It's been a few days now since I've arrived in Amman, Jordan. The morning after my last final (April 23), I left Provo for the airport. A large group of students and I traveled together as part of a study abroad through BYU. We'd spend the next ten or so days in Cairo, Egypt, before continuing on to the final destination of Amman where we'd study Arabic until mid-August. (This blog now will be designated to non-herping experiences. If you'd like to know of the incredible herping endeavors of both Devin Bergquist and me, you're welcome to view them at: theherpers.blogspot.com) . All my photos will show me wearing white t-shirts since that's all I brought, so I apologize in advance for the lack of variety in my apparel.
In retrospect, Egypt is a blur of pyramids, papyrus, pharaohs, and field trips. In our free time, my friends Jon, Jon, Josh, and I would wander the streets soaking up the culture and trying out our Egyptian. The word "baqsheesh" (tip...as in giving money for service) soon came to mean "just give me some money because I know you're a rich American", and I quickly grew weary of vendors, cab drivers, and basically anyone who seemed overly friendly or desiring to help. It seems like everything comes with a price in Egypt, but since the culture around Cairo revolves greatly around tourism, I became accustomed to being asked for it and should have expected it. The culture is different, and all places have their pros and cons. Egypt has great, cheap food, many great people, and an amazing history. Exploring and tasting and bargaining and admiring were all part of the Egypt experience.
After flying in to Cairo and taking it easy the first evening, we awoke early the next morning and drove to Saqqara where the step pyramids and ancient temple sites are. I can't go into much detail about each day, but will give a quick runthrough. Maybe in the future I'll take a single experience or two and go into more detail. In addition to Saqqara, we spent another day in Giza with the largest, most famous pyramids. Some students rode camels, but I just decided to watch (and herp a bit) since I did it with my family when we were in Egypt years back. We stayed in Luxor for a couple days, sailed on the Nile, visited the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak, saw the Valley of the Kings, explored the Temple of Hatshepsut, soaked in the Egyptian sun by the pool of the resort, walked the streets at night in search of cheap shawarmas, and just had a ton of fun.
We returned back up north to Cairo to tour its Islamic elements. Our director showed us mosque after mosque and taught us all about the architectures' trefoil crenellation, minarets, and Quranic script decor. I walked through the Azhar Gardens with a few friends and meandered through some markets. Later, we packed up the bus and headed for Sinai.
The Sinai Peninsula was fascinating to me...barren like nothing I was used to, and I find it amazing that the Israelites wandered here for 40 years! I liked watching the few bedouins from our the bus window and wondered what their lives were like. We stayed at a small town near Mount Sinai and that day made the hike to the top. Saint Katherine's Monastery is at the base and houses the burning bush. It's really a trooper to have been able to survive this whole time. People would put prayers in the rock crevices around it, much like at the Wailing Wall in Jersusalem. I tried to read one, but couldn't find one in English. The peninsular travels also comprised of snorkeling the Red Sea at Nuweiba and taking a boat up to Aqaba. From Aqaba, the bus took us the rest of the way up to Amman. Future posts will talk more about life as a student learning Arabic here, but that in a nutshell is my Egypt trip (the herping excluded, of course).