A Glimpse at my Trip to Egypt

When I was 5 years old, I told my dad I wanted to travel the world, and if I could have one purpose in my life, it would be to see every nook and cranny of the globe. Fifteen years later, I have knocked 26 countries off my bucket list, and I’m nowhere near done. 

I’m sharing this today because I’ve been reflecting on my travels over winter break. During my month’s visit to my hometown in Mombasa, Kenya, I also took a week to travel to Cairo, Egypt for the first time. Egypt had been a destination I had wanted to cover for many years, but due to the political unrest and issues of safety, I was not able to. I was ecstatic; I had dreams of the desert lands and imagined smoky markets with freshly roasting gyros and gold encrusted buildings. To my delight, Egypt was all this - and so much more.  

This specific trip taught me so much about the world we live in today and emphasized more than ever the lessons that diverse cultures can provide. The political uncertainty and anxiety over Egypt’s future had generated ongoing political protest and revolution in Egypt for many years. During my stay in Egypt, people were finally experiencing feelings of hope, peace and rest. I walked Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian revolution in 2011. I saw freshly painted roads and flower gardens along the streets, nothing like the frightening scenes of protest and fights that were shown on the news. It seemed so surreal that this country had faced so much devastation in the recent past. I spent an afternoon in a nearby hookah lounge, with a thermos of Egyptian’s specialty bitter roast and half-loaf of pita bread watching the rush hour around Tahrir Square. There, several locals greeted me – they could obviously tell I was foreign. I was lucky to have a conversation with some that sat with me to share the coffee. Initially, I tried to keep my conversations light and asked them about how they liked living in Egypt and where they worked or some history about ancient times. I noticed that gradually, most locals were striking up conversations with me simply because they wanted to know what I thought about their country, and how I perceived the people since listening to the news. That made me feel overwhelmed- I did not want to insult them with my opinions nor insult them with ignorance. I asked the kind man, what do you think about your country? He told me about the rumors of another revolution and about his son, who lost everything that was trying to build his life up again. He spoke about how he lost his wife, but was blessed with a son a month ago. He spoke about how he is grieved by the lack of tourism, and the lack of compassion by the media. However, he spoke with ultimate pride when he spoke about the patriotism of his community: “This country is one of a kind. We are rich, maybe not in wealth, but in culture, in love for each other, and we are rich in our strength. Sometimes we don’t support those who rule us, but our people are always there for each other. We cry together but we will build our city back together”. 

While visiting the pyramids, I met a young lady vendor who spoke English and asked her if she wouldn’t mind showing me around  – I was dying to ditch the tour guide who spoke in a robotic, monotonous drawl that made me want to duck tape his mouth shut out of respect for the incredible history I was experiencing, that he did utterly no justice to describe. While we spoke, she told me about how her family tells legends of the pyramids, and the people of the time who worked their whole lives to build these landmarks and forever serve their pharaoh. They believed if the pyramid was built protecting their pharaoh’s body, and built beautifully to respect his name, he would be led to the afterlife. In turn, he would take all his people with him. I learned that the Egyptians lived religiously through belief in the afterlife, working all throughout their present life only in hopes that their afterlife would bring them more joy, more wealth and prosperity and more beauty. They live every day with a great belief that there is more to come and a brighter light to continue working for. They worship the beings around them and worship the self. They find happiness and peace through respecting their journey.

My travels and my adventures over the years have truly shaped the person I am today. Meeting individuals like the kind elderly gentleman and the young lady feed my passion for stories, and exploring culture while making authentic friendships with those around me. I believe truly adventuring in a foreign country means embarking on a journey through the eyes of locals. Egypt taught me to strive for tomorrow and have a strong belief that there is always better to come. Pursue the greater good through hard work today. I think this mantra is something we could all benefit from.