All praise due to
Allah, this past summer I was awarded a grant from the Ralph Bunche
Center of International Student Affairs to study in Cairo, Egypt.
Reminiscing about Egypt is similar to waking up in the morning and
trying to recall the pleasant dream I had the other night. If it
werent for the pictures I took and the entries I wrote in
my journal, perhaps even I would not believe I made the incredible
The first three weeks in Egypt were the most difficult for me.
Simply put, I was miserable; I think I was basically experiencing
what most people would call culture shock in its ugliest form. Everyday
life also presented me with many challenges. How will I eat? What
can I eat? Where are the markets? How am I going to get there? It
didnt take long to learn the ropes though. After about three
weeks I started to feel like I was a native and Egypt was home.
Walking through Cairo is literally like traveling back in time
30 years! Be not mistaken, everyone carries cellular phones. You
will find a fancy flashy mall in every district with internet cafes.
Nonetheless, you will find yourself driving 115kmh on a highway
along side a horse and carriage. Egypt is a mixture of old and new,
a country struggling to accept change. I saw men constructing high
rises in flip-flops.
This was how Egypt operated. To a person from a very structured
modern country, all
of this chaos can be frustrating and can drive one crazy. However,
eventually I got over myself and learned to accept Egypt just the
way it was. I began to find humor in all the confusion. I became
fascinated with this place called Cairo that was so "backwards"
to the American eye. Above all, I began to love the people. I found
them to be completely and utterly fearless. Disregard the FDA and
those Occupational Hazard Sheets. Many people were complete contradictions
to anything and everything I have ever learned in school or on the
job in regards to health care and safety.
The fact that a person could carry a cellular phone and still ride
in a horse drawn carriage is what made them Egyptian. I think it
was the Egyptians themselves that helped me to survive Egypt. I
found them to be some of the nicest and most hospitable people.
They were honored that we came into their store or had dinner with
their family. They are very social people, love to talk, and can
remember everything! Above all, theyll never forget your name.
I am happy to say that at least the school where I studied, The
Fajr Center, in Cairo was well structured. In fact, the instruction
was excellent. My courses consisted of Arabic Language, Tajweed,
which is how to read the Quran in Arabic with correct pronunciation
and Seerah, the study of the life of Prophet
Muhammad. I absolutely
loved my professors. I studied under Muslim women who were knowledgeable
in the secular world and also in Islamic Studies. I felt that they
were more than just professors. In those short two months, I learned
a great deal.
Traveling throughout Egypt, I visited the usual tourist spots such
as Khan el Khalili, the pyramids in Giza, and several famous mosques.
The most amazing experience I had was when a few classmates and
I went snorkeling on a diving trip in the Red Sea Coast in Sinai.
I never dreamed of doing such a thing mainly because of clothing
requirements of the Islamic dress for Muslim woman. But we swam
in regular clothes and my hijab (scarf) never came off.
When my days in Egypt became numbered, I could not believe all
that I had accomplished and experienced in such a short period.
It all felt like a dream. Had I really flown to Africa this summer?
Did I just spend two months living on my own in a foreign country?
Yes, I did go to Egypt and the experience has changed me in ways
that I sometimes do not even recognize. It has changed my outlook
on the world, broadened my vision, and increased my tolerance. I
learned to appreciate the differences instead of always having to
decide which is better. Now I am back at Howard and all the better
for having lived briefly in Egypt.