Me Last Days in Morocco + Egypt Trip!
I can’t believe it—I’ve left Morocco! Looking back, it seems like the semester has gone by so quickly, though my finals week really did drag on forever. I finished my last final at 9:30 AM Saturday morning; that gave me three hours before I left for the train station to pack/eat/and say goodbye to a semester’s worth of friends! Of course, some of my closest friends were already gone/out exploring (William Allgood, Nathan Mayo, and Noella Taylor decided to go caving instead of seeing me off…jerks), so I had already begun the process, and at this point I was more than ready to be moving on from Al Akhawayn and getting back to friends and family in the states. Nonetheless, I spent the morning reflecting on what an incredible time I’ve had in Morocco, and how lucky I have been to be here with such a fantastic group of study abroad students! They’ve made my trip, and I can’t wait to catch up with them all stateside!
I was also fortunate enough to be traveling out of Ifrane with some other friends (which fell together at the last minute). On the train to Casablanca, I met two people with a familiar accent…I couldn’t be sure at first, but when they told me that my mother (who is from Adelaide) must be a silly crow-eater, I knew that they were Australians! They were on a “Cairo to Casablanca” tour of Northern Africa…we had a great time chatting with them, from serious middle eastern political questions to gut-busters about British comedies. I said my last goodbyes to my friends at the Casa train station (they were leaving the next morning)…then I waited for an hour for the train to the airport, and from there on everything went like clockwork (besides the airport café being closed = cheese sandwich for dinner :/). After finals, it felt great to relax knowing that everything was in order and that I would be in Egypt soon! The only real hitch on my night was the flight itself…it wasn’t a full flight, and I had two extra seats to myself, UNTIL a lady with three children (including one infant) and a nanny decided to expand from their original three seats into my additional two as well. I spent the night next to two loud, crying children and an adorable little girl who just wouldn’t stop kicking me while I tried to sleep.
So once I got to Cairo, I was exhausted. But I cleared customs and baggage claim in 10 minutes, and met my friend Sharan at the airport with no problems whatsoever. After a 1 ½ turned 2 ½ hour nap, we set out with some of his friends to the famous Pyramids at Giza. Awesome. We even got to climb up one on the inside…it was quite a hike! Afterwards, we ate at a Pizza Hut directly across from the Pyramids/Sphinx…great pictures (and delicious food)! That afternoon we headed back to Khan al-Khalidi (large Bazaar/market) and I bought lots of fun touristy things. Heckling here is definitely more insistent than it is in Morocco. However, because everyone heckles, I don’t feel badly at all completely ignoring people/simply walking out of people’s stores if I don’t feel like paying that much/etc (unlike in Morocco, where we would generally at least say no thanks or address the person). We spent the evening relaxing, eating schwarma, and planning out the next day’s adventures to Luxor.
|Sharan and I at the Pyramids|
|I'mma knock this guys head off...|
|The view of the Pyramids from Pizza Hut|
The next day, we hopped on a morning flight (delayed by 1 ½ hours of course) to Luxor, known for an absurd amount of ancient Egyptian ruins/temples/tombs/etc. We caught the East Bank tour that afternoon, and visited both Karnak and Luxor Temples. I was really impressed—these places have been standing for between 3,000 and 4,000 years, and while there has obviously been damage (both natural and man-made) some sections still maintained their original paint colors and designs. Also, building structures this size in ancient times is really impressive—the temples are constructed from tremendously large stone blocks, along with stone pillars and obelisks that the Egyptians managed to erect somehow (they don’t actually know how). That night I tried falafel; not as good as shawarma, but still tasty! The next morning, we visited the famous Luxor West Bank; home to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens (among other things, of course). We got to explore an old temple dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut (who was not a Queen, but rather was the strongest female Pharaoh), along with the famous tombs of the ancient Egyptian dynasties. They were incredibly well preserved, though obviously many had suffered damage from tomb-robbers before the area became a protected site. Alas, no pictures allowed! Frustrating, but it was also the very first place I have been this entire semester that seemed even remotely concerned about protecting the site itself, so I didn’t mind. When our tour ended, we ate more shawarma for lunch and then headed to the airport early (we’d already checked out of our hotel, which was super cheap but generally awesome for no apparent reason beyond our good fortune). We sat, read, played cards, watched soccer, and finally caught our flight back to Cairo. That night, I ate Koshary for the first time…noodles, lentils, tomato sauce, delicious.
|Our Hotel. Stereo-typically great.|
|Paintings/hieroglyphs at Karnak Temple|
|Obelisk at Luxor Temple|
|Statues at Luxor Temple|
|Sharan and I in front of the Colossi of Memnon|
|Sharan and I in front of Queen Hapshetsut's Temple|
The next morning, we toured the Citadel in Cairo (a big castle area up on a hill)…pretty cool view of the city plus a super interesting Egyptian Military History Museum. I have learned about some of the stuff that they displayed there (and some of the events that they chose to conveniently ignore), so it was a nice way to close out my Middle Eastern studies. We ate lunch at the best Koshary place in Cairo…a 5 story restaurant that serves only Koshary. Afterwards, we visited the famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. This place is enormous, and displays absolutely no organizational principles whatsoever…it might as well have been a large warehouse full of crazy cool ancient stuff. We got to see mummified bodies preserved in the museum, most famously the body of King Ramses II; we also saw the tombs and sarcophagi that housed the bodies in the tombs that we had visited in Luxor. We paid a visit to the King Tut exhibit (he wore a huge golden mask into the grave, and his sarcophagus was incredibly intricate). After that, to be honest, the rest of the Museum was a blur. I was overwhelmed pretty much the entire time—but it was a great experience! After the Museum we stopped by Tahrir Square for a bit, to take some pictures/buy Egyptian flags…there were some protestors gathered along one of the streets near the square, but nothing serious. Right across from the square is the ruins of the former NDP building (Mubarak’s party); it was torched during the protests, and is a grim reminder to the level of violence that existed in Egypt just a few months ago. From here, we decided to go to dinner…Sharan got us mildly lost, but after an hour and a half taxi ride (which still only cost 11 dollars…just think about that for a minute) we finally found a small Indian Restaurant that was supposedly “the best restaurant in Cairo.” It was fantastic. Afterwards, we braved Cairo traffic again to get back to the dorms, packed our bags, and caught one last taxi to the airport in Cairo!
|Some street art about the Egyptian Revolution near AUC|
|One of many "Allah" bushes at the Citadel|
|View of Cairo|
|The Mosque in Cairo's Citadel|
|"The best soldiers on Earth"... I'll take West Pointers any day.|
|Taylor, Tommy and I outside the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities|
|The immolated NDP Building near Tahrir Square|
|Protesters at Tahrir|
I’m sitting in Amsterdam now, finishing this blog post and checking out some of my favorite pictures from this past semester. I have had an absolutely incredible time studying abroad—as difficult/frustrating as some aspects of my trip have been, I wouldn’t want to give up any of it. I’ve learned sooooooo much this semester, and I’ve met some pretty awesome people along the way—on the whole, no complaints!
Everyone stateside—I’ll see you soon! I can’t wait to be home again!
Arabic Word of the Day = أهرامات (Pyramids)
p.s. I’m home now…found this in my room when I got back!