Traveling

I haven’t written any blog entries because I’m traveling in Egypt until the 4th. I slept only an hour the night before the trip. I normally can’t sleep before a trip. So, I looked really tired when I arrived in Alexandria.  My Egyptian friend who spent several years in California with her husband met me at the airport. I swear, she and her family are among the nicest people you could possibly meet. That was evident back in California. But we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together before she and her husband returned to Egypt to start their lives.  Her family exemplified the Arab hospitality. The only comparable hospitality in the US would be maybe Southern, even though I’ve met really kind mid-westerners.   But even then, it is nothing on Arab hospitality. My hosts kept feeding me, and my friend’s mother-in-law gave me snacks and sweets to take with me on my 2  hour train ride to Cairo. Her father-in-law gave me a Qur’an with tajweed markings (which is soooooooo helpful). Also, since my purse’s zipper broke, they gave me a purse to carry all my things. I spend several hours with the family. They were so kind, and even gave me compliments on my Arabic (which was more than generous because it needs a lot of work).I was pretty nervous before leaving on the train. But my friend was really helpful, guiding me along the way and making sure I understood the illegible writing on the ticket (seriously it printed so faintly I could barely make out the numbers).  I always get nervous about train rides, in the US or abroad. Something about missing the stop, getting off too early, it just makes me nervous. I managed to get a second class ticket at 7:15, with an arrival time of 9:30 in Cairo.  I think I dozed off several times on the train ride. But I listened to my ipod, with each song bringing bringing back memories of someone or some place. Some songs brought back old feelings, as the time passed I kept thinking about how sweet or sad an experience was for me. I tried to set aside any preconceived notions. But I didn’t want to talk too much or stand out. It helped that I wore abaya. My friend noted that I didn’t stand out much as a foreigner. She noted that I looked like any African, like I could be Egyptian. She just said try not to be noticeable or speak loudly. I guess most Egyptians get confused, I am sure they assume I’m dumb because I can barely understand or it takes me a while to process what they’re saying. But overall, I didn’t get haggled too much as a foreigner and in general, people were courteous and helped me with my luggage as I struggled along. When I arrived in Cairo,  I slipped by a sleazy taxi cab driver and found a man that looked about 100 years old. He asked if I needed a taxi. I said “na’em,” like a good foreigner. I then told him Nasr city and pulled out address from my phone. He said 30 EGP, I said I heard 20 EGP. He said 25, I said, “tayyib.”  I’m staying with friends, who are also amazing hosts. It is really interesting to see the expat American Muslims, Arab Americans, British Arabs, as they manage lives in the hustle and bustle of Cairo. It gives me a chance to know what I’m in for. I guess I won’t be so overwhelmed when I come to live in Cairo to do research and continue studying Arabic. I don’t make it a point to do touristic things. Of course I want to see things. Coming to Egypt is  like a dream. I can’t believe I’m within reach of some of the most historical sites. I guess that’s why I’m not in such a rush to see everything. I have a fear that I’m going to impose some preconceived notions on this experience. Still want to see pyramids, al-Azhar, old markets, and even the cheesy touristy spots. But it is nice to just visit friends, get to know new people, and get a sense of the way of life.