Nov. 5, 2007 — Cairo Airport — Cairo to Kenya 8:45pm

Egypt Travel Blog

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The long journey! This is part of the traveling that I don’t like. I do love airports, though. Airports represent to me free time to do absolutely nothing but think and write and observe. And they have a huge variety of interesting people to watch. Things I don’t like about airports include the mishigas of hauling luggage around, waiting in long lines, and checking in. Worst of all is when you are standing in line like sheep to board a commuter plane so you can be shoehorned into a tiny seat with absolutely no leg room. These small local airplanes have even less leg room than the cramped coach seats on a regular airliner. But I suppose it’s one of the prices one pays to spend time in an exotic land.

Nov. 5, 2007 — Sudan Airport — 2am

I was sitting next to two fascinating Kuwaiti men in their mid-thirties on the way here. We talked a lot about everything from politics and the invasion of Iraq to the Arabic language and interracial marriage. They were on their way to Sudan for the wedding of one of their friends who was marrying an American woman, and they invited to the three-day party but I was already booked to Tanzania. Bummer! I would have loved to experience a traditional Sudanese wedding. That is one thing I don’t like about having hard and fast plans. I much prefer flexibility…

The Sudanese have such a different energy than what I have been exposed to. They are truly majestic in their African pride, standing tall with their heads held high and speaking with their mixture of British and African accent. I didn’t even know I had this extra layover on my itinerary. I think they snuck it in because nobody in their right mind would take what should be a six-hour a red eye flight and turn it into a twelve-hour flight for kicks.

I wish I could stay here even for just one day and really experience Sudan.

Nov. 5, 2007 — Kenya Airport — 5am

I have a three hour layover here. Three hours to kill with people-watching, writing in my journal and listening to my CDs. But now I’m exhausted and hungry and I have only US$3.00 left in my wallet. Not enough to buy much of anything (and I should keep it for an emergency anyway).

“All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They.”

– Rudyard Kipling

One of my favorite aspects of travel is trying to understand prejudices and different ways of thinking. Being a Soul Blazer who works with clients from many different ethnicities, I find this knowledge extremely helpful. But after spending a month in Cairo, I believe breaking down prejudices is harder than I’d thought. For instance, just briefly wearing the hejab made me feel superior and separate from people who didn’t partake in this Islamic practice. But it also gave me some insight I hadn’t had before into their culture. I had had dozens of conversations with Muslims and felt I understood them, but not until “playing” one by wearing the hejab did I feel I really got them on an experiential level.

When I returned to my regular clothes the same thing happened in reverse. I began feeling judgmental towards these strange women who covered themselves up and bought into the male mentality that kept them second class citizens. I wondered why they didn’t stick up for themselves (even though I knew the reasons, intellectually). These were not intellectual thoughts so much as fleeting, visceral reactions.

I read an article a while back on prejudice, and the author said we all possess an inherent, unconscious sense of discrimination. I was hoping to prove him wrong but now, after my month-long visit in Egypt and hearing so many people’s stories, I realize they are not open to new ideas and that I cannot easily change my own viewpoints either. I also believe that although there are inherent truths about different cultures and religions we are still individuals. I am an American but I hate it when people categorize me according to their preconceptions of what an “American” is. I don’t want to be labeled as that because I see myself as more global rather than simply American.

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The flies:

I’m heading back to Cairo and then later tonight to Tanzania. I’m sitting in the airport again, waiting for the delayed Egypt Air plane. I’m going to miss Cairo but I’m certainly not going to miss the flies. I have literally not had a single meal outdoors, inside a restaurant, at my hotel, or at the airport without being accompanied by one or more uninvited flies – usually a whole family joins me (well, family is important in the Middle East).

Taxi Drivers:

Taxi drivers seem to love Middle Eastern songs with the word “habibi” in them. If you sit in a cab for more than the length of three songs, you will inevitably hear a “habibi” (which means “my beloved”) song, which must mean the Cairo taxi drivers are the secret Romeos of the city.

Brown marks on many mens’ foreheads: 

I have started to notice many men with a brown spot on their foreheads the size of a quarter. I think it’s a fungus from putting their heads on the carpet (which is shared by many) at the mosque five times a day for years. I began inquiring about it. Here were some of the responses.

  1. It’s a sign from God that he has a place in heaven because of his strong devotion.
  2. It is a natural mark from praying a lot. Not a fungus but more like a gift.
  3. It’s ingrained dirt that would go away if he stopped praying.
  4. It’s a sign of pride.

Egypt Air – Luxor to Cairo

On my return flight to Cairo I have the great good fortune to find myself sitting next to none other than Dr. Zahi Hawass, the famed archeologist from the Valley of the Kings! He is traveling with a friend and they are both very nice. Dr. Zahi Hawass says that if I had only met him a few days earlier my life would have been changed forever. He would have taken me along on his archeological adventure while in Luxor. They invited me join them to dinner but, alas, my flight to Tanzania leaves tonight so it was impossible. I did, however, accept a ride (one and a half hours) to my hotel with them, and we got to know each other much better. We exchanged contact information and Dr. Hawass will be in LA in December for a lecture. He invited me to his talk. Life works in strange ways!

Fun Facts:

Cairo has the oldest functioning university in the world, the famed Al-Azhar

Cairo (or al-kahira in Arabic) means the Vanquisher, or the Triumphant

stuartx13 says:
I to write about the airports i go to but im just geting started but i love your post.
Posted on: Nov 12, 2007