Monday, October 27, 2008

Welcome to Egypt!

I would like to welcome everyone from BAtW. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt to be chosen to help highlight my adopted home of Egypt.

Before I tell you about Egypt, I thought I would tell you a little about me. I am a professional trailing spouse, which is basically a nice way of saying that I’m an expat wife, which means that I move every few years as the whims of my husband’s job take us around the globe.

Although I left my home country of Canada over ten years ago, I only consider myself to have been an expatriate for slightly over three years. That was when my husband and I left the US to live in New Delhi, India to work with The Group. A year later, we left India behind for Nairobi, Kenya and The Organization where my husband “counted sheep” for a living. A few months ago, we bid kwaheri to our East African home and found ourselves in North Africa - Cairo, Egypt to be specific - where Hubby now works for the Institution.

If you think that sounds like a lot of moving, meeting new friends, and saying good-bye to old ones, you’d be right. Luckily, while I am not enamored of change, I do enjoy traveling and learning about new people and places. With my house once more set to order, I have started Arabic lessons, joined associations, looked into volunteering positions, and am finally ready to start work on the Egyptian phase of my life.

Living in Egypt is an amazing adventure. Some people assume that because I live in an Islamic society, I am required to wear a hijab or that it means that I’m going to convert to Islam. While I do dress more conservatively here to be respectful (no shorts or tank tops), I don’t cover my hair unless I am playing tourist by visiting one of the many beautiful mosques to be found in Cairo. There is a great tolerance and respect for other cultures here that is reflected in the incredibly open and friendly attitudes of most Egyptians I have met. Welcome to my new home.

During today’s layover, I thought I would take you back through time to a few places you can see on day trips from Cairo.

When most people think about the Arab Republic of Egypt, one picture comes to mind: the pyramids. The three famous Giza pyramids are Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the Great Pyramid or the Pyramid of Cheops), the deceptively smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren), and the “smaller” Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos). Just to the east, as if guarding its neighbours, is the Sphinx.

When you see a picture of the three pyramids together, Cheops is the one with its top missing. Many people make the mistake of thinking that Khafre, with its still intact cap, is bigger, when in fact Khafre had it built on higher ground and at a steeper pitch than his father’s. If nothing else, this proves that difficult father-son relationships are nothing new.

Most people still think of the pyramids as a quixotic desert destination replete with camels and palm trees. The truth is somewhat less romantic. The pyramids, you see, are literally on the edge of Cairo. I will never forget the first moment I saw them rising up from behind a series of residential buildings as we drove along Pyramids road. Nothing kills the ambiance of false expectations quite like a grey haze of pollution and the harsh honking of horns in the distance.

(Conspiracy theorists may now discuss whom they believe really built the pyramids. Was it aliens, time travelers, time traveling aliens or something else entirely? Personally, I blame a guy named Bob, but that’s a story for a different time.)

Continuing our journey backwards through time, I highly recommend a visit to Saqqara, which is just a short drive from Cairo. The ancient step pyramid of King Djoser was designed by the famous architect and engineer Imohtep.

Sadly, when I saw this great edifice for the first time, I was in the midst of dying of heat stroke. Note to future travelers: water, a wide brimmed hat, and portable snacks are not suggestions – they’re compulsory. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to have your “Adam needs a cookie” moment while surrounded by the memories of people who moved around thousand pound stones for a living.

My favourite thing to see at Saqqara has nothing to do with pyramids and is conveniently shady for those 43°C moments. I happen to be a bit of a book-oholic and am completely capable of spending endless hours in galleries and museums looking at incredible (and not so incredible) art. Which is why, for me, the highlight of these tombs is on the walls. Mereruka's mastaba (tomb) is home to some incredible hieroglyphics and reliefs.

For our final trip in the time machine, we will go even further back into history to Wadi Al-Hitan or the Valley of the Whales. About 150km from Cairo, you will find the home of ancient fossilized whales that demonstrate “the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal.” Or, in laymen’s terms, it demonstrates whale evolution. I will be visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site in a few weeks time as it is a must see for fossil lovers and science geeks alike. (Not that I’m a geek or anything.)

(Since I have not yet visited myself, these photos of the Valley of the Whales are courtesy of the very talented Tiffany of Americans in Cairo.)

I hope I haven’t tired out all you tourists too much. We haven’t even visited Al-Qarafa (the City of the Dead), visited the Matarayyiah Obelisk of On, sailed a felucca on the Nile, or wandered through Islamic Cairo. Of course, when all that history gets to be too much, you are always more than welcome to go diving at Sharm el-Sheikh before heading back into the desert to see Luxor, Alexandria, and Rosetta.

I haven’t lived in Cairo very long and am still learning about its culture, language, and people but I can already tell that I will have no problem calling this place home. Egypt is a country where history literally comes alive around you. I hope, Insh’allah, you’ll visit again so we can continue our tour through time.

79 comments:

Aurenna said...

I hope it doesn't literally come alive in the style of mummies. Eep.

Debbie said...

I loved EVERY word! That was really fascinating...and the juxtaposition of the pyramid with everyday life (the haze and honking of the cars as you said) is hilarious. Thank you so much for pulling this together! Well done!

Abigail Kraft said...

How cool that you have been able to live in so many amazing places! Egypt's history fascinates me, so it was interesting to see some of it from the perspective of somebody who lives there.

Have fun on your adventure. :)
--Abigail

Vicki said...

I would love (I think) to live in one of those apartment buildings that faced the pyramid. Imagine being able to look out your window at something that was constructed thousands of years ago. Fascinating!

Thanks for the journey. I too travel with my husband working for The Man as we like to call it.

greedygrace said...

WOW! What a great tour! You live a fascinating life!

traveler one said...

Oh that was nice :)

Congrats on being "Queen" for the day!

Bird, Frizzy and Our Little Yaya said...

I am so excited to read about you and your life. I've lived in Europe and many places in the U.S. I dream of making it to Egypt some day. I have since studying Hyrogliphics (sp) in Jr. high. One of my favorite times in history. Plus, my hubby is creeped out by the mummies so that makes it even more fun for me to study. hee hee hee Thanks for the tour!

illahee said...

wonderful tour! i have a dream of visiting egypt one day, i hope it comes true! until then, perhaps i'll visit through your blog for a while! :D

LadyFi said...

Thanks for a great tour! I really enjoyed it...

Julie said...

Hello fellow expat. I live in Budapest Hungary and know what it is like moving and living overseas saying lots of goodbyes...etc... it is hard. We went to Egypt for a vacation when my son was 1, don't know what we were thinking...it was a good deal. Thankfully we knew some people who lived there, because the tourist hotels are nothing like true Egypt. It was an amazing vacation, and I could not believe that it was 103F everyday but the last 2 days it went down to 99 and I actually got goosebumps on my skin when I went to the pool, it was odd.
Thanks for the tour

Tanya said...

thank you for an interesting blog. I don't think I have ever seen a photo like the one with the pyramid in the background of city. amazing

psychoknitter said...

I totally want to hear the Bob theory!

Betty said...

What a "cool" (cool but not cold) place to live in! I loved the tour and think you are more brave than me for being able to move around so much. Me, I need my familiarities. (is that a word?)
Anyway thanks so much for this and have a great BATW day!
I just had mine and loved all the comments!

Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

How wonderful! What a life you have...very exciting! I loved the info about the whales...interesting?!

Enjoy your day and thanks for the great tour.

Brenda Jean said...

What a cool tour! My brother in law went to Egypt for the National Guard a few years ago, and he said the local bread was WONDERFUL, and of course he saw the pyramids. Other than that they had to stay on the base, but he actually had a good time.

I can't wait to read the rest of your blog!

Patti said...

What an interesting and fascinating post! Thanks for sharing with us! And congratulations on being featured on BATW today!!

Michelle said...

Very cool pictures. My parents went to Egypt a couple years ago, but their pictures left much to be desired. And they neglected to mention how close to Cairo the pyramids are... weird :) They *did* tell me though that I should be careful with my claustrophobia since people were ummmm smaller then :) Thanks for the lovely tour!

Veggie Mom said...

I've always wanted to go to Egypt, and you've just strengthened my resolve to do it! Thanks so much for the comprehensive and fascinating tour...you definitely walk like an Egyptian!

Casey said...

Wow! Egypt and India are two places, I must admit, that I would be scared to live. You are so brave. I totally understand you on missing things from home! Thanks for sharing.

Allison said...

How interesting! Thank you for sharing :)

Stacey said...

That was fantastic! What a truly amazing life you lead; and what a gift your blog is to those who now get to share a little bit of your experiences with you. Thank you for sharing!!

GutsyWriter said...

What a beautiful job you did giving us a sense of Egypt. I was shocked to see the pyramid sticking out behind the cars. So close.
I also liked hearing about the friendly people. Thanks for that overview.

Desi said...

That was freaking awesome!! I love Egypt. What a cool place to visit!

Amy said...

Visiting via BATW! Awesome post, thanks for hosting today :D

Anonymous said...

I have been reading up about all the gods and goddesses along with Memphis and Thebes. I even read about Heliopolis and the creation theories!
This is great and will definitely help with our visit.
As others have said, the picture of city with the pyramids in the background is fantastic!
Getting ready...
merthyrmum

Tracy P. said...

Awesome tour! Thank you so much. You'll be a certified tour guide in no time. :-)

Ronnica said...

Good for you for not sitting back and avoiding interaction with the culture around you! I love to travel as well and learn about the people in the country where I visit.

Oh2122 said...

I had goosebumps lookig at your pictures.

You live somewhere most of us only know from textbooks... THAT IS SO COOL!

And I'm with you on your knittng needle freakout. That kind of thing happens about once a week arond here. I spazz, tear the house apart, then find the item in the oddest place... Under the kitchen table. The bathroom. The freezer. Though in my defense, I was suffering from pregnancy brain during the freezer incident.

Jacki said...

Okay, I am officially jealous! I have always wanted to visit Egypt and will someday. Thanks for this tour!

Gina said...

thanks for the tour. i don't know if i could ever be that brave!

Caution Flag said...

Thank-you, BATW, for bringing us to this blog. Thank-you, Cairo TypeO, for a great post. Your other posts are fun, too. I will be back to follow your adventures.

Denyse said...

What an awesome tour! Your comment about the pyramids being on the edge of Cairo reminds me of the Amish Farmhouse located next door to the SuperTarget in Pennsylvania. Its a crazy mixed up world!

Wendy said...

Thanks for giving us the tour of your little corner of the world. I found your post fascinating. I admire you so much for dealing with all the changes in your life. How wonderful that you are blogging these experiences. You will LOVE to look back on them someday.

Enjoy your BATW day -- and thanks again for the tour!

Elena said...

Wow! Absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for taking us on today's tour. I loved it. I had no idea the pyramids were right next to the city. Wow again!

karin said...

Greetings from Alberta, Canada! Congrats on you BATW day! Great travelogue on Cairo! Such fascinating stuff ~ will have to come back and have a longer read. Hubby and I visited Israel but unfortunately did not get a chance at that time to visit Egypt. Who knows.....

Shell said...

Happy BATW day. I loved your tour. Great writing and wonderful pictures. I had no idea whales were once land animals. Wow. One day, I must go to Egypt. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

Lady Dorothy said...

Very, very interesting country you live in! Thank you for sharing it with us today!

Have a wonderful BATW day!

(I've been to a couple of southern African countries, but never North. Someday, maybe?)

Lynda said...

Greetings from Texas and BATW! What a magnificent tour you have given us...I am impressed and ready to visit!

Ashley said...

Wow! Your life sounds so exotic! Great blog and congrats on your BATW feature!!

Ruthanne said...

How cool to follow your hubby all over the globe! I've only followed mine across the country - which has been pretty fun . . . but, not as cool as around the world!

Loved the tour - thanks!

Nifty Adventures into Denmark said...

visiting you from DK. I loved the tour. It looks amazing!!!! I hope someday to get there.

Mindy said...

This is so neato!! Thanks for sharing your awesome life. We are just beginning a life of travel, but we will only travel as far as a truck and camper can take us =) It's doubtful that we will make it to Egypt!! That's why I love these Blog Around the World posts... so much fun!!

"The Queen in Residence" said...

I still dream of going to Egypt one day and more so now. Thank you for the great tour and I hope that your stay there is a pleasant one. Over from BATW by the way.....

Rachel Ann said...

What a fun trip...thank you for playing tour guide. And Bob did a great job building those pyramids...however, I am one of those romanticists who had no idea the pyramids were so close to the city!

CaraBee said...

I have always wanted to visit Egypt! The culture and history are just amazing. Thanks for the tour and good luck in your world travels!

Mrs de Miranda said...

How amazing!! I love learning about expatriates as I believe I will soon come to be one by going with my husband to Brazil! So I am fascinated! Egypt is beautiful and your post was sooo good! Thank you so much for sharing!!

Breanne said...

What a great tour...such fun...Thanks.

Giovana King said...

It ounds like you are having alot of fun. Enjoy it.
Giovana

HeathahLee said...

Wonderful tour! Have you read any Elizabeth Peters's books? My favorite series is her Amelia Peabody books that are set between 1890 to WWI and are murder mysteries, with a healthy dose of archeology thrown in. : ) I love them!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Wow!!! I had NO idea the pyramids were that close to town... interesting.

And heathalee is right - those books rock.

Kat said...

Oh so very fascinating! We homeschool and just finished up our unit on ancient Egypt. I wish I had an endless source of cash, because I would love to take a field trip :-) But we will happily make do with the King Tut exhibit that arrives here in 3 weeks.

After we studied ancient Egypt, we moved to modern for our Geography lesson. It's really difficult to find books about Egypt today! I wish I had known about your blog last week...we could have just perused.

And now that I do know...I can't wait to come back to appease my severe case of wanderlust...

The Hultman's said...

WoW! Amazing tour!! I cannot believe that the pyramids are just right there on the edge of the city! I thought they were out in the middle of no where. So cool! Thanks for the tour, I will come back again.

Mamasphere said...

From San Diego to Egypt! Fascinating post- I as an Anthrop major and love learning about different cultures. Thank you for a wonderful tour!

Jennifer P. said...

That was THE COOLEST BATW tour ever! And there have been some doozies---but nothing so exotic! I had to keep reminding myslef that you actually TOOK those pictures, not Googled them! You've really opened my eyes to some of the stereotyped we, as Americans, may have had about Egypt. I admit I oftened clumped them in there with other more harsh Arab countries.

And was it just me, or did anyone else start having Mummy movie flashbacks when she mentioned Imohtep?! :)

Darcy @ LWM3B said...

Wow! You are not short on adventure!

What a fascinating life. Egypt is on my bucket list, but I think I've got to raise the boybarians before I even consider.

Until then, I've really enjoyed viewing Egypt vicariously through your blog.

Darcy

Kimberlee said...

Thank you for your insight on Egypt!! I plan SOMEDAY whenever that happens to become an Egyptoligist! It just takes a little more effort on my part! Congrats on your BATW day!!

Brenda said...

I found you on BATW and your life looks amazing. Even though I know its hard, how wonderful to have all of those experiences.

Star Forbis said...

Thank you so much for sharing your new home with us.
Have a Great Day!

Susie said...

Congratulations on your BATW feature. I hope you enjoyed your day in the sun. Thanks for your tour of Egypt:-)

Leslie said...

That was an awesome post!! Thanks for all of the wonderful info. Great pics too. ;)

Steph at the Red Clay Diaries said...

Thanks for the great tour!

LaDonna said...

Thanks for the wonderful tour.

Elizabeth said...

What a great perspective on this ancient civilization!

Ma'dame French said...

What a great amazing place and oh the stories and the sites you have seen! I am so happy to have found you via Around the World blog! Thanks for sharing your life with us;) French

yulz said...

your post are superb ! I would love to visit and see Cairo for real. Been to Saudi Arabia before but haven't got a chance to really see the beautiful and historic places there.Really need to renew my passport this year :D

sassy stephanie said...

Omgosh. How very wicked cool. So, are you guys up for visitors?

Amy Kay said...

Wow, your new home is amazing! Great post!! I would love to visit in person someday. Thanks for the tour. Visiting from BATW via Georgia.
Hugs, Amy ;)

Lynnette Kraft said...

Oops...I left he comment in the wrong place! Anyway, your blog is great. So cool pictures!
Sorry I didn't come by yesterday...I'm new at this and am NOT great about remembering. It's very nice to meet you. I hope you find your "sanity" as you travel the globe. If you find some, let me know...I could use some. :)
Lynnette

Aubrey said...

Breathtaking! I have always wanted to visit someday. Now thanks to you, I've gotten a mini-tour to hold me over until I can! LOL

Tamie said...

ok, so i'm a day late, but amazed nonetheless. i can't beleive i didn't make it over to egypt yesterday :)
that was an amazing tour, and i'm with you on loving the walls and the books and the art of the ancients...it is truly amazing what they were capable to accomplishing.
thanks for the tour!

lynn said...

A little late, but stopping by from BATW. Hope you enjoyed your day. What an amazing place to live, enjoyed the tour!

Trish said...

Sorry I'm late for the party. Congrats on your BATW day!
That was fascinating.

I'm off to peruse more around your blog.

Shannon said...

Another late BATWer here...


My dad worked in Cairo for about 8 months... way back in 1984 or 1985... he brought back lots of cool stuff!

Great tour!

Jennifer said...

Hey! I guess I'll see you on the whale trip then, in a couple of weeks. I'll be the one with a large belly, an excentric professor and two energized boys in trail.

lambechops said...

Wow! What a great place to live! I loved looking at your pictures, It is one of the places that I would really love to visit someday.

Sarah said...

Wow! I can't imagine the stress of moving so frequently, but being able to enjoy the sights of the world. Seeing pyramids up close!!! Truly amazing....

Dessa Wolf said...

What a wonderful blog you have. I will definitely be living vicariously through you as I have barely been outside of California.

Gombojav Tribe said...

I'm a day late, but bloggy love is better late than never, right?!

Hope you enjoyed your day in the spotlight!! :-)

Bluefish said...

Greetings from Montreal! Your post is great! How do you keep up with all these languages and cultures? Do you take your time to learn the host language or you simply speak English?

It must be a lot of hussle to move all the time. Thank for an amazing post.