Egypt! (Cairo)

This is a country of contrast and paradox–not so different from the U.S. in that way. Religion and politics are strong factors–also not so different from the U.S. What is different so far, in my experience, is the willingness to openly discuss these things. That’s because I’m traveling with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), which makes a point to encourage this. This is meant to be more than a sight-seeing tour; it’s also an immersion into the culture, to the extent that’s possible in a few weeks. More about the cultural and religious insights in future posts. This first post, two days after arrival, is just a glimpse.

It’s taken two days to recover from jet lag and figure out how to post with a tiny tablet and portable keyboard. (I left my laptop at home.) International travel can be grueling anytime, but especially in these times of required vaccine records, negative test results, and masks. Turkish Airlines and OAT both still require masks, and most Cairo indoors locations likewise, so far. I now wear it on a lanyard around my neck, where it often tangles with the name tag, sunglasses, etc! 😉 We joke about it rather than give in to irritation.

“We” on this trip is 45 members of the Pentagon Ski Club, of which I’ve been a member for decades. (It also sponsors trips that have nothing to do with skiiing.) I know many of the people, but just met my roomate. I’m lucky; we have much in common. When you travel alone and are paired with a stranger, you never know how it will work out.

Why Egypt, my friends ask. Because there is such deep history here…world history, ancient history. And because it’s the Middle East, which has played such a big role in our foreign affairs for decades. And because it’s a Muslim-majority country — 85% Muslim, 15% Christian. I’ve been to other Muslim countries, but never long enough to understand them. I know this is just a dip, but better a dip than no exposure at all. Since 9/11, I can’t shake the feeling that we need to keep working on this cross-cultural and inter-faith dialogue. We were doing a lot of that in the years after 9/11, but it seems to have slowed or stopped.

This is a nation of about 100 million, compared to the U.S. population of 330 million. Cairo’s population is about 25 million, compared to New York City’s 8.5 million. We’ll spend four nights here before heading south on the Nile River. This is a huge city! We can hear the Muslim call to prayer from the hotel room…and also modern music, and the incessant beeping (but not honking) of horns. Daytime temps are in the 80s and 90s; it will get hotter as we go south. We feel very safe, and not just because the hotel is next to the U.S. Embassy. An armed policeman escorts our bus, in an agreement between the Egyptian and U.S. governments dating back to the 70s, but it seems unnecessary.

Photos and captions from the trip here, and Day 1, below.

(I’m posting this under “Reflections” on the blog menu. For those interested only in the boat, choose “The Boat” from the menu. I will return to the boat, and The Loop, after this trip. I’m blogging mostly from my phone, so please excuse any typos.)

Istanbul Airport, 9,000 miles and 10.5 hrs from Washington DC. Flights go from here to Islamabad, Miami, and all points in between! No wonder they call it “The Crossroads of the World.”
All major airports in the world seem to have recycling these days. It’s nice to see, even though one wonders of it always “works.” (If you don’t try, it never will!)
On our airplane screens heading to Cairo, reminding us that we are in Ramadan, the Muslim religious observance which involves fasting from sunrise to sunset and lots of praying. (Devout Muslims pray five times/day on most days.)
Arriving over Cairo….
View from our hotel room balcony overlooking the Nile River.
No 13th floor. Superstitions are common to all eras and nations….
The renowned Egyptian Museum draws people from all over the world. This kind of museum wakes you up to how young the U.S. is. The archeological artifacts here are at least 3,500 years old!
My roomate Kristina and me in front of the museum.
Pharoah Khefren. Egyptologists now say there are almost 200 pharaohs in Egyptian history. A pharoah was a kind of king, and sometimes considered divine as well.
Ramses II, one of the most famous pharoahs. This guy did a lot of really big statues of himself. This one is over 3.000 years old, but one of the newest pieces in the museum.
This “triad” represents …I forget what! But it’s interesting that our guide, who is a Coptic Christian, said it has a kind of parallel to Christianity’s Triune God.
A dwarf and his normal-sized wife. Dwarves were prized servants in ancient Egypt, according to our guide, because they couldn’t run fast enough to steal anything of value.
Anubis the jackal, God of the Dead.
Rich Egyptians in ancient days were buried in several layers of these. Their mummified body was inside.
This sarcophogus (coffin) held….
… this woman here. Yes, that really is her body. Thousands of years old.
King Tut’s organs were “buried” inside these alabaster vessels after his body was mummified.
Queen Hatshepsut was something else. She proved that a woman could rule, although it was rare and still is. She wears the ceremonial fake beard to add to her authority.
Donkey-led carts compete with cars for road space in Cairo.
Cairo Tower, 67 floors
Guidance like this is still in evidence all over the world. (I think some Americans believe it doesn’t belong in our country, since we believe in “individual rights,” freedoms, etc. But whose rights and which freedoms? Here in Cairo, there seems to be hardly any regulation of vehicles or traffic. Is that a freedom we want in the U.S.?)
A view of Cairo from atop the tower.
And from the other direction.
Kind of like the Empire State Building!
Sunset from our balcony. That’s the tower we visited, on the right.

4 thoughts on “Egypt! (Cairo)

  1. Hope you dont mind that I travel along with you. I truly love ancient history and dont have the chance to see things in person. I live in the western plains of Kansas and believe it or not there is a very rich history of Native Americans under my feet. They have been here for 10000 years and we as European immigrants only mabe 400 years. The amazing thing to me is that less than 100 years before I was born there were only Indians and Buffalo here!
    Great travels
    Terry Patchen


  2. One of my favorite (series of) books is the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, about mostly Coptic Egyptians in the 1930s. I remember images like “kisses so amateurish they resemble an early form of printing.”


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