A Long Weekend in Cairo

I'm currently in the process of returning to the US and I'm going through all of the emotions that a big move like this entails. So while I'm trying to figure out how to live in the US again, I decide to share about the trip I took to Cairo this spring. Spoiler alert: it was excellent.

Seeing the pyramids had always been a dream of mine and I knew that going to Cairo while living in Beirut would be the best chance I’d have for a while, being such a short and inexpensive fight away.  I went with one of my expat friends, through people we know in Cairo we were able to stay in an empty flat for free and had folks who live there showing us around the entire time. My time there was too short, and went by very quickly.  I now feel left with scattered impressions and stories and I think it will be best for me to share them with you that way rather than in a traditional narrative:

A windy day at Giza.

A windy day at Giza.

On our first day we went to the pyramids of Giza.  They are huge and truly amazing.  We even went inside one of them – really cramped walking down.  All of the adornments, statues, and paintings have been removed from the pyramids (they are in the Egypt National museum, Smithsonian, British Museum, etc.) and I found myself wishing that there were at least some replicas there so I could have a better sense of what things were like when they were discovered.

The National museum was amazing, but there was just so much stuff everywhere!  My favorite parts were the King Tut exhibit – so much gold! – and the mummies, which were a little creepy, but just SO COOL.

A gorgeous gallery/shop we stumbled upon. #designgoals

A gorgeous gallery/shop we stumbled upon. #designgoals

I was surprised at the number of people who wanted to take our pictures just because we were white foreigners.  I know this happens in other countries, but I wasn’t expecting it in Egypt.  One day we were visiting a very big and important mosque.  There were many children there on field trips and nearly all of them were asking for photos with us, or “covertly” taking photos of us without our permission (to be honest I felt some sympathy for celebrities who have to live their lives like this – we got impatient after about 5 minutes!).  While in the courtyard of the mosque three girls around 10 or 11 years old in hijabs approached us (three 20-something women).  Before they could say anything we said, “Sorry, no pictures.”  They replied, “We don’t want to take a picture with you, we wanted to know if you would like to race us.”  After clarifying that yes, they were in fact challenging us to a race we couldn’t say anything but yes.  So that’s how I ended up losing a race to three young girls (basically) inside of a mosque.

Lanterns at Cairo's Khan el-Khalili market.

Lanterns at Cairo's Khan el-Khalili market.

The Nile does not disappoint.  We rode in a sailboat at sunset and it was magical.
Egyptian food is delicious.  But if I were forced to choose (thank goodness that I’m not!), I’d still pick Lebanese food over it.

Cairo was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as I expected.

Riding the metro was quite an experience and rivals my days in Honduran buses for crowded-ness.  However, it was much more timely than any public transit in Baltimore.

I would love to return to Cairo some day, I did quite a bit in my short time there, but I know that I just scratched the surface of what that city has to offer.

Saying Goodbye Well

Change isn't hard for me. In fact I tend to thrive when I enter new situations. The newness of everything gives me energy. Creating, brainstorming, and figuring things out feeds my soul. I've worked in some intense places (in Beirut with refugees, in Baltimore with drug addicts, in Yellowstone National Park with tourists - the most difficult of all), but nothing seems to shake me. Colleagues often comment on how un-phased I seem in my new surroundings.

What I am discovering as I grow up is that it's not the saying hello that is difficult for me, but the saying goodbye. I've lived in many places and I think to truly experience a place you need to fully dive in; to fall in love and lose yourself in it. But in my experience when you do this you are also ripping out a piece of your heart and leaving it behind. This is the blessing and the curse of travel and moving. Having many places to call home where you'll always know someone is incredible, but not having a central place that really feels fully "yours" can make it hard to feel as if you belong anywhere.

In the past I've channeled all of the sadness and grief I feel about leaving a place into future thinking. I get excited about what my life will be like in this new place. This is not completely a bad thing to do, but in doing it I never do goodbyes well. I am in my last week of living in Beirut, a city I've called home for nearly a year. This time I'm actively working on saying goodbye well. I'm writing letters to the people who have meant the most to me this year, I'm taking walks past all of my favorite places, and soaking up as much of the Mediterranean sunshine as I possibly can. I'm learning that the best first step toward a new beginning, is a good ending.

Some photos from my last week. L-R, A typical street view in Beirut, My favorite Lebanese dishes, The goodbye cake from my coworkers.