Misr Umm alDunya

True to form, I’m sitting in the Cairo Airport writing this last entry. I’ve found that I’m not great at keeping up a blog, especially while running around Cairo. Nevertheless, here are some final thoughts and experiences from my time in the City of a Thousand Minarets.

I’m leaving Cairo with a broken heart. Who broke it? Egypt. UW. Having to come home. From the moment I stepped off the plane four months ago, I knew I was meant to be here. Over the past four months, every experience has cemented that fact. I’ve travelled to many countries but very few I would return to, let alone never want to leave. Egypt is not one of these. I’m going to try to explain why but I don’t think my words could ever capture how I feel.

The best phrase to use is مصر أم الدونية, or “misr um alDunya” — Egypt is the mother of the world. The country is so incredibly welcoming, and there are new opportunities to learn every day. There are ancient wonders such as the pyramids and tombs, and new developments in engineering and more. Cairo is at the heart, also called Misr to locals, alQahira to those outside the nation. This is only the start.

Chaos. The chaos in Cairo is all-encompassing. Many first visiting here are struck by it, stunned. I never had a problem with it, but instead found it incredibly comforting. There are no traffic rules, except maybe find a line and straddle it, using your horn liberally. There are always people everywhere, doing something, going somewhere. New York City has nothing on Cairo, I’ve never seen people sleep less. The only time I’ve gotten stuck in traffic at 2am is here.

Almost everything is paid for in cash. Egyptian pounds come in notes of 5, 10, 50, 100 and 200 guinea (EGP). There are one pound coins, half pound coins and for some odd reason, 25 piastre coins. Every price is rounded one way or another at the register but if you try to break a big bill they won’t let you pay. If they don’t have enough change for you, odds are you’ll end up with some gum or change.

Ahwas: the ultimate place to play cards, talk, drink tea, smoke shisha and spend a day. Depending on where you go, most don’t allow women, but a few do. There’s nothing better than spending your time eating hawaushi or mas2a in an ahwa while watching the local Ahly v. Zamalek game (the two best soccer teams in Egypt).

Discussing politics, religion, current events, you name it, is all up for discussion with people here. Perhaps the most interesting was hearing both young and old people’s view on the 2011 revolution, Abdel-Fatah elSisi, and the more recent October parliamentary elections.

The weather. Once you get used to the heat, or it starts to cool down in October, it is amazing. The sun is always out, there is occasional rain in winter, and the beach is always an option. Even more incredible are the sunsets.

Much of this must seem like drivel, or not at all like reasons to visit Egypt. There are no words to describe my experience here. I’ve met lifelong friends, seen breathtaking sights and had the time of my life. My biggest regret is having to come home in order to graduate in June, and I know that I will return to Egypt soon, whether to visit or to live and work there.