Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running in Cairo

I went on my first run today since I've arrived in Egypt. Wow was it difficult. It wasn't the heat or the lack of even pavement to run on. It was the air. A lot of people smoke in Egypt. My run was a constant weave of street to sidewalk at night, while people were smoking all around us (oh ya I ran with a guy from California).

Our dorm has a gym, but I don't run on treadmills. They hurt my body and these ones in particular are old as hell. My mind and body were needing a run. So I decided to go to the computer lab at the dorm and print a sheet of paper that had my number looking for someone also interested in running on the street.

As I was walking into the gym, I saw this guy who I met earlier and he was going for a run at the time. I ran upstairs, put on some workout clothes, and grabbed my Ipod. Next thing I know I was running on a sidewalk next to the Nile. We both looked at each other at different times and said "I can't believe we're running in Egypt". A lot of people starred and some even made noises or said things to us. Some guards outside an embassy even pretended to run near us. I guess running on the street isn't very common in Cairo. We'll too bad, Cairo is going to get used to this white girl running around their neighborhoods.

Imagine running in a city with horns honking, people smoking, and pollution that's so bad people say its like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Ya I struggled, but was awesome. It's going to take some getting used to. I just hope I don't get lung cancer in the process (just joking well not really).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pyramids!!!

So today AUC took the international students on a trip to Giza to see the Pyramids. I can't begin to explain this experience. It was literally breathtaking. I know people travel all over the world to visit the Pyramids, but I felt so lucky. It was so shocking to see the neighborhood that surrounded the area. I haven't traveled to a lot of the places in Cairo, but this was definitely the worst I've seen so far. This is a picture of a river(not the Nile) in the area next to one of the most amazing and historically significant places in the world..

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While driving up to the Pyramids (which tower over the city below it), our guide warned us of the people who will try to sell you tourist gifts and camel rides. Prior to arriving in Egypt, I did a lot of research about the country, and one of the things I saw was the negative reaction from tourists towards the people selling things at the Pyramids. I've read other blogs that say "their trip was ruined" or "it was such a bad expereience". Seriously, I didn't bother me one bit. They really weren't that bad, and nothing was going to ruin my first(among many) trip there.

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We got to go inside the smallest of the three Pyramids, which is called the Pyramid of Menkaure. It was so hot and stuffy, but such an amazing experience. Warning to those interested that suffer from claustrophobia, do not go inside. You have to climb up and down a makeshift staircase squatting down. It was a really good workout.

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I really can't explain how amazing it was to visit the Pyramids today. All I can tell you, is that I recommend every single person in the world to visit it. It will make you realize how old the world really is. We don't have anything that can compare in the United States. I can't choose which was more amazing to see, the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Giza. Either way, I'd say I'm pretty lucky to have seen them both!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Khan el-Khalili

Today our school set up a welcome party for the international students themed around Egyptian culture. There was amazing food, dancing, and henna.

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I started my survival Arabic class today. I'm so excited to use all the words I've learned. I've been talking to random Egyptians and joking around with them. They are really kind people, and have an amazing sense of humor.

Later we went to Khan el-Khalili, which is one of the major markets in the Islamic district of Cairo. It was amazing and insane(in a good way). There were so many people and all of the shop keepers yell things to get you to buy overpriced tourist goods. We heard things like "spend all your money here" and "we will help you go broke". It was actually really funny.

There were so many people!!! I loved it. Some of the people in our group were a little shocked at what they saw or the extreme poverty that this country has. I really love the crowds. I love how different we all are. Here are some pictures of the square:



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So as anyone who has ever visited Cairo knows, Cairo has a really bad stray cat problem. They are everywhere. To make matters worse, I feel like they are depressed and suicidal. They are the most unhappy(and starving) cats I have ever seen. This was a street in the market(note this was the most cats I've seen at one time here):

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While at the market, we got to smoke sheesha (calm down you all its just hookah aka flavored tobacco in case you don't know what that is).

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Overall it was an amazing trip. I can't wait to go without the crowd of tourists. This trip had been so rewarding already and I've only been here for a couple of days. I can't wait to see how much I learn and how Cairo changes me in the next two years!




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Coptic Cairo

Today was my first real day of visiting tourist places in Cairo. The school took all of the international students to visit Coptic Cairo and for a dinner on the Nile. Coptic Cairo is located in Old Cairo, and is an area that is know for its strong Christian influence. We visited the Hanging Church, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue. This area is famous because the Holy Family stayed at a church in the area.

Below is a picture of the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo.
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This was the only place all day that had air conditioning. Here is a picture of the inside:

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Below is a picture of the inside of the the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. This mosque is supposed to be the first mosque ever built in Egypt.Men can go through the main door, but the women have to enter through a different door. Everyone had to take off their shoes, and the women had to cover themselves with these hideous green cloaks. It was horribly hot and uncomfortable, but it was well worth it. There were people just hanging around, laying on the carpet. One of the girls in the group and I want to come back (without the flock of foreigners), so we can just relax and hang out. It's super chill!

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Here I am in the very flattering green cloak. They will allow you to come in without the cloak if you have on a long sleeve shirt and a scarf/hijab on your head. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will definitely wear a scarf on my head. It's literally so beautiful and ridiculously relaxing.
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After the tour, the school set up a dinner on the Nile. It was definitely the kind of place that caters to Americans. The prices were crazy compared to what you can get on the streets or in local restaurants. There is absolutely no way any regular Egyptian off the street is coming to eat here.


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The food above is chicken with rice. The rice had some cinnamon in it. That's going to take some getting used to.
 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Zamalek Dorms

So I decided to live in the dorms for my first semester in Cairo. I hope it's going to be the easiest way to transition into living in Egypt. I plan on getting an apartment after this semester, because I can't do the whole "there are rules here" sort of thing. I did get to visit a new friends apartment with a group of people I met, and I'm super jealous of their living situation. Not going to lie, it makes me wish I didn't do the whole dorm thing.

The dorm really isn't that bad though. The dorm is located on an island in the Nile. It's also in one of the better areas of Cairo, and there are a lot of embassies here on the island. I have a roommate, but she hasn't shown up yet. Here are some pics of the room...

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Here are some pictures of the view outside my window..


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The picture above is a church right across the street.  Tonight here there was a very loud, very awesome wedding! The RA for our floor and I made a promise to crash the next wedding that happens there.

The picture below is the view immediately out of my window. It's a playground or a daycare. I haven't found out which one yet.


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This a building on our block. I just thought it looked awesome. I love when plants grow on buildings!

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So far I'm really loving Cairo. I think the city would have really been harder to adapt to if I hadn't lived in China. Today was our first day of orientation at AUC so I didn't get to do much, except for fall asleep during the orientation. Straight up.. it was boring and I was jet lagged. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

First night in Cairo...

So I made it to Cairo. After three flights I'm here, over 6,000 miles away from what was home. None of it seemed real until my layover in Amman, Jordan. I realized it was really happening when I looked out the window of our descending plane and all I saw was the desert. I met some other students who were also coming to AUC and living in the same dorms, which was awesome! We arrived in Cairo at around 10 at night, and the drive to the dorms was amazing! We saw some guys fishing off the Nile . I'm not going to lie, the air quality here is pretty bad. 

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After we landed we went to get our luggage from the baggage pick up and I was shocked to see big jugs of water on the rotation belt. Egypt is having a bit of a water shortage issue at the moment, so I guess people are shipping water along with their luggage. 

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Once we got our luggage we met up with the driver from AUC . He literally had a sign with our names and barely spoke English. 

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Here is a pic of the guys I meet in the airport in Amman studying at AUC.




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"The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it."    Rudyard Kipling

Why Egypt??

 Most of the people I spoke with about my move asked me the same question: why Egypt? As some of you know, my major is Political Science with a concentration in International Studies. I went to the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for my undergraduate studies. When it came time to apply for graduate schools, I thought any other city would have been a step down. What city in the US is more politically focused than DC? None. So I looked overseas for a school and found the American University in Cairo. Not only is the school accredited in the United States, but all the classes are taught in English. I was sold.  I thought living four blocks from the White House was amazing, but now I get to live on an island in the Nile near the Pyramids.
"You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'"