November 11th 2007 I departed my travels that took me to 35 countries in four years. My first country was Egypt. A historic interest motivated my decision. The pyramids were not to be missed, yet I was a little prepared and nor was I aware of the extent of difficulty of traveling Egypt.
Within the first week I extended my visa for 6 months; however, the first week seemed like a month. My original plan was to head north and west out to the oasis of Siwa.
My blog post about “The Arrival” I commented on the arrival into Cairo. I arrived at the hotel around 3am, the infrastructure was completely different than the west, and I learned quickly within the first week that I was experiencing infrastructure shock, including the street noise level, change in food, mosquitos bites, and a loud prayer call at 5am.
On the plane, I met a married lady that had a kid and who lived in Canada. We ended going on a small nile cruise and dinner, and on other day we went shopping and lunch. I learned a lot of cultural dynamics about the Egyptians.
The first day I woke at 2pm after a very long 24 hour + trip from San Francisco connecting through Amsterdam. I walked out on the balcony of the hotel and viewed an ultra loud busy street filled with people and a noticeable difference in the air compared to San Francisco and Amsterdam.
I went to take a shower with a wet bathroom floor and noticed a water spout coming up out of the toilet. In the Middle East and still a large portion of the world still uses water to clean themselves after relieving themselves. I got use to using water in the Middle East and India that I primary use water. Most bathrooms from Egypt to Turkey and in India are wet rooms where there is a drain in the floor and the entire bathroom can get wet, after a shower just use the squeegee and everything stays clean. I prefer this method than the western bathroom style of containing the water. Although, it took awhile to get use to the wet bathroom floors.
That day I found a cyber cafe and wrote a blog post, I sat next to a guy from India and we both laughed on how crazy of a place Cairo seemed to be, yet to total time I was in Cairo was about 4 week total and I grew to really like the city.
The three major dynamics I wrote about was the smog, traffic and crossing the street and the breathing in second hand smoke.
I was completely jet lagged and wrote in the middle of the night the hotel kid shared his dinner and we had a great conversation. The people in Egypt are very lively and really like to have open conversations. I experienced and could go deep into a subject according to their level of English, and they do love to discuss politics and religion.
I learned quickly that the Arabs have misconceptions of the west just as Americans have misconceptions of the Middle East all based in mind controlling propaganda. I learned quickly that the Egyptians very much like Americans, they are against the government and cannot understand why the USA supports Israel, despite dislike for a government, the Egyptians including Arabs separate politics from the common person.
I faced a lot of challenges in Egypt and my first five months of travel.
It took me three years traveling to Poland and on my third year anniversary of traveling I flew to India. For travel challenging countries I put India at the top of the list and Egypt second.
Early on in my first month I learned I had to play the game in Egypt and if I was going to stay up to six months I had to face all challenges that the universe would send.
To be Continued…