I don’t have much time to post because the internet isn’t working in our dorms right now, but I’ll try to squeeze in as much as I can right now! I apologize in advance for my rushed writing.
Traveling ended up being a breeze. I snoozed for the entire flight from SF to NY, and only ran into a hitch when I (stupidly) forgot to change out of my comfortable (albeit tight) spandex leggings after the flight before attempting to check in at EgyptAir… you don’t know a disapproving look until you’ve been in that situation. It also didn’t help that I was traveling alone and didn’t have any luggage on me, since I had checked it all in SF. Apparently that’s kind of suspicious.
The actual flight from NY to Cairo was great- I ended up being seated next to 5 other AUC study abroad students. It was pretty easy to figure out who was who: we were all young, (mostly) white, perplexed by the announcements being made in Arabic, and traveling alone. I sat right next to an extremely courteous Egyptian man, who helped me with my Arabic pronounciation and recommended some great locations to visit. If there’s one thing that has remained constant over the course of my trip so far, it’s that Egyptians are very proud of their country. I was repeatedly told how lucky I was to be spending a year in Cairo, and welcomed graciously. Also, since it’s Ramadan right now (I’ll explain more about that when I have more time), the airline provided a meal for the passengers who were fasting and could not eat until sundown. It was really interesting to see how commonplace this was in an airplane full of Egyptians and Middle Easterners- the man sitting next to me prayed at least three times over the course of the flight.
After a little bit (okay, a lot) of turbulence, and watching Iron Man twice, we arrived in Cairo at around 11 AM. I noticed that you can’t see a horizon line from the plane- the brown sand softly blends into the blue sky because of all the dust and pollution. The students were ushered to the baggage claim by one of my favorite characters of the trip so far. An older AUC employee referred to us as “habeebees and habibtees” (loved ones), and assured us that nobody would get left behind on his watch. We hopped on an AUC shuttle and made the trip to campus, which was just as terrifying as you’d expect. Men rode crammed in truck beds around us, and our shuttle drove in the middle of two lanes for most of the ride. It was great!
Upon arrival at campus, we went through security and were given our room keys. The campus is BEAUTIFUL! I’m not even going to attempt to describe it here, I promise I’ll take pictures and post them ASAP. I was placed in a room with one roommate, but she hadn’t arrived yet, so I threw down my luggage and met up with about 15 other study abroad students in the main office. Our Resident Advisors (RA’s) had organized a short trip to Al-Rehab (I know, silly name) to buy snacks, water, and cell phones. We shopped for awhile, and returned back to campus at around 5 PM. I dropped off my luggage, and ran into my roommate! She doesn’t seem to speak much english, so I don’t know much about her yet, but she seems really nice. It should be really interesting to have a Middle Eastern roommate, not to mention the Arabic practice I’ll get! One of the other girls on the trip and I eventually started to head to dinner, but accidentally stumbled upon an improptu gathering of most of the students who had just arrived on campus. The RA’s joined us and answered a few questions before we all headed to dinner.
AUC doesn’t have a meal plan, but they do have quite a few restaurants on campus. A couple of the other American students and I settled on shawerma for dinner, and sat in an enormous dining room to eat. We noticed that the room was completely divided by the sexes- there was a long table of 20-30 girls in hijabs (head scarves) on one side, and an equal amount of boys across the room. We were literally the only table with both boys and girls sitting together, although the other students in the room didn’t seem to notice or mind.
Now, it’s about 10 PM here and I think I can hear the call to prayer beginning to play, but I’m about to climb into bed. Aside from sporadic airplane sleeping, I haven’t really rested since Sunday night. Tomorrow, the group is gathering for breakfast before shuttling out to Old Cairo and Zamalek to explore for the afternoon. At night, our RA’s have scheduled a Felluca (small boat) ride on the Nile for us. I’m. So. Excited.