Oct. 15, 2008 – Los Angeles to Cairo

Los Angeles Travel Blog

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Lufthansa Airlines – LAX- Frankfurt

I’m in seat 48A, sitting next to an elderly couple headed for Florence, Italy. We chat and they are perplexed when I tell them my final destination is Cairo. “Don’t you know we are at war with the Arabs?”

I smile politely. “I’m going there to learn Arabic, not to get involved with politics.” They give me a strange look. “Arabs behead people.”

“Terrorists behead people.”

“There are terrorists all over the Middle East. Here, read this.” The wife hands me a newspaper article about over a hundred people killed in Iraq the day before.

“Oh well,” I reply. “If it’s my turn to go, it’s my turn to go.”

They go on and on, trying to help me understand I could be on a suicide mission. Many of my friends in LA had felt the same way, but trusted my instincts to go. I knew from my past travels that a country usually isn’t half as bad as the news makes it out to be. Still, I have to admit that they do get me thinking.

Cairo. Why Cairo? Simply because I woke up one morning about a month ago with a powerful urge to learn Arabic, the language of my father. Although I was raised in a fairly traditional Arab-American community in San Diego, my mother is American, and my sisters and I all rebelled to some degree against the culture. None of us learned to speak more than a few words of Arabic. But lately I had been feeling an urge to reconnect with that part of me. It seemed the best way would be to go to my father’s part of the world and immerse myself in Middle Eastern culture. Since Iraq was out of the question at this time, Egypt seemed like a good alternative. So I announced one morning to my husband, “I’m going to Egypt to study Arabic.” He laughed and told me to go back to sleep.

Instead, I went online and Googled “Arabic lessons Egypt,” and “4U Arabic School” was the first name that popped up. I promptly emailed the school, and the next day in my inbox was an email from a man named Hameed. He explained all about his school, said he’d pick me up from the airport, and recommended a hotel (The Cosmopolitan). I got a good feeling from Hameed, a positive energy. That is how I have always navigated safely around the world – through my gut impulses about people and situations.

And now, a month later, I am on my way – wearing an evil eye pendant around my neck for protection, courtesy of my slightly nervous but very understanding husband.

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