In December of 2011 my family embarked upon an Egyptian adventure. We spent 5 days in Egypt mostly in Cairo and one day touring Alexandria. We were fortunate enough to spend New Years Eve in Cairo and rang in 2012 with Egyptian flare. Our party included myself, my husband, my little sister, and my baby Thomas. This was one year after the Arab spring. It was an extraordinary time to be in this country. The air was filled with hope and those who we encountered freely discussed the events with pride. The following photographs are from this trip, which was largely a site-seeing excursion. The sites are astonishing, yet in the years since my reflections are more on the remarkable people my family encountered and their generous and welcoming culture.
It’s difficult to describe the historical experience in Egypt. The pyramids are probably the most easily recognizable symbols of ancient history. They were majestic. Being so close to such a huge monuments was simultaneously exhilarating and humbling. People surround them, and they are literally in the middle of a huge metropolitan area. You can see the city all around intermingling the ancient and the new.
The failures of modern times are obvious with buildings in various forms of collapse, juxtaposed by the strength of the ancient world. I felt this same overwhelming feeling often on this adventure. It was astonishing how the modern occupants of Egypt lived their lives surrounded by such vast history at every corner.
This photo is of a bodyguard our touring company hired holding my son, who was just over a year old at the time of our journey. We thought his presence was unnecessary, yet the company insisted due to the political climate of the time. He was stern and intimidating, a stark contrast to all other Egyptians we had met at that point. As it turned out his presence was a marvelous addition to our team.
The culture that I experienced in Egypt was one of the most family friendly of anywhere else I have been. This austere gentleman held my boy for most of the day, playing and encouraging his curiosity. In this same trip we had a long layover in London and one in Paris. I experienced teasing and awkward glances for wearing my baby close, as well as unwelcome stares and rude comments for nursing him. In Egypt cab drivers bought toys for my sweet Thomas and anyone we encountered welcomed his presence.
The Cairo citadel offered the most beautiful view of the city, though the edifice itself was even more stunning. The history of the architecture dates back to medieval history (an infant in comparison to many other sites in Egypt). This building has been used as worship site, military campgrounds, and water center. Currently there are three mosques inside the building. I knew none of this before my entry.
As I gazed ahead admiring all the history that surrounded me, lots of people were milling about. The floors were covered in amazingly detailed rugs, no doubt created by the talented carpet weavers that live and work in Cairo. They were preparing for prayer and I had no clue what was going on. Once prayer began my family exited the building but it could be heard outside. No one seemed to have any objection to our curiosity and we felt very welcome, just as we felt throughout our entire stay.