'll have to make this journey twice a day for five days a week. On the positive side, I'll be able to finish all my readings for history and study my Arabic. The area leading up to the campus is entirely under development. You could look for miles and all you would see are high rise apartment buildings and huge mansions under construction. I can only wonder if there are enough people with enough money to fill all these new residences. In shah Allah, I will return one day and see the outcome of this massive expansion project. The new AUC campus is at the end of this development zone, and beyond it, only desert. The new campus still has a lot of construction to be done, but if the front gate is any indication of what lies behind, then I can only imagine being pleasantly surprised by what I will find. After we arrived, the males received gallabiyyas, a traditional Arab garb, that is like a really long shirt (almost a dress) and the girls received something that dancers wear. I didn't catch the name. After getting through an endless line to the food, we took our seats in the outdoor auditorium, where we listened and danced to traditional Arab music while donning our new threads. Later, a group of AUC students performed a dance that was really fun to watch. The guys were swinging around wooden sticks that must have been a substitute for swords. It was a fun event, and I'm excited about getting back there and actually walking around the rest of the campus. I might need to invest in a hard hat.

Ma'a salaama,


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Horseback Riding in the Desert

In the last couple of days, I've been able to explore Cairo a little more, find my way around the island of Zamalek (it's the island where I'm living, and it's situated in the middle of the Nile), and do some pretty amazing things. Two of the pictures below are from a late night horseback riding excursion I went on with a group of other study abroad students and SOLs. We rode through the desert in Giza until we got to a little camp where we took a break, drank some tea, and watched the horses do some tricks (or at least the guy leading us tried to make the horse do some stuff). The horses looked emaciated, and that was sad, but it was my first time riding and I had a fantastic time. It really hit me that I was in Egypt when I looked over to my right and there were the pyramids in all their splendor. Even from a distance, their sheer magnitude is breath taking. However, look at them while a horse is galloping under you and the stars are glittering above you, and you'll truly know that you are in fact in Egypt. Since the beginning of grade school, you hear about ancient Egypt and read stories from "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights," but you're never really prepared for something like this. I can only hope to have more experiences like that.

I think the pollution and/or cigarette smoke is starting to get to me. I have a pretty sore throat, and I'm looking forward to my weekend trip to Alexandria, where I hear the air is clean and refreshing.

One of the things I love about Egypt is the people. The people here are so nice and generous. The way they light up when you speak to them in Arabic is truly something special. Of course, they want to end up speaking to you in English to practice. I try to respond in Arabic. It makes for fairly comical discourse.

Tonight I'll make the hour and a half journey over to AUC's new campus.

The first picture is of the Cairo tower on the south end of Zamalek taken at sunset. The second picture is of the first camels I saw in Egypt. The third is of my group preparing to go riding in the desert.

Ma'a salaama,


Monday, August 25, 2008

Khan al-Khalili and Al-Hussein Mosque in Islamic Cairo

Last night our orientation leaders (called Student Orientation Leaders, aka SOLs, haha) took us to the Khan al-Khalili market. This market dates back to the 14th century. It is most well-known for its array of tourist items (such as model pyramids and sarcophagi), perfumes, spices, and fabrics. Luckily, I had learned some bargaining techniques from my Egyptian Arabic teacher, Hana'a, and I was able to haggle a vendor to buy a kiffiyeh (the headdress worn by Arab men, most notably Yassir Arafat) for 20 LE (about $4 USD) when he originally wanted 90 LE. After wandering around for a while (and the girls getting tired of being called Shakira), a group of us sat at one of the maqhas (coffee house). I ordered a cup of coffee, and it was absolutely delicious until I got to the grainy bottom part that felt as though I was drinking mud. Adjacent to the suq (market) is the Al-Hussein Mosque, one of Cairo's holiest sites. The Mosque is said to be above the graves of the Fatimid Caliphs and home of the oldest Koran.

Ma'a salaama,


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nile Boat Pictures

We took a brief boat trip on the Nile this evening. The boats in the pictures are called Fellucas.

Friday, August 22, 2008

First impressions of Cairo

Marhaban from Cairo!

I literally just got into my dorm room about an hour ago. It's sort of awkwardly put together in a triangular shape but it should work out just fine. I need to get some dinner, but I wanted to write down some of the first words that came to my mind as I was riding my bus from the Cairo airport to Zamalek, the area where my dorm is located.

covered women
very, very loud call to prayer
plenty of cell phone shops (and RadioShack)
Falafel stands
beautiful Nile

A lot of those things sound bad, but really, this city seems amazing and overwhelming. Hopefully, I'll get used to some of the more negative aspects, but thus far, the positives heavily outweigh them anyways. This city just seems to be alive in some way. Something about Cairo is mysterious and begs to be discovered. As the Egyptians would say, mafesh mushkilla (No Problem/Don't worry about it).

Ma'a salaama,


P.S. Brett, I saw a woman with a BOREALIS bag. There's a shout out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blair - air + og = BLOG

I created a blog so that I could keep in touch with my friends and family while I spend a couple months studying abroad in Egypt. Hopefully, I can chronicle my travels, happenings, mishaps, and learning experiences that oftentimes are the result of awkward situations and poor decision making. In shah Allah, there won't be too much poor decision making, but nonetheless and joking aside, this time abroad will undoubtedly be a life-shaping learning experience. Also, I plan on writing my thoughts about being both a Christian and American in the Middle East. I'm excited to embark on this journey, and as of right now, I leave in 17 days for the adventure of a lifetime. On another note, my mac is broken right now, and once it is fixed, I'll learn how to skype.

Ma'a salaama,