Sometimes I forget that I live in Egypt. Even when I get off my bus after school and see a donkey in front of my apartment, or I see a man in a gallabaya walking down the street, or I hear the Muezzin call to prayer at 5:15 am. None of that seems foreign anymore.
On the contrary, it’s the scandalous knee-length skirt I saw on a tourist in Zamalek last weekend and the seven instances of PDA we saw within a ten minute time span that have now become foreign.
Lesson number one from Zamalek: My perspective is shifting.
Zamalek is an affluent neighborhood of Cairo, an island situated in the middle of the Nile River, with Downtown Cairo (you know, Tahrir, where all of the Revolutionary business takes place) and Giza (where the Great Pyramids reside) book-ending it on either side. For months, we’ve planned to go check out this city that feels like a dustier version of Old Savannah, Georgia. Last week, we finally saw the wide tree-lined boulevards, minus the hanging Spanish moss. The buildings, while not as extravagant as the antebellum South, still retain an Old World feel. They have French balconies, long shutters, crawling vines. Embassies from dozens of EU countries, plus a handful from Africa and the Middle East, stand proudly behind tall walls and security guards with AK-47s.
Lesson number two: Someone knows how to keep buildings white in this city.
It was a wandering and wondering kind of day. Walking along the Corniche, we were hit with incredible views of Downtown, including the trash-filled Nile. We stumbled upon a dusty cottage that looks straight out of Hansel and Gretal’s fairy tale, four violin students practicing under the lattice pergola in the courtyard of the Music Education School, and graffiti poetry along a stone wall on Ismail Mohamed Street.
The cafes were packed with the young and the hip, and we settled ourselves down after walking the entire Northern area of the island. Caffeinated beverages on the Nile have yet to fail us. Introspection was inevitable, Deep Thoughts were plentiful, and my sense of balance was restored. I am not a traveler, simply going from place to place; I am a seeker of the world, looking for inspiration, for more questions and fewer answers, for unexpected beauty.
Lesson number three: Seek and you shall find; ask and Cairo shall provide.