8.26.2008

First Impressions

International Student Orientation is on the Tahrir Campus in downtown Cairo--the "old" campus--since the new campus isn't officially opening to students until this weekend.

We take shuttle buses every morning to campus through heavy traffic. Here, traffic lanes are no more than mere suggestions and pedestrian crosswalks are almost completely disregarded. You can see the car on top of the lane marker in this photo:

This is actually on a bridge over the Nile, heading towards the Tahrir Campus and its surroundings, which include the Shura Council building that burnt last week. I walked past it the other day with Kelly and Tommy, and the fire damage is extremely visible. Its only a block or two from the Tahrir Campus. Also only a block or two from the Tahrir campus is this square, where we sat quietly during our introduction to downtown Cairo. For once Tommy's directional skills worked and we didn't get lost, wandering around between the sparse orientation sessions.


Yesterday our survival arabic classes started. We're learning basic am'iya, the colloquial dialect of Arabic that regular Egyptians speak. We're learning essential phrases like how to order taxis, tell time, and so on. I know how to order a taxi in modern standard, but it has absolutely no relation to how to order a taxi in am'iya.

Professor Youssef had no trouble with the other American names in my small class of five, but he stumbled over mine. His first attempt was "Katie-line" which is now my favorite mispronunciation. I shortened it to Kate, but he insisted instead on calling me "Kat! Like Meow-Meow!"


I saw the Pyramids for the second time (first time on the ground) through the windows of the tour bus that was taking us to the Bedouin Night dinner.


The actual dinner was short on Bedouins and heavy on Spanish techno-pop and "My Heart Will Go On." They also forced everyone into a whirlwind group dance that lasted for a very long time.

Earlier in the afternoon I'd signed up for both the dinner and horseback riding at the Pyramids, under the misguided impression that horseback riding would mean sedately walking horses in view of the pyramids.

We got off the bus in an alley that winds along the fence blocking general access to the Pyramids. Within ten seconds of saying beginner I was on horseback, gripping the reins for dear life. The guide tugged on the reins, saying right-left-stop and slapped my horse to make him go.

He went.

We walked our horses in a large group, through crowded alley ways, working our way around the fence to a sweep of open desert. At that point the horses stopped walking and started galloping.

There were no pommels on the saddle. Sand was swirling in the night air, we could still hear the traffic sounds from crowded Giza. I held on for a few minutes, just long enough to climb the sand to a point where I could see all three pyramids illuminated against the night sky.

I felt myself slipping, my foot flew out of the stirrup, and I managed to fall off of my galloping horse in full view of the Pyramids.

I hit a sand dune and rolled. Popped back up with sand in my hair and my teeth and a scraped elbow.

By virtue of falling off the guide personally led my horse for the rest of the excursion. Thank goodness.

My brief and inglorious horseback riding career is now over, thanks. There are no photographs of this particular episode because the RAs wisely recommended that we leave cameras on the bus along with all valuables. Mine would have been crushed so I appreciated the recommendation in retrospect.

6 comments:

Renee said...

I can read this and totally hear you saying it in my head. :-) Glad to hear you survive the experience.

chrjenna7 said...

god you are crazy i am almost ashamed to say your my sister. but i love you

marooned84 said...

I didn't even know lanes were supposed 2 confine a car! well, if they were to inforce it here, they'll but bricks instead of lines. wait and see!

and so sorry about ur horseback experience, and thank god u're not hurt :)

J and S said...

I don't think many people will be able to say that they fell off a horse in Egypt. You'll have a great story for the rest of your life! I hope all is well!

Tommy said...

That picture of the sun over the pyramids is absolutely gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

o katelyn my love i miss thee... and that is so something that would happen to you... :)

Jacob.