Life in Egypt: First impressions Cairo/Giza-Egypt
My first interaction with Egypt took place through my plane’s window. It was 5 am, and much to my surprise the sunrise had already commenced. Cario, being the capital of Egypt was introduced as a cliché deserted city, in the tints and tones of brown and orange. I could spot a strong resemblance to the cities in Rajasthan, India. Cairo International Airport is vast covering an area of almost 37 square kilometers with a large chunk of this area being unutilized. The formalities at the airport were very smooth and quick with little to no waiting times. However, as soon as I came out of the airport, I was unconvinced by the way tourists are greeted by Taxi Drivers, forcing them to avail their services. The loud and inappropriateness of this ‘so-called marketing strategy’ did leave me thinking about my safety in these local cabs. Never mind, thanks to Uber, the metro, my curious feet and the buses, commutation in Cairo has been like a cakewalk.
Ramadan in Egypt, a cultural shock?
Egypt, also known as the Arab Republic of Egypt has been adhering to the ideals laid down by Islam, since the 10th century. Hence, Ramadan plays a very important role in Egyptian culture. No wonder what, I would always say that Ramadan is always the best time to visit Egypt. I started my trip in the middle of Ramadan. The month-long fasting period shows how committed Muslims are to their faith. Shops are closed during the day until 6 in the evening. There is little to no food available and one needs to depend on the reserves brought by the home country. It is often looked down on if someone is seen eating or drinking in public. However, the commencement of Eid marked the end of this holy month of Ramadan. I could witness a new vibe on the streets. Vibrantly decorated plazas, shimmering avenues coupled with friendly commotions and joyous hustles are the major highlights to experience.
Cairo-Giza through a tourist’s eye!
No one can deny the fact that both Cairo and Giza are home to gazillions of tourists. People from numerous cultural backgrounds can be seen here, creating a diversified array of unique cultural integration. Nonetheless, exploring the touristic side of these two co-joint metropolises was a retreat. The scenic and chic photographs taken by me by the might Nile bring me closer to this city.
“J’aime ces bâtiments”, a French phrase when translated in English means, “I love these buildings”, clearly describe my feelings. Being an admirer of distinctive architectural establishments, the colonial French architecture is eloquently reflected in Cairo. Vintage buildings dotted with tall and thin windows, embroidered by hollow carvings and embodied in yellow sandstone mirrors the beauty of two highly contradictory traditions namely French and Arabic. But, most of the tourist attractions in Cairo and Giza muse upon the ancient history of Egypt.
The Great Pyramids of Giza, a tourist hotspot is visited by a multitude of tourists daily. I had seen these pyramids in several films before, but visiting them in actuality was a more mesmerizing episode. The stereotypical scorching weather of Egypt went in tandem with my visit. “Witnessing life, Egyptian style”, as I describe myself aimlessly riding on the camel amid the bustle created by random movements of tourists, localities and my all-time favorite horses. This trip to the Pyramids encompassed all the aspects of this magnificent creation, which is historical, religious, cultural and touristic.
Also, not to forget, the EgyptianMuseum was highly intriguing; in my opinion, this building would be culturally fascinating for enthusiasts who have an interest in Historical figurines, manuscripts, and tombs. I was overwhelmed by the elaborate exhibits encompassing more than 10 different halls. The most striking display was the Royal Chamber of Mummies, one can visually interact with real mummies, reap knowledge about their lives and gain deep insights into Egyptian mythology. Spoiler alert; get ready to be freaked!
3 Religions, 1 city, Cairo?
Before I arrived in Egypt, I bore a clichéd image about Egypt, i.e. being a completely Islamic country. Although part of it remains true, one must not ignore the precious value ingrained in the marvelous churches and synagogues. I was left spellbound after seeing the Mokattam Church. After a dusty journey through broken roads, Mokattam Church did fill the void. This church is one of the oldest in the Middle East and Africa, and it is completely carved out of rocks. Moreover, I also toured the Citadel complex which comprised of a beautiful mosque. The beauty of this place lay in its expansive location attributed to fabulous views over old Cairo and Giza. The tall minarets and large interiors did remind me of the mosques present in Istanbul. Last but not least, I was amazed by the presence of a historical Jewish synagogue in the heart of Cairo. The entire religious complex is built on an underground fort which was used to fight battles.
Downsides-Are they a deal-breaker?
When I say the word ‘traveling’, it is universally assumed the word means to visit touristy places, at one’s own convenience and comfort. On the contrary, I believe that ‘traveling’ is merely an emotion that binds several important aspects. It means to get out of your comfort zone and explore the unknown. It encompasses befriending strangers, feeling uncertain and witnessing cultural shocks. Similarly, I would not say that visiting Egypt is marred with downsides, but yeah it does have some dissimilarities when compared to other countries. Until now I have learned to keep no expectations while traveling, my journey itself is an excuse for me to build fresh ones. Egypt being an Arabic country might lack proficient English speakers, but there are always some methods to make your way through the daring language challenge. Some people might find Arabic displeasing due to high pitched vocals, but a country cannot be judged just on the basis of its language? Lastly, the hygienic conditions in Egypt are a disappointment, but on a positive note, there is always a scope for improvement and development is taking place in full swing.
In conclusion, my first impressions majorly reinstate about my outings and my learnings. I have learned to see things from positive aspects. I have realized that it takes no effort to appreciate the minutest of things. For example, that hearty cultural conversation with an Uber driver via Google translate completely or hearing Egyptians chant the traditional Indian greeting, “Namaste” after seeing me who is an Indian. I will be covering more about the lifeline of Egypt: the Nile and the food paradise in my next blog!