This week we have our midsemester break, also an observance of Eid el Adha, the holiday of sacrifice, which remembers Abraham‘s obedience to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Instead, God provided Abraham with a sheep in return for his commitment to Him. The holiday takes place on the 10th day of the last month in the Islamic calendar, this year starting November 5th and ending November 7th. Lucky for us, nonbelievers get a holiday, too, so we are off to Aswan, Luxor, and Cairo for the week!
Yesterday we took the train from Alexandria to Cairo on our way to Luxor and Aswan. First we stopped at our dear old Midaan El Misaha apartment that was our home-base during orientation. We rested for a few hours and then took off for a 3:55 AM flight south from Cairo to Aswan. Despite the early hour, there was a lot to see in Cairo International Airport. A little girl sitting on the other side of the bench in the waiting area stared at us inquisitively as we cooed and laughed. A few benches down, a bride and groom in full wedding attire (including a veil and bouquet of lilies) sat serenely side by side.
Our guide had never flown on an airplane before, so we let him take the reins in checking us in and navigating the airport. We waited at the gate with the other passengers: a group of Argentines, some older German ladies, a big gaggle of chatty Dutch folk, a good deal of Egyptians, and two Coptic priests in full dress, accompanied by large families. Boarding the plane seemed like any other of the countless flights I have made before until I looked up in the front vestibule and saw on the wall an ornately decorated Koran in a matching indigo blue box with a glass door and velvet lining decorated with gold edging, as plain as yet another emergency life vest or decaf coffee pot. I half expected to see “break glass in case of emergency” written underneath, but no such luck. After a quick traveler’s prayer played on little screens above our heads, the emergency directions were given in both English and Arabic.
We were all assured that despite the request that all electronics be turned off and stowed for takeoff and landing, pacemakers and hearing aids are not included. That was definitely a first as per my previous in-case-of-emergency pre-flight instructions.
The flight attendants were all Egyptian women, but all of them had dyed hair, red or brownish blonde, and one had color contacts. They wore blue and yellow suits with little scarves around their necks, but bore no other indication (as with the Koran and the travelers’ prayer) of religious affiliation.
The trip was quiet and uneventful. We landed in Aswan at around 6 AM and headed straight to our hotel for a catnap.
Then, we made the trek to Abu Simbel…