Settling in and being a tourist
18.08.2009 - 14.09.2009 35 °C
When I came to Egypt on holiday about 5 years ago I stayed in Sharm El Sheikh and spent 2 days in Cairo, seeing the sites. I have always been a person with a short attention span and a long list of places I want to go and for that reason, I try to avoid revisiting the same places on holiday. Sharm El Sheikh changed my opinion though. My husband had never been Egypt and we originally planned to work in a 2 week holiday here on our big trip from Taiwan to the UK. When we realised that we didn't have time or money for the trip, I suggested that we could move here instead. So that's what we did!
Having made the big break from the UK over two years ago and moving to Taiwan, I felt different about coming to Egypt. I've done a lot of traveling this year and been away from the UK long enough that now everywhere is both foreign and home. Home abroad holds a basic feeling of shelter whereas home in the UK is a memory of times gone by. Many of the initial challenges of moving abroad were softened by the overseas work package I have. We were picked up at the airport and brought to our pre-arranged apartment that is conveniently owned by the school. It's furnished and even had a few supplies in the fridge, so if we didn't feel ready to venture out the next day we could live on omelets and jam sandwiches! The other new teachers live nearby and it has been easy to make friends.
We are living in a new city called Al Rehab which is on the outskirts of Cairo. It is mainly populated by wealthy Egyptians and teachers from the various international schools in the New Cairo area. The city is very well kept, considering it was built on a reclaimed section of desert, with palm trees, grassy areas, attractive buildings and well designed outdoor areas.
The city has enough amenities that it's not really necessary to leave, however it's a place of relaxation rather than action. We have been here a month and are finding it quite easy to settle in. There have been the odd hiccups within the apartment, like no water, a broken boiler, cockroaches, ants and no TV reception, but they are things anyone should come to expect from a country like Egypt. Due to the government's fear of a Swine Flu epidemic, schools have been closed for the last month in Egypt, so I haven't been able to settle into work yet but I'm looking forward to getting started.
During our time off we have been on a number of excursions to the usual tourist sites and to the local Carrefour supermarket! Our first trip was to the pyramids at Giza.
The area is developing and well geared for tourists, with large car parks and organised routes for buses and coaches. Although you are not allowed to climb the pyramids you are allowed up to the level of the tomb entrances. It's definitely better to visit early in the morning when it's cooler even though you'll be there with coach loads of other tourists. From the 'vista' (a great point to photograph the 3 pyramids with only the desert as a backdrop) it's a short drive back to the initial entrance and round into the sphinx area.
On another day we took a trip to the less visited Saqqara pyramid and tomb complex. It's further out of the city, along narrow roads and through the Egyptian carpet making area of Cairo. Here you can see one fairly large step pyramid and a variety of smaller pyramids and tombs. There is a new museum at the entrance, showing some artifacts discovered in the area, however, most of the findings are poorly displayed in the Egyptian Museum.
On our most recent trip to Cairo we visited the museum, ate at The Hard Rock Cafe on the bank of the Nile and took a felucca ride on the river. The Grand Hyatt has a revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel, and although we couldn't get in to look around we managed to take some photos of the fantastic view from the lounge area on the 40th floor.
So...after a month in Egypt I am finally about to start work. Al Rehab is a lovely place to live but does not offer enough to occupy a month off work. I can't wait to create a routine for myself so I can appreciate idle time and feel like I'm fulfilling one of the purposes I came here for.