Yes, it’s early to have everything basically packed away already, what with another 5 days to sit around hemming and hawing about it. But that’s just my thinking: if I forget to pack something, or I’m in any doubt whether I should or shouldn’t pack something, I’ll have 5 days to figure it out. Who knows? I’d rather feel like an ninny for bringing something unnecessary than experience that awful cold sweat on my way to the airport, having left something behind.
More pressingly, I refuse to indulge the “wear your heaviest items” idea for this leg of the trip. I will not look like I could keep a round of strip poker going for 6 weeks… so I am packing smart.
The different restrictions on carry-on and checked baggage are the first hurdle, as my itinerary involves multiple separate airlines and each has something similar, but different enough to make you pay attention. I figure I’ll just satisfy the tightest restrictions and hope it all works out. So, here I go with my 8 kg/17.6 lb (Lufthansa) 55 x 40 x 20 cm /21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inch (Air Swiss) carry-on and my 20 kg/44 lb (Lufthansa) 157 linear cm / 62 linear inch (United) check bag.
Did you know Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines have a special clause for ski bags? Yep! Passengers are allowed one carry-on, one checked bag, plus one ski bag. Leave it to the Swiss to keep things classy like that.
Even though it is supposed to be nice and warm in Alexandria pretty much year-round, I have to consider winter in France (I arrive in mid-December) and especially wherever else I might end up in the gap between programs. Pittsburgh has certainly prepared me for braving all that is wild and woolly and ready to claim any and all appendages –remember Snowpocalypse?— but I have a feeling the transition period from relatively balmy 15°C/58°F averages for December in Alexandria to whatever else will be confusing. So, along with the chinos and breezy shirts I’ve got mittens and a thick wool coat.
Anyway, the bundle method wins again! I basically just rolled everything into logs, separating out sleepwear from day wear. I swear by it every time. 3 pairs of shoes (1 pair sandals, 1 pair walking shoes/sneakers, 1 pair heels) and my coat are the biggest space-hogs, but otherwise it’s no problem.
The nice thing is that wardrobe has been one of the biggest items in my brain-space for months now. Anything that needed thinking about has therefore been thunk to exhaustion. Hence, not much left to ponder on the fashion front!
There have been some mixed messages about fashion in Egypt, especially about what is appropriate and what might get a girl in trouble. I’ve consulted everything from travel guides to photos from the January 25th revolution. Some sources (various forums, the woman at the arabic market near UPenn) say that everything should be covered in loose material from collarbone to ankles, along with a headscarf when going out on the street. Others (my Arabic adviser, the study abroad literature) basically say to keep it modest: no cleavage, nothing too tight, top of the arms covered, knee length or longer, but not to the point of neurosis and especially not to the point of covering up head to toe for every mixed-gender setting. Others still (2 Egyptian women I met at a Couchsurfing meetup in Chicago) say not to let the No Bare Skinners get me down and just to wear what a savvy, classy girl would wear in the US; one can be modest without wearing bed sheets over one’s head.
[I am not going for the ghost look here.]
My goal is to look like a traveler and not like a tourist. This basically means I aim to blend in, even at the cost of what I’m accustomed to wearing. Yes, I am super pale, very blue-eyed and quite blonde, but I’m trying here. The next step is the field test. Who knows? Maybe the things I’ve been hearing are all off.