Some of you may, or may not, know that I used to live in Egypt. I may not have appreciated it as much as I should have, but I do now, it was a WONDERFUL learning experience! Before I moved there, I really, truly, was under the impression that we would be living in pyramids and riding camels everywhere…never hit me that my dad worked for a CAR COMPANY!!!! I think I told everyone I knew I’d be living in a pyramid and I’m pretty sure I practiced walking like an Egyptian in the mirror!!!

Well, after 13 hours of flying, we landed in Cairo. The smells are what hit you first. A combination of sweat, body odor, and must, with a hint of the worst cologne you ever could smell! It’s kind of crazy it’s been 14 years and I still remember, but it was so different, how could I not? I really felt like I took a step back in time, it just seemed like the men were dressed in 80’s attire, and everything just looked so old. When you step foot outside of the airport, most of the cars were old and clunky, cabs included. I’d never been around people who had to cover their heads or faces, so it was all very new to me, and at that time, I wasn’t very familiar with the Muslim religion, but it was clearly evident we weren’t in Grand Blanc, Michigan anymore!

It was around midnight local time when we arrived, but our first stop was to take a look at where we’d be living, which was NOT a pyramid! We had a lovely apartment, just different from what I was used to, I’d never lived in an apartment building, and again, there was a funky stench in the building. Also, living on the 5th floor is not a great floor to live on, should the electricity go out, and it went out often. We later learned one of the bathrooms stunk, permanently, of whatever it was our landlord, right above us, was cooking (and they loved their garlic)! What was even stranger was we had 2.5 bathrooms, and they were all next to each other, the stinky bathroom was maroon, and my parents’ bathroom was a hideous pickle green! Luckily, the half bath guests would use was attractive, which was all my mother worried about. I thought it was the coolest thing that I had a balcony off of my room, it was small, but it had a view of the school. We then went to the hotel, and stayed there for a few days while we got situated.

My first mini-expedition was right after I moved in, my mother asked me to go get some milk from the market, Kimo Market (which you’ll see briefly in the video clip @ the end), and all I had to do was go straight, but somehow, I ended up over on one of the busiest streets in the area, referred to as Road 9, and I started on 210, and a nun, or that’s what I remember she was, was nice enough to help me get home. I didn’t know a phone number, or even where home was, all I knew was I lived near CAC, but hours later, I got home in one piece. And my mother swears my sense of direction hasn’t improved much since!!!!

The following week, I started school at Cairo American College, it was Kindergarten through grade 12. It was much smaller than what i was used to, only about 100 students per grade. It was early November, so I remember feeling so overwhelmed on the first day, and later realized it was MUCH more difficult than I expected. The school was great though, there were people from all over the world, places I’d never even heard of, and I was able to learn so much about the world, namely geography and cultures. In the US, they focus on government, civics and usually the history of your state, I did however, learn so much about Egypt, their culture and the Muslim Religion, and when you understand why people are different, and do the things they do, you’re a whole lot more accepting. The Middle East gets such a bad rap, the only time you hear about it on the new is when something horrible happens, or because of the war, and it’s not all bad, the WHOLE region is not comprised of terrorists, if it was, they would’ve all killed each other by now! Only one terrorist attack occurred while we were there, and it wasn’t even aimed at Americans. Sadly, it was a BAD case of mistaken identity. I really take offense when people make those generalizations, they’re people too, just from a different background! Sorry, I tend to stray. The school I went to was a private American school, very advanced, and pretty up with the rest of the world, technologically speaking. I took Arabic classes the 2nd and 3rd years I was there, and learned how to read and write it. I tested it out a lot on our Boab (doorman) and our driver, both named Ahmed. When living there, it seemed as if there were only a handful of men’s names to choose from, It was as if every man were named either Ahmed, Mohammed, Abdul, Mahmoud, and Sharif. Seemed like there were even fewer female names, so we often would get people’s names mixed up, or we’d get lucky when picking one of the few we could think of LOL. My dad learned a few words in Arabic and he took a fondness to “habib” and “habibi”, which means love, or my love, and he called EVERYONE it, very amusing, if not embarrassing! We’re really lucky we never had any need for medical care while we were there, the hospital was called salaam something or another, and “ma’asalaam” means good-bye, so we deemed it the ma’asalaam hospital and joked if you went in, you wouldn’t be coming back out! For all we knew, it could’ve been just fine, but then again, Egypt was still a developing nation (developing nations don’t like the term “3rd world”). This was back in 1994-1997 that I was there, so I’m sure a lot has changed since then.

The really cool thing from CAC was that we started a rehabilitation program for Egyptian Tortoises, which are endangered. We took responsibility for feeding and caring for them, and that was a lot of fun. I believe they’re still doing the project to this day, and we weren’t even sure it’d continue after the first year. Another interesting thing we did was went and spent 4 nights in the desert, living with Bedouins. It was our 8th grade trip (we went on an overnight trip every year), but this one was my least favorite. Living in the desert means no plumbing…of any kind! We dug holes, did our business (behind a giant rock), and burned the toilet paper. Not my idea of a vacation! We snorkled, and on my first day, I managed to lose all my gear except a fin, due to waves. Snorkling was the only thing that got me through 4 days without showering, but salt water isn’t the greatest either! And I must say, snorkeling in the Red Sea is nothing but spectacular! It’s so beautiful! There was supposed to be something educational about the trip, however, I was probably too annoyed with the fact that one of the teachers (a gym teacher at that, so it was weird she came) washed her hair EVERYDAY, and I couldn’t even get a shower, that I just don’t remember!!! Oh well, I survived. I do remember having several bloody noses on that trip, due to the dry air, that was not fun (although one was caused by another girl over something stupid, but I still remember LOL, wonder where Kristin Schaffer is today). I also remember wishing I’d brought a warmer sleeping bag, it was COLD at night! It wasn’t a good trip for me, I won’t lie, but it’s one to remember! The 6th grade trip for students was to Luxor, which is where the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are, where King Tut’s tomb is, and a whole lot of history. In the 7th grade, we were supposed to go to Amman, Jordon, but due to current events at the time, we ended up going to Al Arish, and it was an alright trip…first time I ever played Truth or Dare LOL, and that’s about all I remember! I did take a class, Egypt in Greek and Roman Times, and that was a really interesting class, more notably, I got to travel to Rome during my spring break in 7th grade! I LOVED Rome, it was gorgeous, and we did a ton of sight seeing, and the food was to die for! I digressed again!

The pyramids and sphinx were only about a 30 minute drive from where we lived, and we went there a few times, my mom even did a Christmas card of us in front of the pyramids. There was also the City of the Dead, which was miles of tombs, but a lot of poor people lived there as well, which is kind of creepy when you think about it. Another sight is the Citadel, i went there, but couldn’t tell you anything about it.

The Citadel

Driving in Egypt is something to be experienced…they try to make 5 lanes out of 3. Other things I found interesting in Egypt were that Arby’s delivered, McDonald’s had just opened it’s first restaurant in Cairo right before we moved there, and it was ALWAYS busy, even during Ramadan (when Muslims fast for a month), I think all ex-patriots had the same idea, to go there LOL. We had a Domino’s move into the bottom of the apartment building across the street, and that was convenient. Egyptian food, in my opinion, is bland, and the only think I liked was hummus and bread.

Here’s a video that kinda shows what Ma’adi, the ex-pat community we lived in, looks like, including CAC. It’s kinda long, but the last 2 minutes are the most interesting.

Next time…Thailand! Here’s a snippet from a previous post

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