Introduction

Good morning, class ! صباح الخير يا فصل (Sabah al-khair ya fisl)

This is Seth, your blogger in Cairo, Egypt. I have been here just over a month and it has been wonderful. I feel like I could write for days about Cairo, but it might be a good idea for me to tell you all who I am before we start talking about a foreign country. I also want to hear about who you all are, what your interests are, if you’ve ever been to another country (or even the Middle East!), and so on.

But first, I’m sorry, but I just need to show off the view from my roof. This is technically Giza, or even more technically Harem (“pyramid” in Arabic), a neighborhood in Giza. Giza was once a separate city from Cairo, but Cairo has expanded so much that Giza is now part of the Egypt’s capital.

That is me waving

Map of Cairo. The pyramids are in the bottom left corner, but are actually further away than this makes it appear.

I was born in 1990 in Massachusetts. My parents are both Lutheran pastors, and they took our family first to Vienna, Austria for three years when I was five years old and then to East Jerusalem in Israel/Palestine for four years starting in 1998. When I was in 6th grade, I found out we were moving back to New England at the end of the year. To me, this was both frightening and exciting. I felt like I was returning ‘home’ to the US, but in my head the US was basically just baseball and free soda refills (sorry to tell you, but free soda and water refills is really rare outside of North America). As you may have guessed, returning to America was a lot more confusing than I expected. I joined my middle school football team and was out of my league that the coach literally never put me in a game the whole season.

Eventually I figured out American football was not in my future and learned how to live in America again. In 2010 I moved out to wonderful, amazing, unbeatable Portland, OR to attend school. I live in SE Portland, next to Hawthorne, and I can’t help but miss it a great deal. I’m pretty sure this is what I miss most about Portland in order of most to least:

1) the way the water tastes,

2) the mountains,

3) and brunch.

I started taking Arabic classes with no real intention of continuing but it just took over my college life and now I find myself halfway across the world. Before Cairo, I spent two months in Jerusalem studying Palestinian Arabic and it was incredible to see the city and region again. Here are a couple videos I put together of my time there:

Right now I am working on a video of my daily life in Cairo so you can see where I live and what it’s like. Cairo is a complicated place, full of history and revolution. What interests you? I am almost as new to this country as you and I am really excited to delve in deeper with you all on gain a greater understanding. I look forward to meeting each of you in the new year!

Think of me the next time you drink that tasty, tasty Portland water!

Seth

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30 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Ms Burgoine

    Hi Seth,
    Both classes enjoyed your post and videos, and they came up with lots of good questions. We are especially looking forward to learning more about Cairo and about your everyday life there.
    Below I’m posting one question from each group in the two classes. (The groups in Period 2 are named after rivers, and the groups in Period 6 are named after mountain ranges.)
    Looking forward to your replies!
    Take care,
    Ms. Burgoine and the students

    Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      Before Egypt, I spent two months in East Jerusalem in Israel/Palestine. I flew from New York to Paris which took about eight hours, and then got on a flight to Tel Aviv in Israel that took a few hours. Two months later, the flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo takes about 90 minutes.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      It is just now beginning to cool down! When I first arrived it was high 90s every day and at night it would go down to the mid 70s. Now it is more like low 90s and high 60s and at night the temperature is just perfect. I think Portland will feel really cold when I get back.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      I do like it, but it can be really hard. I take only Arabic classes (5 of them [I will explain this later]) so sometimes I wish I was taking a history course or something else in a different subject.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      That’s a hard question to answer. It would be hard to answer what people in Portland are like and Cairo is about 18 times bigger. Almost everyone I’ve met has been incredibly friendly. In the future I will write a post about a specific Cairo resident so we can learn more about how at least one Egyptian lives.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      This is for both the Yantze Group and the Danube Group:

      Like I mentioned above, I will have to write a whole blog post about the Arabic language. It is complicated, but learning any language that is different from your native tongue is difficult. It is also divided between something called Modern Standard Arabic, which is the written language (the language used in newspapers and books). However, each region has its own dialect of Arabic, which means someone speaking Egyptian Arabic would not understand someone speaking Arabic in Morocco. But Egypt has a special dialect, something I will talk about in the blog.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      I have not been inside a pyramid yet! But you can go in, and it is supposed to be really cool. It is completely empty because the stuff inside is now in museums, but it is still incredible that there are chambers buried into the ground underneath the pyramids.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      I love the food so far. Tasty and cheap. Have you ever eaten falafel? In Portland at a food cart a falafel sandwich costs between 5 and 7 dollars, but in Cairo around the corner from my house it costs just one pound, which is equal to about 15 cents! But like in the US, there are chinese restaurants, McDonalds/KFC/Pizza Hut etc., Italian restaurants and so on. And there is the best juice in the world on almost every corner. Every day I have at least one glass of mango juice (or strawberry juice as I had today) which costs 3 pounds, or 50 cents.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      Hey Cascades Group, I’m a little confused by your question. Do you want examples of famous buildings in Cairo? Here is a big list: http://www.ranker.com/list/cairo-buildings-and-structures/reference

      Cairo has several distinct architectural areas, such as Coptic Cairo (when it was a Christian city before the Muslim invasion in the 7th century), Muslim or Medieval Cairo, colonial Cairo (when the city was controlled by Britain and France), and the buildings created since Egypt became free of colonialism.

      Reply
    1. scthomas90 Post author

      This is embarrassing, but I haven’t yet. I’ve gone to some old churches, synagogues (Egypt used to have a large Jewish population), and mosques. The most famous museum, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in downtown, is supposed to be incredible and massive. They also have half off tickets for students, so I will go there soon.

      Reply
  2. scthomas90 Post author

    The craziest part of living here for me is just trying to make my way around every day. In my neighborhood there are packs of wild dogs, horses and camels tied up or being raced down the street, Tok Toks swerving about ( http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4054/5141282646_ba8938b155_z.jpg ), motorcycles driving on the sidewalk and minibuses sometimes driving the wrong way on a one way road. Being an obvious foreigner here means I receive constant attention and sometimes it can take half an hour to walk to my first minibus or taxi if I’m polite and talk to everyone sitting around drinking tea. There is a stable in the basement of my apartment building, and stables on the left and right. The alley to my front door is literally sand. Every day I’m reminded that I am not in Portland anymore.

    Reply
    1. Ms Burgoine

      Thanks, Seth! We loved this picture of your everyday life there! We have a couple of follow up questions: I’m wondering if the stables are for horses or camels. M.P. is wondering about the sand: Do kids play in it, or is it so common that kids don’t think of playing in it?

      Reply
      1. scthomas90 Post author

        The stables are mostly camels and horses and some donkeys. Horse and camel rides are a huge part of the economy around the pyramids. Non-Egyptians are offered camel and horse rides so much that if you try and take a taxi to the pyramids, the people selling rides will attempt to stop the taxi and get you to ride a horse the rest of the way.

        Sometimes I see kids playing in the sand, but my alley is actually strange for being made of sand. The main roads in the neighborhood are just like roads in the US, with asphalt (actually, the Arabic word for asphalt is “zift”, which is a light swear word here…).

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