Friday, May 08, 2015

After a week in Cairo

I have so much to say. I don't know where to start. Cairo is very different from what I know, but it's also very familiar. The revolution is over, there are no more violent protests, and the city is eager for tourism to return. The people here are very warm, friendly, hospitable, and proud. They are very family-oriented, and religious (but not fanatics). They are concerned about the economy and the future for their children. They work very hard for a living, and they also want to enjoy life, just like anyone else.

Cairo is bigger than any city that I have seen, and it is full of contrasts. At one glance, it looks like a modern city, but it also looks Medieval. There are modern high-rise buildings and there are "unlicensed" buildings that look like rough and unfinished slums. The traffic congestion is formidable, and I have to wonder how some fruit vendors drive their donkey-drawn carts through the city. On the way to Giza, I saw herds of goats and something that looked like cattle being driven along the street near where a fabulous new mall is being built.

Speaking a few words of Arabic really opened doors for me. Everyone I talked to, after they get over their initial shock (because most foreigners, especially Americans don't even try to speak Arabic), took an interest in me and wanted to help. And not just for baksheesh. Egyptians say that they won't let someone carry the weight alone. They share the burdens.

I won hearts and minds at the university. I just did what I always do - be myself. Genuine, and confident. I blew their minds. They never met an American like me before, and they will never forget me. Mission accomplished. Now I just have to do that two more weeks (at two other teach sites).

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