Final Thoughts Part 1
So I realize I’ve been kinda MIA on my Egypt blog. One of the reasons for this is because the internet in my apartment is really unreliable and when I go to cafes or campus to use their internet, I usually have homework to do. Another reason has been once I got behind on my blog, I felt like I would have to catch-up writing on my winter travels before I could write about current stuff. The third reason is I’m really lazy and don’t think anyone actually reads this. Lastly, this semester in Egypt feels normal. My experience during study abroad has not been a 10-month vacation and gradually became normal life. My Egyptian “experiences” were no longer “experiences” but just became normal life. But I wanted to do a quick review of experiences.
In semi-chronological: I went to Stockholm, Oslo, Istanbul, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine over winter break. I think I blogged earlier about some of these experiences and will try to cover them in individual detail later, but as a whole I think I learned a lot about myself. For the most part, I liked traveling by myself. I would have loved to have company during the trip, but not having someone to go with was not a big enough of a reason to go. Most people I meet were super friendly and I didn’t get myself into too much trouble as a single, American woman traveling alone. In fact, I think people were more willing to help me because of this. I liked having the freedom to get up when I wanted to, eat where I wanted, and meet new people. I also learned the importance of asking for people for help (especially for directions) and a good guidebook. But I do think it is not for everyone.
As I said earlier, this semester in Egypt was less about travel and doing touristy things, and was more about just going to school and doing non-special things on the weekend like shisha cafes or boats on the Nile.
One exciting thing that I did get to do was go to Luxor when my sister visited in February/March. I honestly was not too excited about it because I don’t really care about pharonic stuff, but I ended up being really glad I went. Karnak temple was especially impressive and I liked seeing the Nile in Upper Egypt where it is a lot cleaner and wider.
For Spring break I went to Paris and Rome. While I think it is important to spend time in the area/region you are actually studying in, I really needed a break for Egypt. I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with a friend from Berkeley in Paris and meet up with Americans that I know from Cairo in Rome. While Paris was especially beautiful and a huge tourist hub, I didn’t fall in love with it. I loved Sacre Coeur and St. Chapelle and all the good food I had. While I am glad I went, there are so many more places I would like to explore before going back to Western Europe. I think I spent more money in a day there than I would a week in Egypt.
I want to do a final conclusion on Egypt as a tourist destination before I write about my personal thoughts on this year.
Cairo: I have a love/hate relationship with Cairo. It can be equally welcoming and unwelcoming to foreigner. I was made acutely aware of my status both as an American and a woman while there. Sometimes it worked to my advantage, but other times I felt liked I was taken advantage of.
One of my favorite places was Al-Azhar park which is a beautiful man-made park surrounded by the over-crowded, dirty city. Young couples go there on dates and they sometimes have concerts there too. I also liked the Pyramids, although sometimes they hassling of the locals trying to get you to buy stuff can take away from some of the beauty of the pyramids. I also liked going to cafes in Cairo where I could smoke shisha, drink Turkish coffee, and talk with friends (but it is more likely I was doing homework).
Dahab: Dahab on the Red Sea/Sinai Peninsula of Egypt is one of my favorite places I visited this year. I relaxed, went scuba diving, snorkling, ATVing, and hiked Mt. Sinai. The Red Sea is known for being one of the most beautiful places to scuba dive and I saw the entire cast of Finding Nemo down there.
Luxor: Karnak is AMAZING as are most things in Luxor. See my earlier paragraph. I also really enjoyed taking the public ferry back and forth from East/West bank. It was quicker and cheaper than taking a taxi twenty minutes down the road to cross across the only bridge in the area.
Black and White Desert: Absoutely beautiful and it looks out of this world. This is something most tourists don’t do since it’s a drive from Cairo and not as famous. In fact, I am glad its not famous since it would be overrun with tourists. It is something that I did that was completely unexpected but camping out under the stars, being visited by a desert fox in the middle of the night and partying with Beodouins, in a completly unreal, glowing white environment was beyond awesome.
Some other places I didn’t get to visit, but want to was Siwa and Rosetta. Siwa is in the Western desert and takes at least a day to get there (which explains why I didn’t go). It basically an oasis surrounded by desert and is so secluded they don’t even speak Arabic but rather their own dialect. They have some historical Alexander the Great stuff and other surrounding oasises (oasisi?, whatever the plural of oasis is). Rosetta is where the Mediterran sea meets the Nile and also where they found the Rosetta Stone. I don’t think there is much to see there, but it would be cool to say you’ve been there.
I also never went to Abu Simbel but apparently thats difficult/expensive to go to since its on the border with Sudan it requires an escort. In the wider Middle East, I wanted to go to Syria (not happening anytime soon), Tunisia, and Dubai/Oman, but I guess I can save those for the next trip.
so I just wrote a lovely post about my last few days in Istanbul but then the internet died and Tumblr didn’t save it so now I’m off to bed
I applied for and received an internship teaching English in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon for the month of July. I kinda want to take it but it only a one month thing. If it was in the beginning of summer, I could go back to Berkeley and take summer school or do something else with the rest of my summer. But its not and now I don’t know what to do. Also, Lebanon is supposedly one of the more expensive MENA countries. Sigh, its only January and I have to decide on my summer plans already?
Anonymous asked: Was there anything which surprised you about what you saw or experienced in Scandinavia?
Not really. It was expensive, cold, and had good food, just like I expected.