Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jordan Part 1: Amman

So this is Jordan Part 1 in a series of posts about my trip to Jordan over the Eid break(see prior post).
So I'll start with the capital Amman. Amman is really a beautiful city. I was really surprised, even though I was warned, how expensive Jordan is compared to other countries in the Middle East (specifically Egypt). We had some recommendations from another AUC student about a bunch of cool spots to visit while in Jordan, so we got visit a lot of cool spots we may have overlooked. We started our day visiting the Roman Amphitheatre and the citadel. The Citadel hill of Amman is home to the Temple of Hercules which is said to have been constructed under the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

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We went to this really cool cafe called Graffiti Cafe near Paris Circle in Amman. It's a very cool cafe where you can spray paint or draw whatever you want on the walls. They have really good coffee, cute cupcakes, and really awesome art all over the walls.

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We went to a lot of different places and had an amazing time. The city of Amman is very beautiful. Here are some pictures of some cool spots we stumbled upon while walking around.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bombs and Beirut

The students of AUC have our first major break this semester for the Eid. Eid El Adha, simply called the Eid, is a major Muslim holiday that translates into "the Feast of the Sacrifice". It's a major religious holiday to celebrate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened with a sheep for the sacrifice instead.

I could really care less about why I have days off from school, but I do. We have a 5 day weekend and it's a very popular time in the Middle East to travel. Some of the other students are going to Greece, Spain, or Turkey. A friend and I booked our trip to Lebanon in advance, thinking all would be good in Beirut the week of Eid.  Unfortunately, a car bomb exploded in Beirut on Friday(October 19th) killing an anti-Syrian intelligence official and 7 others, and wounding 80 people. The people of Beirut called to the streets to protest the attack, blaming the Lebanese government's involvement in the Syrian Civil War. They've called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, Nijab Miqati.

I decided to change my flight to Amman, Jordan for the Eid because people in Beirut said we really wouldn't be able to see a lot (many places were closed due to the attack and the protests). I leave for Jordan tomorrow, and will definitely update you guys about the amazing things I get to see there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Intro to Graffiti in Cairo

Graffiti is a very important part of the design that makes up the city of Cairo. If you're walking or driving around, you'll have no issue with finding an ever changing scene of street art. The graffiti here is very politically focused, but you will find a lot of football (soccer) related stuff also.

I took this picture at the World Peace Concert in Islamic Cairo. I had the opportunity of meeting both artists while they were in the process of competing their work. This was the first piece of graffiti in Cairo I saw being completed.

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This piece of graffiti was obviously inspired by the protests against the offensive trailer depicting the prophet.

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Here's some more work from Tahrir Square:
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Updated Pictures of Zamalek

So I was waiting for a really good aerial picture of Zamalek to help you guys further understand where I live in Cairo. Cairo is a huge city! I'll be living in Cairo for two years, and can definitely say I won't have the chance to see it all. Here's an amazing picture of Zamalek (Thanks Carly!):

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So this is the island I live on. This is the place I call home. This is the island that I run on a couple of times a week. The southern part of island is dominated by the Cairo Opera House and the Gezira Sports Club. When I first started the blog I did a quick post on my dorms, but never put an actual picture of the outside of the AUC dorms.

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Zamalek is a very nice part of Cairo. The streets are full of diversified food options (with menus in English and Arabic), embassies, schools, and clothing shops.
 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

City Stars Mall

Cairo is home to two pretty serious malls: the Mall of Arabia (in the 6th of October City) and City Stars (in Heliopolis). The Mall of Arabia is the largest mall in Africa, but that's for another time.

City Stars is a very impressive, confusing, and expensive mall. The mall consists of 650 stores, two movie theatres, two entertainment/amusement parks, and multiple food courts all on 7 levels of shops. Unlike malls in the states, City Stars is open for business until 1:00am.

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Here are some of the retailers I enjoy shopping at
(there are a lot of other European fashion stores I need to get acquainted with):
Zara
H&M
Mango
American Eagle Outfitters
Aldo Shoes
Nike (I personally think the Nike stores at this mall are ridiculously pathetic)
Nine West
Reebok
Puma 

Here are some food outlets:
Pink Berry (elhamdulillah)
Ruby Tuesdays
El Chico Mexican restaurant
Chili's
Fuddruckers
Johnny Rockets
Starbucks

Prices seem to be comparable or a little more expensive than the states, but what can you expect you're in Egypt. For example, at Pinkberry frozen yogurt can cost you anywhere from $5.00-$9.00 depending on toppings and size.

A friend and I went to the 5th Panorama of the European Film at one of the theatres at City Stars for only 25 EGP, or $4.10. We saw an amazing Irish movie called El Gusto, which is about the story of an orchestra of Jewish and Muslim musicians from Algiers torn apart by war 50 years ago, and recently reunited for a Chaabi concert.

(Here's a link to the trailer if you're interested: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RVN1ZvHZCk )

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Alexandria

Alexandria is a super chill place. What's not to love: the palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea, and everything is cheaper than Cairo. If you get a chance to visit Egypt, please don't leave without visiting Alexandria.We arrived the prior night, so we all knew the view outside our hostel windows was going to be so different from what we saw at night.
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The water is so beautiful. It definitely brought back memories of the amazing beaches in Florida. I only spent two days in Alex, so I didn't get to all the tourist spots. I did go to the palace of King Farouk.
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Later that night, some of use decided we need to ride scooters around the beach area. Like any crazy people would do in a country were its probably not safe for foreigners to be driving, we took to the streets. Not going to lie, I wasn't that good at driving a scooter. At a very slow pace, I actually hit some guy on a bicycle. I felt horrible, got situated on the scooter, and floored it. It was so cool. There is really no rhyme or reason to the way people drive here, but I call it controlled chaos. I'll do a post on traffic some other time. I will also do a post on the different kind of taxis in Alexandria some other time.

The Library of Alexandria

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If you're really interested in the Library of Alexandria, google it. It's a pretty interesting place, with a lot going on. We went to buy the tickets to get in, and the guy at the window charged us the Egyptian price. FYI: Egyptians pay less to get into the exact same places as foreigners. I honestly don't have a problem with that system, but it was really cool when the guy charged us 2 EGP each.
2 EGP= $0.33

My amazing weekend in Alexandria consisted of: riding scooters, walking along the Mediterranean Sea, good food, great people, and cool places. Some of us took the train back home, while others took a minibus(not out of choice). Here's a picture of the train station.

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I know it sounds weird, but I really did miss Cairo while I was gone. I walked out of Ramses Station into Cairo from my first road trip in Egypt, and felt home.



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Running in Zamalek

If you know me, you know that running is a huge part of my life. It's something I do for myself, and always will. I started running when I went to school at GWU in Washington, DC. and really became a serious runner in Gainesville, FL. So naturally it's in my plan to run where ever I live, but Cairo has presented a challenging situation. While the majority of runners who move to Cairo may choose the treadmill over the street, this girl won't. I started the outside running process with hesitation. I was told "don't run without a guy" or "you're crazy". 

I'm a little over a month into my move to Cairo, and I have to say I couldn't be happier with my current running situation. Don't get me wrong, it's THE hardest place I have ever ran! People in Cairo don't really do the running outside thing, but the runs are only getting better. I'm starting to recongize the normal people on the street (shop keepers, security guards, police). I'm really learning how to navigate around the island, and it's super empowering. 

Just imagine two American girls running through the streets of Zamalek at 10pm. Sometimes I think we're crazy, but then I realize it's really not for everyone. We get to see such a diverse crowd of people: the couples on the banks of the Nile, the taxi drivers taking a break outside of their cars to talk, or the security guards outside the embassies. 

The pollution, people, cars, cats, smoke, and uneven pavement are all some of the daily obstacles I face while running, but I know these obstacles will make me a better runner. If you can run in Cairo, then you can run anywhere.

"There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open." - Nike

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Train to Alexandria

So I went on my first trip outside of Cairo since I got here a little over a month ago. I honestly didn't know what to expect and didn't know how I would view another city, since adapting to the beautiful chaos that is Cairo. Our classes have been postponed due to student protests over tuition prices, so we decided we had to go on a road trip. A couple people and myself decided Alexandria, after someone at the dorm strongly urged against Dahab. I guess some people get kidnapped every now and then so that didn't sound as appealing.

Egypt has taught me patience I never had in America. One of the greatest tips on moving to Egypt was to just deal with the fact that Egyptians are on their own time schedule. This bring me to the train ride to Alex. All five of us piled into the taxi and headed to the train station. We went to the ticket area and saw some other people we knew buying tickets for a later train. We had a hard time finding out which train we needed to take, because Egyptians would rather give you the wrong advice than no advice at all.

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The beginning of the train ride was horrendous. When we boarded we just hopped onto any train and sat down. Next thing we know people were pointing to their seat numbers and we realized we had assigned seats. Not only did we just hop onto any train car, but we were in first class, about ten cars away from our correct car, and the train was already moving. It was one of the situations where people were ready to give up half way through the pushing, shoving, and all the stares until we got to our seats(ten train cars away). I know it may not sound that bad now, but it was pretty exhausting and  humbling. I don't know about the other people I was with, but I felt like I was on display for the whole train to look at. (Note: Check out the people in the train... all guys. See my prior post about pros and cons of living in Cairo)

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There are two kind of trains to Alex, the fast one and the slow one. We missed the fast one, so it took us about 4 hours to get here. The fast train takes about 2 hours. The tickets were only 35 EGP. so we paid about $6 for a one way ticket. There is first class and second class cars, both have air conditioning.

We arrived in Alexandria at 8pm and went right to our hostel. After I got into a little argument with some random guy on the street, I later found out that he was the manager of the hostel. He sent us to one with a better of view of the Mediterranean Sea and we mended our friendship.

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The Egyptian Museum

After being in Cairo for over a month, I decided to finally go to the Egyptian Museum. I was warned prior to going that things are kind of a mess there. There isn't air conditioning in about 95% of the building, you can't bring a camera into the museum, and there really isn't any organization scheme to the whole set up. That being said, you must go! (In my opinion) The most important part to see is the exhibit for King Tut.
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Like I said above, you're not supposed to bring a camera inside or take any pitcures. So after we entered through security, we had to check our camera. Now you know I'm not going into such an important place and walking away without any pictures inside. So I pulled out the blackberry, while inside, and snuck two photos. I got caught taking both pictures. We had some security dudes following us throughout the museum. I wish I had saved my one or two picture moment to the King Tut portion. I probably would have been banned for life if I had snuck a King Tut picture. Here are the pictures below I was lucky to get with my blackberry.

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