Imagine Cup, Cairo, Egypt #5

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
[The last entry from my wife, Amy, on our trip to Cairo, Egypt for the Imagine Cup competition]

Hey all,

We’re sitting at the airport (5:30pm) waiting for our delayed flight to London. Thought I’d use the time to wrap up our Cairo experience.

Wednesday, we went to Coptic (Christian) Cairo to visit the Hanging Church, St. George’s, and the Coptic museum. It was very beautiful inside the church. It’s called the Hanging Church because it was built over two U shaped tower remains and “hung” between them with palm tree wood. The Coptic Church seems very similar to Catholic. Many of the same saints, taking of the host bread and wine. The dogma is the main difference and they revere icons. It’s kind of like a cross between Orthodox and Catholic. The church dates back to the 1st century. A young woman was kind enough to give us a tour around the church and explain the symbolism and icons. While there, several people approached us. An elderly lady wanted her picture taken with me, and her daughter with Claire. She kissed us both on the cheeks afterwards and seemed very happy. Another woman approached me and wanted to show me her baby and asked that I touch him. She was very nice and took a photo for us.

In the evening we went to Giza for a sound and light show at the Sphinx. It was kind of cheesy, but the kids enjoyed it and it provided a brief history lesson. Jeff was not happy with the Giza pictures he had so far, so it was agreed that we would go back in the morning early before we had to pack.

Thursday morning we went back to Giza and took more pictures of the Sphinx and the kids on camels. We then packed, left for airport, and are now waiting.

In closing, I wanted to reflect on and share a few things I’ve learned about Egypt and her people. The people are so very nice and always smiling. Never met one who wasn’t as helpful as his English would allow. They just love kids. Claire is glad to go so she won’t have to be hugged, kissed, and talked to by strangers. People seem to have a high sense of cleanliness. Men are always well-groomed, most keep their hair very short. Clothes are clean. Ladies and children are neat, clean and properly covered. There is a large variety of acceptable dress. Never had a problem or felt uncomfortable in Western dress.

Cairo is very dirty which is surprising considering that the people are neat and clean. There are piles of trash and rubble everywhere; everyone litters; saw children playing in trash piles. The buildings are covered in black soot from the poor air quality. Also, the buildings are all “unfinished” because taxes are much higher when they are completed. So all around, buildings are missing floors or look to have levels added. The living conditions are unbelievable. First, there are no homes, only apartments. There are no building materials except concrete and brick. It is a very colorless city. The apartments rarely have glass windows, just wooden shutters or curtains. There is laundry drying off windows and balconies everywhere. They have electricity, some have little individual air conditioners, and most do not have elevators. Holes in walls are common. The City of the Dead is an ancient cemetery at the foot of the Citadel. The poorest live inside the cemetery within above ground family crypt rooms set aside for families to visit their departed members. This is apparently ok with the local populous.

Our plane is at the gate now, so we're off to London for 2+ days!