I have officially been in Cairo for one month.
And I have officially finished my CELTA as of yesterday. My last teaching practice I received an Above Standard; excellent way to finish the course. We had a party with the students at the end – everyone wanted to dance and so one of the trainees (who honestly is one of the most irritating people I have ever met) put on….classical music. Yup, real fun party times. I felt like I was in a parlor in the 1840s. But khalas (enough, fine, done, finished), I happily don’t have to see any of the rather annoying people (there were a few, and since there are only 9 people on the course, almost a majority) anymore. But alhamduillah (praise be to God) I AM DONE!
Up next? Starting Sunday (Egypt’s Monday), I will be frantically sending out my resume, working contacts, calling schools, working my butt off to get a job. I also have to get my visa extended (technically, it expired today) this week, which will be an adventure of its own.
But to mark the ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY of my being in Cairo, I went to the most iconic site in Egypt:
But let me tell you about the parts previous to that! My friend, Melissa, an amazing half-Egyptian, half-Ecuadorian woman I went to AU with, moved to Egypt two weeks ago to live with her family and experience life in Egypt. We’ve been waiting to meet up until after her dad left (he was here for one of their cousin’s wedding) and I was done with my course. So, today was the day!
We met up in Mounira, a neighborhood south of Midan Tahrir (which had some fun/violent protests today) and to the east of Garden City (expats and embassies) and went to Institut Francais, the French Cultural Center. There is a bistro in the inner courtyard I heard about that serves delicious food in a nice setting. All true! Melissa and I caught up on a number of things, enjoyed complaining about the things we dislike here and gushing on the things we love (to wit: hate the trash, traffic, sexism and increasing religious fanaticism, love the people, history, culture and food). We had paninis with cheese and tomato, coffee, and shared a Nutella-banana crepe, while watching the mix of Egyptians, French expats and their children, and students learning French in the courtyard.
Afterwards, we walked to the metro and headed towards Giza, the closest station the pyramids. This was the first time I’d been on the metro here, and it is nice! It costs less than $0.20 (1 Egyptian pound) to ride, and has two women’s cars so we won’t get bugged by creepy men. We got to Giza, found a cab, and headed off the pyramids.
Typical of Egypt, the taxi driver drove us to a tourist office saying we need to take tour. We refused, but another man, Mahmoud, approached us and in very good English told us we could ride camels or horses into the pyramids. We asked the price, and I was worried about being overcharged (as well as the treatment of the animals), but he said the price would cover our entrance as well as the ride. I was still worried, but Melissa made the legitimate point that tourism has dropped so drastically here, what is a few extra dollars to us when it can mean so much to those whose lives depend on it? He offered 55 LE (about $9) for each of us. So we followed him, got in through the back, hopped on the camels and rode off towards the pyramids.
We rode for about 45 minutes, like we said, took the back way (also known as sneaked in around security) into the place. Mahmoud offered to marry me because I’m from California. I told him I’m too young for him or anybody. It’s true. We eventually got close to the Sphinx, where Mahmoud dropped us off, thanked us, and said to please refer him to our friends (which I will do!). Melissa and I walked toward the Sphinx, which was a bit crowded (what is it like when tourism is bustling, I wonder).
The Sphinx is smaller than I expected, but still beautiful, even as eternity wears away at it. It is an amazing thing to think about, to look at. This has seen both World Wars. Seen Egypt be conquered and reconquered and freed and oppressed and freed again. History lives in its cracks.
We walked towards the main pyramids next. At this point, it was around 4, and the site closes at 4:30 to start preparing for the sound and light show (the Sphinx and pyramids are all lit up and the Sphinx narrates the history of Egypt as it plays out in lights. I will go eventually), so we didn’t have much time to really get close to the pyramids and appreciate them.
But even in those 30 or so minutes, I was awed. I touched history. Cleopatra’s reign is closer today’s time than to the time of when the pyramids of Giza were being built…that is how old they are. Pompeii would not even be a city for another 1,000 years, much less buried under Mount Vesuvius’ ashes (which happened 900 years after Pompeii was founded). The first recorded dynasty of China would not happen for another 400 years. And guess what? There are even older pyramids in Egypt, older by another 200 years. It is humbling.
Melissa said, “Oh, to have seem them in their glory days!” But even now they are in their glory days. Walter Kronkite said “When Moses was alive, these pyramids were a thousand years old Here began the history of architecture. Here people learned to measure time by a calendar, to plot the stars by astronomy and chart the earth by geometry. And here they developed that most awesome of all ideas – the idea of eternity.” Even though it came from an incredibly selfish venture, the pyramids will last. It is a testament to the human spirit of ingenuity, more than the presumption of eternity, that makes these so heart-stopping, soul-stirring. All it takes is a little imagination to see them across time and space and be shaken.
I’ll be back to see them, that’s for sure. All in all, a great day.