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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Samia experiences Egypt!

Day Two: January 4, 2010
Sitting on the sleeper train to Aswan, about to go to bed
Today was my second day in Egypt, but the first day I was able to really see anything since I spent yesterday driving in from the airport, unpacking, and meeting the others in my group. I’m participating in a 2-week program through George Mason University, taking a class entitled “Representing Egypt: Tradition, Modernity, and Globalization”. We are going to be traveling through Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, Sharm El-Sheikh, and other cities – I’m so excited! I’ve heard so much about Egypt and its rich history and culture from my friends who have studied here. Today was a great first day. After eating breakfast and checking out of the Amarante Pyramids hotel, we went straight to visit the Great Pyramids – the last of the remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. From there, we visited the largest and oldest sphinx in Egypt, a papyrus workshop, and the Egyptian Museum to view King Tutankhamen’s treasures and the Royal Mummies. We’re now on the 8-hour sleeper train to Aswan.

Every experience here seems to take me back to my time in Jordan last summer. Seeing the sings in Arabic along the roads and watching women bustle about in hijabs has again given me that feeling of belonging in a place I’ve never been to. Though I am South Asian, I immediately feel at home in Arab culture – or at least I feel a different sense of belonging than I do at home in the U.S. Having an Egyptian name and skin tone helps as well when I am relating with locals – though they have mainly been relentless and flirty souvenir vendors.
Our tour guide, Rody, is an amiable and clever Egyptian man who is quick to quip about his wife and how skinny he is to make us laugh and have a good time. All along, people have told me Egyptians are the “best” Arabs because of their easy charm, which I am finding a fair amount of evidence for.

I am not sure what I expected to see or feel when I visited the pyramids and the sphinx, but I was left with an unsatisfied feeling for some reason. While seeing these wonders and learning of their histories from Rody’s extensive knowledge was special, I feel the hype behind these structures made me expect something even more breathtaking. Now that I have seen them in person, I find myself noticing how camera angles depict the pyramids and the sphinx in billboards and advertisements, and how these angles add to the seeming grandeur and perhaps inflate expectations. Regardless, these structures are obviously very impressive – and now I can check something big off my life’s to-do list!
The Egyptian Museum was filled with innumerable treasures, which both heightened my senses and made me feel that something was lost. The artifacts were not well taken care of, with shabby glass cases and very low lighting, let alone temperature control or careful retouching. The pieces I found most interesting were Tutankhamun’s gold and jewel clothing, as well as his condom made of chicken skin. The latter object will likely be a point of discussion once I return to the states!

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