Saturday, October 25, 2008

Egypt: Where "Upper" = South

At the conclusion of Ramadan is a holiday break called Eid al-Fitr. Most AUC students use this week long break for travel around the region. My roommates, for example, went to Greece for a few days. I decided that I wanted to see more of Egypt and joined a group of 6 other students headed to Upper Egypt. Be not deceived, though. Upper Egypt is actually due south of Cairo, but since the Nile flows northward, Egyptians refer to "Southern Egypt" as "Upper Egypt." Now you know.

Anyhow, I was initially a little nervous about going on this trip, since I didn't actually know the other students very well, or at all (I know, Mom, I know: what was I thinking...). But that turned out not to be an issue at all. By the end of the trip we were all quite good friends.

Here is the entry in my travel journal from the first night of our trip:

So yesterday might have been the last night of Ramadan. I think it was, but someone has to officially decide based on the moon phase, I think. And yesterday night I also set out on an adventure myself. I am currently on a train on my way to Aswan. We boarded a train at about 10 o'clock last night in downtown Cairo at the Ramses train station. Now it's about 9:09 am and we're still some 4 hours from Aswan. I'm sort of just glad to have made it through last night.

So the break down is this:
  • I am now on a 6 day trip with a group of AUC students who I don't really know.
  • I payed 1,100LE (Egyptian pounds) for said adventure, which may make it worth it if only so I can say that I paid only 1,100LE for a week-long vacation.
  • BUT I will admit that this trip makes me a bit nervous. There. I said it. But knowing me, I'm usually nervous before I get to do something awesome. Please, please let this trip be awesome."
The next entry: WARNING, This contains some insight as to the propensity for college students to revert to 7-year-old potty humor. If words like "poo" offend your sensibilities, then you should read a different posting. As a disclaimer, this was written when we all had cabin fever and were beginning to get loopy for lack of food and water. There. You've been warned.

"Oct 1, 2008

"...On our way (Nisreen and I) to the train's restroom facility, Nisreen looked down and there was a sizable hunk of human feces on her shoe. Her cute ballet flat with a silver buckle.

"Firstly, we were all generally curious as to how that was even possible -- had there been a hunk of poo on the wall that happened to flick to the floor just as Nisreen's foot passed below it? There were no further signs of poo anywhere on the floors, walls, or ceilings, so we were all sort of amused at how this particular bit of poo ended up on top of and not under her shoe. Plus, we'd been on the train for about 15 hours at that point and we were bored of every other topic and activity. We had a drum circle, briefly, before it failed for shyness and the realization that some of our car-mates were asleep. By this point I had moved into the other car with the other 6 of our group--the two students from Duke got off at Luxor [I had spent the first 12 hours of the trip sitting in a compartment with Britney and Tosen until they got off the train, and I didn't want to be by myself for the rest of the trip].

"Our trip ended up taking over 19 hours. Nine. Teen. Evidently the train ahead of us kept having troubles, and at around 4pm these "troubles" stopped our train dead on the tracks. We couldn't go anywhere with that stupid other train in the way. And then the A/C and lights went out. It was one of those 'Noooooo!!!' moments. Stuck out in the desert without any food and only 1/2 a bottle of water, images of death by dehydration or train robbery flashed through my head. So I decided to calm my nerves by moving into the hallway and looking out the window. Not long after, a man with a chainsaw slung over his shoulder walked by. No joking. I called the others out to look but he was already making his way around the corner of a wall. But they saw him.

"When we finally reached Aswan we were all ravenous. We took our luggage to the hotel and then we went to the most quaint little restaurant by the Nile. And by "quaint" I mean that there were fingernails in my lentil soup. I shall include now the observations/new names that we gave to our orders: fingernail soup - ash hummus (tasted like ash paste)- pretzel babaganough (tasted surprisingly though not necessarily disappointingly like a twisty pretzel). And a quote from Yousef: 'When chicken looks like steak, that's not a good sign...'"

So that was the first day of our trip, and seemingly one of the longest days of my life.


Mom said...

Oh, Dear Lord. I mean it as a prayer, really! This does sound a bit like my trip hitch-hiking to Frankfurt, Germany from Arnehm, Netherlands...only I spent the night in a sleeping bag on the Autobahn. The next night was in a Turkish bar in Frankfort, dancing the Turkish Knife Dance with the locals just to stay awake until we could get out and back to catch the train back to Arnehm...the things you don't want to tell your mother about...wait a minute, maybe my mother is reading this! Yikes! Be more careful, Caitlin, I do want you back in one piece!


Caitlin said...

Don't worry, mother dear. They were trustworthy folks, as it turned out. And the violent crime rate in Egypt is far, far lower than it is in, say, Los Angeles where I lived for the past three years. I'm still in one piece!

Anonymous said...

Egypt always remain the land of safety and security