Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Egypt, Summer 2010: Photos and Comments

So, given that I spent five weeks in Egypt, I simply will not be able to discuss everything I did, nor could I possibly download all the pictures I have. I would love to talk about it in person with anyone, but I think I will content myself with writing captions for the pictures I have posted and with sharing a couple cogent thoughts and experiences. This post will be the one in which I discuss my photos, though I'm still missing the ones that my friend John took. I will post and caption those as they come in and discuss my experience in general in the next post.

We begin with John's and my arrival in the Cairo airport. It was a very difficult procedure acquiring an Egyptian visa- we had to fork over fifteen american dollars after our arrival in Cairo- no paperwork, no appointment at the consulate, nada. It was rather humorous how easy it was, actually. This was the customs form we had to fill out- don't ask me what Nefertiti's head has to do with anything, because I'm still clueless.

Our first weekend, all the teachers except one went on a trip to Old Cairo, or Coptic Cairo, where we visited a famous mosque and, supposedly, both the synagogue built over roughly the place Moses was drawn from the Nile, and the Church built over one of the places where the Holy Family took refuge in Egypt. It was pretty cool.

Notice, too, how the women had to wear full body cover in the mosque- they thought it made them look like neon Ewoks or Jawas. I would tend to agree...

Here's the well behind the synagogue located at the spot where Moses was rescued by pharaoh's daughter, or so the story goes.

The Coptic Church has a huge devotion to St. George which I never quite got completely explained to me. Even one of the train stops in Muslim Cairo is 'Mar Girgis', which is Copt for 'Saint George'. (Notice that they also liked odd, neon saint's portraits a lot, too)

This is actually a church, not a mosque, though I guess the cross kinda gives that away. It abuts a Coptic orthodox monastery, if I recall.

Here is the first of many pictures to come of Egyptian traffic at its best. We see not just double parked cars or even the odd offense of triple parking, but quadruple parking on a huge scale. This is only the tip of the iceberg... *sigh*
You can also take note of how very much Egypt is a 'developing' country- Cairo was under construction everywhere.

Here I am on the Nile.

Here's a shot of the Nile 'corniche', the fertile, commercial strip in Cairo immediately around the Nile. I took this shot from the van on our way out to Giza to see the pyramids, so I was probably already coated in a thick layer of SPF 45.

Ah, there we are.

They don't really look all that big, do they???

Perhaps a little perspective would help...

Yep, I'm definitely standing on the biggest of the Great Pyramids. Notice John and I totally went Lawrence of Arabia for this one. It seemed only right and just, and I found it to be particularly effective at protecting against the sun, despite how it looks. You'll see John's looks a little more like a do-rag (or however you spell that).

Here are my companions and our Coptic orthodox tour guide (the one in the Heineken cap).

Fret not- I do actually have more pictures from this vantage point, but they are in John's possession at the moment, so I can't post them yet, but I plan on getting them up here...

Here is the enigmatic Sphinx, guardian of the second of the Great Pyramids.

K, Egyptian traffic again. This picture cannot begin to express how nervous this guy made us...

Here is a picture from Khan el-Kalili, a famous bazaar in Cairo. We wandered it and played terribly aloof, lest we get swamped by vendors.

These next few shots are all from our first weekend excursion, an evening felucca (sailboat) ride down the Nile.

Now we move to the Mohammed Ali mosque in the Citadel in Cairo, which used to be the stronghold of Salahadin back in the 12th century.

Then on to the mosque where the Shah of Iran, as well as King Farouk of Egypt, was laid to rest. Here is the tomb of the Shah.

Here are some random pictures from an excursion.

Next, we went to an Egyptian cultural center, where they had a free performance by a group of musicians and 'whirling dervishes', which was pretty fun to watch. We sat with an eclectic group in the middle; we had some American Navy language students, a German father and his son, a group of Asian women, and a cat, among other people sitting around the area in the center.

The last weekend after we finished classes, we went to a Cairo theme park with the guys. It was a lot of fun, but the ride there was hairy, as you might be able to tell from the picture. After our time there, I left immediately for Fayoum, Egypt with two of the seminarians from there. I stayed with one of them and his family in the city proper in their apartment. They were incredibly hospitable and kind. I had a wonderful time there.

Here are a few photos from my seminarian friend's Coptic Catholic parish in Fayoum.

Here I am watching the World Cup Finals with Fady and some of the parishioners in the rectory.

Now to their apartment, which seemed to be pretty nice compared to many of the other residences in Fayoum.

Fady's and My Room

The view from one of their windows.

... and here is Fayoum proper. Notice in the second picture the public transportation system.

That van is the public bus system. Well, ok, many such doorless vans are the public bus system.

Here was a nearby Coptic orthodox monastery we visited. They had a local saint who was rather popular; you can see him in the second picture.

Notice all the fans...

This one is a little random, but if you ever wanted to see an anime Jesus, here's your chance. I noticed that they had an anime comic strip of the Gospels in the bookstore in the monastery, written in Arabic. The comic strip, of course, thus progressed from the back to the front.

Fady's mom made a huge lunch for the parish priest, two visiting Franciscans, and for me. Like any good mother, she practically resorted to violence to get us to finish it all, or as much as we could stomach, to the point that we started sneaking our food onto other people's plates and picked at the same piece of meat for 10 minutes at the end until she was satisfied. It was really quite excellent food, but there was just too darn much of it.

She also buys glasses with her son, just like any mother. Notice the very trendy Islamic garb donned by the young woman working the counter. Western influence inevitably sneaks in here and there.

Next, we went to visit Matta, the other seminarian who lives in Fayoum, though he strictly speaking lives in a neighboring village. Here we are in his house, then in his village. I don't have pictures of it, but his mother fed us until we nearly passed out, also. No one can fault the Egyptians for lack of hospitality.

Finally, I had to say my goodbyes to Fady's family and head back to Cairo.

After I got back, John and I ate a big, American dinner at a local American style diner. The next morning we left for Sinai. My camera broke toward the end of my time in Fayoum, so I couldn't get any pictures from Sinai, but hopefully I can get some up from John. Here are the pictures I took of my room at the seminary in Cairo my last day there.

That's about it. It was a wonderful and moving experience, and I would love to tell you all about it when I return. If I get a chance I will try to post the rest of the pictures and give a little background on them. God bless you all.

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