We descended into the smog of Cairo at 12.30 am, trying to spot giant pyramid shapes in the dark! It was sad to leave our little oasis Kenya - we'd already done so much and we had so much more to go. I had a sense that Egypt was going to be completely different, and I was right! Despite tiredness (and grumpiness*cough*) we were all excited to be in Cairo!! The airport was big, white and foreign with the majority of signs in Arabic (or Aramaic?) and lots of security checks. At one of the checks everyone got through but David (who's Sudanese) - that was really frustrating, to see the racial prejudice (it happened at Hong Kong airport on the way home as well)
There were all these people crowding around outside the doors as we walked out which was a bit overwhelming (I started recounting the stories these women from church had told me, clutching my arm and telling me to wear loose unattractive clothing, don't make eye contact with anyone for fear it being mistaken for being open to a marriage proposal, and always walk in a group with men surrounding you!!), as well as "helpful" men buzzing around us trying to grab our bags to take them to the bus. That's when I was glad we were in a group - Gab started softly singing our theme song the kids at MCF sang, "it's okay, it's okay" which was funny...
Cairo's huge (19 mill pop), and insanely alive at 2am in the morning - people everywhere, kids selling fairy floss, boats lit up with coloured lights, music, partying etc. It was great! We were welcomed to the guesthouse by Murray (a friendly Kiwi with a pleasantly weathered face who runs the place with his wife) and divvied up into our apartments.
Here's a rundown of the next few days activities:
7/9 = big tourist day, shown around by our tour guides Michael and Michael (that's not a typo)
- PYRAMIDS & SPHINX!!! = many many photos, pushy locals trying to sell us things (even kids - it was kind of sad that they were so shrewd, probably the best in the business with cuteness to their advantage), first successful haggling experience, and general wowness.
- Checking out Coptic churches (big emphasis on the story about Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing to Egypt (Matt 2:13-18) to escape Herod)
- Lunch on the Nile
- Antiquities Museum (inc. seeing the Mummy room which had about 10 Mummies, King Tut's bling, and massive ancient statues of Akhenaten, Rameses, and even an Egyptian style Alexander the Great - seeing all this stuff I'd been learning about was amazing!)
8/9 = Jon's b'day
- Found out about Refuge Egypt @ Cathedral (who do great stuff with the Sudanese refugees in Egypt)
- Free time to wander streets - lunch (we boringly did the safe option of getting pizza - Italian food in Egypt!) and shopping
- 'Interfaith dialogue' with some Muslims and a Coptic Christian. The most vocal Muslims were about as liberal as you can get ("I'm a Muslim, Catholic, Jew - we're all the same!") and tended to go off on tangents, which was just frustrating and not very helpful. But the reasons the facilitators had for the discussion was admirable (in terms of promoting more understanding), and partic a couple of the younger ones had some really articulate and honest things to say - it was a shame they tended to get talked over! It also got some good convo's going after, as well as highlighted some of the different views within the group. Also got me thinking about the whole issue of tolerance...
9 - 10/7
- Got sick!! Along with about half the group. Not nice. Also meant it was the toughest day in terms of homesickness. BUT got to ring Mum and Dad (at 2am Adelaide time!) and have a teary little convo which made me feel better - albeit the briefness! Also made me really appreciate the prayer-network at home :D
- Left at midnight to fly down to Kenya (hours of hanging round at Nairobi airport) and then down to Rwanda! It was pretty funny/embarassing on the plane - you know when so tired that you literally keep your eyes open? Well I was exhausted and slept almost the whole way, but still wanted my inflight meal, so when they came around I was sort of slurring my words and doing the whole tired, heavy-lid blinking thing. I think (tho my memory's not so clear at that point) the airhostess was trying not to laugh at me... ;)