This is the last post of a four part series about my trip to Cairo. To start at the beginning, click here.
Thursday was our last full day in Cairo, and as the conference had already finished, the school had organized a mini-tour of the city that hit the major landmarks. I say ‘mini-tour’ because there’s no way that you can see everything that there is to see in Cairo in just one day, so they prioritized and our destinations were the Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, and Tahrir Square. The school even got a private tour guide for the day.
I had already been to the pyramids and the museum when I visited Egypt with my family in 2010, but I never thought that I would have a chance to see them again so soon. And they’re both still incredible. It’s a bit mind-boggling to think of the amount of history tied to the pyramids or all the thousands of years worth of artifacts held within the museum, and then to flip that perspective, and wonder what it will be like in the future. If they still have museums, what will they display? The amount of development that humans have accomplished in just the last 100 years is huge, but those 100 years are nothing on the spectrum of time. And even if they have an exhibit on, say, the ‘Technological Revolution,’ it’s pretty weird to think about a laptop or a smart phone being behind a glass display case. Plus that of course that leads to wondering what will replace our current day technology? What will they use in the future? It’s all speculation, but it’s fun to think about!
Well anyways, back to day 5. Even though it was my second time, I was still amazed by the pyramids. Humans somehow managed to move those huge rocks into place to build a complicated structure that had three inner chambers, which hasn’t been able to be duplicated to this day. That’s impressive. We also went into one of the small side pyramids that was built for the queen. It was honestly a bit underwhelming, as it was a lot of effort for an empty, plain room and you couldn’t even take pictures. Then, we went to a look out area that had a stunning panoramic view and was ideal for a typical tourist picture :)
The last stop before leaving the pyramids was the Sphinx. For whatever reason, I was expecting it to be bigger. I remember feeling this way the last time I saw it too, so it wasn’t so surprising this time. But something about the way it’s portrayed in pictures made me think of it as larger than it actually is. In the picture on the left below, we found this broken, discarded souvenir in the sand, so I had Douwe hold it for a picture.
Next on the itinerary (before the Egyptian Museum) was lunch. It was definitely a place for tourists, considering that the only other customers besides our group was a large group of Japanese tourists; however, the food was good (but not as good as Amina’s mom’s cooking!). After lunch, it was time to say goodbye to the two students from UWC Adriatic, Douwe and Yulia, because they had to catch an afternoon flight back to Italy.
Then we went to the Egyptian Museum, which was pretty interesting. It’s helpful to have a tour guide because the labels are not very consistent, so he picked out the important things and then told a brief history of Ancient Egypt. My favorite part was the jewelry – it was gorgeous. Earrings, necklaces, rings, and more, made up of intricate designs in gold, silver, red, blue, and turquoise. I also loved the preserved papyrus drawings and writings. They’re a hint of what culture was like back then, what people believed and what their lives were like. My least favorite part was that you’re not allowed to use your camera inside the museum. I can understand why, but it’s frustrating! I guess you’ll have to go there sometime and see the artifacts for yourself. Just know that as a foreigner, you’ll pay almost 10 times as much as an Egyptian! We had a good laugh about that – Amina’s ticket was only 4 Egyptian pounds, whereas my ticket was 30 Egyptian pounds.
Once we left the museum, it was time for one of my favorite parts of the whole trip – visiting Tahrir Square. Our tour guide said that we would walk through it, so long as we followed two rules: first, that the women walk in the middle of the group and the men form a circle around them, and second, that we don’t take pictures inside the square. He said he didn’t think that anything bad would happen, but that we should take caution. Walking through Tahrir Square was fascinating. There were no active protests going on when we were there, but there were tents set up in the middle grassy area and people hanging out. A couple guys were trying to make some money by selling flags and other patriotic items. The media is definitely biased when it comes to Tahrir – these kinds of things that I saw don’t make the news. Instead, there are reports of police brutality, violent protestors, things breaking or burning, etc. Which is not to say that those things don’t happen, but the fact is that they aren’t happening all the time.
Tahrir Square was something I had only seen through the media’s pictures or video before. So to see this now-historic place right in front of me, to literally walk through it, was truly amazing. As we were walking, we saw a side street that had a long wall covered in graffiti/street art. It was mostly about the revolution, against Mubarak/Morsi/the Muslim Brotherhood, or in remembrance of martyrs. Art is a beautiful form of expression and communication, and there were some exceptional creations. It’s hard to only explain with words, so just check out the gallery below to see what I mean.
After sitting in the bus for two hours, inching our way through traffic, Amina and I finally made it back to her flat. She called Ali, the boy that Quinten stayed with, and we all agreed to meet at a sushi restaurant as it was the last night. The sushi was yummy and it was a lovely evening, talking and laughing about our memories from the week. At one point, the topic of our (UWC Mostar’s) MUN conference came up, and suddenly we were discussing Amina visiting Mostar.
At first it was just a joke, but then it became a real conversation about the actual possibility of it. This conversation evolved into making an actual plan. And now, so long as everything works out with the visas, she will be coming for sure! Amina, along with two other students and a supervisor, will be in Mostar at the end of March. Just to write that sentence makes me excited already!
It was of course sad to leave on Friday morning, but having that hope that we would see each other again soon definitely helped make saying goodbye not feel so permanent.
See you later Egypt~