"Welcome to Egypt"
December 19, 2015
Looking out my new window seat of our airplane that had just crossed the Atlantic. I knew we were getting close. We were over the Mediterranean and as we approached I could see the landscape changing from lush green near the coast to red desert as we moved inland. I looked desperately out the window, hurting my neck I looked for so long. I wanted to see the pyramids and the landmarks and everything I had flown to the other side of the world to see. I was afraid that if I looked away I might miss something.
Nora was right, as soon as the wheels of our plane touched the ground the passengers erupted in applause. The Egyptian man who had the aisle seat in our row was smiling at me when I looked over at him. We had talked briefly, before Nora gave me her window seat, about how excited I was to be going to Egypt for the first time. "Welcome to Egypt", he said to me with a smile. I thanked him and quickly looked back towards the window. Trying to pretend I was interested in where our flight might taxi but really trying to avoid letting him and Nora see my eyes welling up.
For as long as I could remember my biggest dream had been to come to Egypt. It wasn't just a fun, bucket list type dream, like run a 5k or go white water rafting. It was a big, serious, hard to accomplish dream. It took years of planning and saving. It took carful consideration and research and finally it took stubborn, independent, will and the impulsiveness of a 21 year old recent college grad to accomplish. And now I was here. I had really just landed in Egypt. An Egyptian man had just told me, "Welcome to Egypt." The emotions were too much to contain. I hadn't slept more than 5 hours in the last 2 days but don't think I stopped smiling until I got off the plane.
I found Nate in the flight tunnel and Nora walked with us until we found our tour group. Khalifa, our guide, was so nice right off the bat and I knew it was going to be an amazing trip. He helped us get our visas and we went through customs. Then we got on the bus to the hotel. On the way there we saw the pyramids and the Nile for the first time. It was at a distance, but the pyramids -in person- from a distance are a lot better than the pyramids in pictures. Khalifa tried to explain the customs in Egypt and what we could expect on our trip. He outlined what the next few days would look like and gave us all t-shirts. Everyone had trouble concentrating as he spoke though because as we drove along on the highway it was impossible not to notice that the traffic laws were different here. Meaning there were no traffic laws. Three lanes of traffic meant five cars in a row. Three in the lanes and two riding the lines in between them. Instead of using blinkers you honk to alert drivers around you and it was not unusual to see a pedestrian crossing the middle of the highway.
Our hotel was nice, stray kittens everywhere. It was a little smelly since in Egypt everyone smokes...inside. We were told on the way to the hotel we had the option to pay $35 and go to the “Sound and Lights” show, which took place at the pyramids and the sphinx. Nate and I looked at each other, hardly hesitated, and decided yes. Once we got settled into our room we showered for the first time in 2 days. I took about an hour nap before we met the group at 6:00pm in the lobby. I took in as much as I could while we drove through the streets of Cairo. When we arrived at the show it was very dark. There were lights illuminating the rows of seats, hardly any of which were filled. But as I looked around at the dark landscape I finally saw it. I hadn't realized before but I was standing in the massive shadow of the great pyramid. It's solid black outline looming just in the distance. Outlined only by the faint glow of the city lights. It was stunning to have my first, up close, view of the pyramids this way, almost as a surprise.
The show was not a good as we expected and I was so jet-lagged I could hardly stay awake. At least it was only an hour and it was pretty cool when they put a holographic face on the sphinx to cover the damage of it's current state. It showed what it would have looked like in ancient Egypt. Overall, it was just a rough historical synopsis of the pyramids with some lights displayed on them. Afterwords we took the bus to a little food vender where I got two pitas with falafel for 4 E.P. (.51 american cents).
In the morning we will be heading out at 7:30am to see the Cairo Museum and numerous other things.