Friday, August 30, 2013

Iron-Fortified Vitamin Overdose

Asalamu Alaykom,

I'm going to ask each and every one of you to do something that I've never asked from you.  When you're done reading this post, please share it somehow.  Post it somewhere.  Link to it.  Mention it in conversation.  We need to get the word out of a hidden danger we're keeping in our cupboards.

Yesterday, my very smart and increasingly independent eight-year-old son ate vitamins like they were candy.  They looked like candy with their bright colors and fun shapes.  They tasted like candy with all their artificial sweeteners.  Yet, each one contained 18% of his daily iron.  That is NOT candy and that is the dangerous part.

I will stop the suspense and tell you that he's OK.  Alhumdullilah.  Thanks be to God.

I was on my way home from work when he called me.  See, because he's got a mobile phone now I felt that we were connected.  We had talked three times.  Call number four was to tell me that he had diarrhea.

I racked my brain wondering what had made him sick.  Virus?  Nobody has been sick at the house.  Something he ate?  We had bought a new yogurt brand.  It's hot so, could it be dehydration?

I started asking him questions once I got home.  He didn't want to tell me what he had done.  He knew he'd done something wrong.  That's the funny thing about kids this age; they know AFTER the fact and not before.  They're impulsive and he admitted that he'd eaten vitamins.

"How many?"

I went right away to the kitchen and the bottle of 150 vitamins.  Can you do the math?  What's 150 multiplied by .18?  That's how much iron was in that bottle when I bought it.

It hadn't been a full bottle the last time I looked.  It wasn't an empty bottle now. It was maybe a fourth full.

"How did you eat them?  In a bowl?  On the table?"

"In my hand."

So, I poured some out into his hand.

"This many?  Or more?"


Now, the whole time I'm going through this I'm not showing emotion because you can't.  You can't ask kids questions while angry or you won't get answers.  I poured again and again until he said, "Stop."

I had him dump out the contents of his hand onto the kitchen table and then I counted.  Twenty-one vitamins.  I asked him if he came back and ate more.  He had come back a second time and had eaten maybe four more.  So, we're up to 25.

I got on my reading glasses and read the warning.

There was a 1-800 number to call so I did.  Thank God for Magic Jack.  Remember, I'm in Egypt with limited Arabic and my kid has ingested an overdose of vitamins.

Oh, by the way, my brother-in-law's wedding was yesterday so we were on our own with this problem.  My husband was at the party reception location getting it ready.  It was up to me.

"Sorry, but our connection isn't that good," says the Customer Rep.

"That's because I'm calling from Egypt through the computer," I explain.  "This is the best it's going to get."

He patches me through a Poison Control Center.  That transfer takes time so I get to lecture my boy while it's happening.  I didn't yell.  I was calm.  I knew that there was a chance I would have to run him to the hospital.

"Dude, you realize that I'm waiting for Poison Control to talk with me, right?  Because a vitamin is like a medicine.  You aren't supposed to take a handful.  You knew that."

"I didn't know they would be like poison."

"But you knew that you can only get them from me.  I've never had you get one yourself.  And when I give you a vitamin, it's only one."

"I know.  I'm sorry."

"I'm not going to punish you because I am glad that you told me the truth.  If you hadn't told me the truth, then I couldn't have helped you.  Besides, your body is punishing you enough."

"My stomach hurts."

"I bet it does."

This is a verbal kid.  This is a smart kid.  He could tell me what he had done.  What about younger children?  You would not know what they had done or how many they had taken.

I then talked with Poison Control and I sounded like the worst mom.  No, I didn't know how much my son weighed.  Didn't.  Nope.  Not in pounds or even in kilos.  And guess what?  That's kind of crucial.  So, one of my DON'T BE STUPID LIKE ME pieces of advice is:  Know your child's weight at all times.  When they need medical help, it's not a good time to be clueless.

Together, we figured out the possible range based on my comments.  Thank God my kid has put on weight over the summer.  The bigger the kid, the less the danger.  I really shudder to think what if he'd done this when he was a skinny little six-year-old with a full bottle.

Based on our calculations, my son would have needed to eat 90 of the vitamins in order to warrant an emergency room visit.  I don't believe he could have eaten that many as his hand could only hold 20.  Even if he took two handfuls, that would be 40.

The Poison Control Center recommended hydrating and observation.  They will call back today to see how he's doing.  Inshahallah he'll be fine.  Three bouts of full blow-out diarrhea helped.

We missed the wedding.  We couldn't go early on with my kid not feeling well.  We couldn't go later due to the 9 PM curfew.  At some point, when the shock started to wear off, I fell asleep on the couch from all the stress.


that was traumatic.

After a hard day at work, with lots on my mind about school and the wedding party, I really didn't need another scare with my son.  It was a very poorly timed deja vue.  No, this isn't the first time my son has ingested something that could have killed him.  Go ahead and click that link.  You'll be shocked too.


Alhumdulillah.  Thanks be to God for everything.

Now, I want to remind you of your part in this story.  You've read what happened.  Do you honestly think that the risks of accidental iron-poisoning are worth keeping a bottle of children's iron-fortified vitamins in your home?

I'm deciding NO.  HELL NO!

I had taken measures.  I had these on a high shelf.  I made sure it had a child-proof safety cap.  I was the only one allowed to open it and give one to my son.  None of that worked.  He still overdosed!

You can decide whatever you want, but be an informed consumer.  You have a very enticing product which looks and tastes like candy sitting there in your kitchen.  Your child wants them and doesn't understand the implications of taking too many.  If your child takes too many, they will get sick.  Past a certain point, they will die.


It is so not worth it to me.  We do eat enough red meat and chicken in the week.  I don't think he's in danger of becoming anemic.  Here is more information on getting iron out of food instead of tablets.

It's a new day.  It's Friday.  I have the day off and I can spend it with my impetuous boy.   

I truly love children and have worked for many years to protect them and guide them.  I would be remiss if I did not share this experience with you.  Let my boy be the one who made the mistake so that you can take precautions at your home.  

Again,  please share this information somehow.  It needs to be known by as many moms and dads as possible.  In this way, we can help to save a tragedy from happening inshahallah.  God willing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School After a Coup

Asalamu Alaykom,

The first days of going back to work are done.

I won't lie and say that I was 100% for leaving my home.  Yes, Egypt feels safer now.  Last week didn't see mass killings in the street and that's a positive but...the bar is set pretty low if that's all we have to accomplish!

I didn't feel like riding alone in a taxi even if it was through a safe part of town.  Watching the news too much makes you feel like nothing is safe.  So, I gauged what was real, what was not, and where I stood between the two.

One real deal is that I could leave all together.  I had dismissed the idea quickly in the beginning but then the situation got worse so I had to admit that I could make the decision to leave Egypt.  Many people were telling me to consider it so I researched the situation from all angles.  I made phone calls and looked up flight tickets.  Being informed is the best way for me to handle difficult times.

I called one of my former schools.  That was difficult.  There was a very young-sounding HR Director on the other end.  I explained how I was calling from Egypt and thinking about returning to the States due to the problems here.  When I referenced the difficulties here a second time, she had to ask,  

"I'm sorry but I'm not sure what's happening in Egypt.  Is there something going on?"

I was dumbfounded.  "Yes," I tried my best to push down my hysterical disbelief and be even-toned, "A thousand people were killed in the last week due to violence following a military coup."

She told me that I could not work at my former school as a classroom teacher any more without a teaching license.  I could not earn my full potential.  I would be working as an assistant and that would hurt like hell.  It would be a financial and emotional drain.  I am 45 years old and I have reached a career high so to crash down to where I started at 21 would nearly kill me.

I started to dig around the international job forums like I had in 2009.  I could leave to work in another country.  However, I really don't want to be out of the frying pan and into the fire.  After researching options, I decided that I only wanted to stay within my school's international network of sister schools.  I can count on their quality and on Mr. Boo's continuity of education.  When I looked at their school locations, I narrowed it down to four then one.  Could I simply ask for a switch?

Having found the one I would go to if I felt I have to leave Egypt, I asked a discrete friend about that option.  I was told that each school is very autonomous.  I can't expect help with a transfer.  In fact, I'd be burning a bridge here to do it.  For those of you keeping track, that's two fire metaphors within two paragraphs.  Well, here's one more:  those who play with fire get burned.  No, I don't want to ruin my solid relationship here for hopes of another place which may or may not work out.

Does that mean that I gave over to staying in Egypt?  In this moment, I am here.

It is safe enough for me to get to work and get back.  We've made arrangements to use one good driver we know instead of taking a chance on strangers like we used to.  When school starts up again there will be the bus again every morning.

I do feel that all hell could break loose with all the tension in the air.  I don't feel good with what's happened to people, churches, masjids and museums---not to mention democracy.  It has hurt me to be a part of this country's pain but I think running away would hurt me more.  

I am staying through the school year because I signed a contract in good faith, I have a home here and a life that I've been building for four years---though it feels more like 45.  It feels like my whole life has been building up to this place in this moment.  I have accepted that I'm here and that it's a conscious choice to be here.

I am not a helpless victim in this situation.  Letting go of the victim role means grabbing the reins of your life and yanking yourself back to be on the right path.  You are capable of re-visioning where you are with a better understanding of where you want to go.  

Ask yourself:  Do you want to be where you are now?  If yes, then embrace it and be grateful for it.  If no, then what doesn't feel good?  Actively explore those dreams and doubts otherwise they will nag you and pull you down into negativity about where you are now.

We are so used to the Western thought of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!  No, it isn't.  Not everything is possible nor should it be.  That engenders insanity.  Let go of feeling endless.  It's not healthy.  See life as having limitations because that's reality.  

Islam is a lot about limiting ourselves.  Non-Muslims don't understand how accepting our limitations actually frees us to go further than before.  I liken it to being rooted in good soil.  

Before, I was a seed floating in the air.  

I had all the potential for growth but no place to land.  Islam gave me that foundation so I could establish my authentic self.  I landed in Egypt and I've been successfully putting down roots here.  I want to accept and honor that process.

Do you get me?

So, I have accepted where I am.  I am in Egypt.  I am teaching here this year.  

Because this is a very volatile time, I realize there could be a severe emergency in the country at a moment's notice.  I have made a "Plan B".  I have our passports.  I have my husband's OK to leave if we need to.  I have AbuBoo's OK to take Mr. Boo out of Egypt if I need to.  I have my mother's understanding of what I would do.

Soon, I will get  paid for August and I will put aside enough cash for plane tickets.  In an emergency, don't count on credit cards.  Inshahallah, I will better organize our important papers in case I would ever need to run in a rush.  I will also write up lists of what we would take in a couple of suitcases to survive a sudden move.  I hope to God we never have to go through it.

The beauty of going through this process of identifying what is real and not, researching possibilities, and planning contingencies is that at the end of it I can release my fears for the future.  I am back at work being productive (more or less) and I'm happy to be there.

I really appreciated how my school's administration addressed us in our first meeting.  Yes, they admitted, there are huge problems in Egypt now which are long-standing and on-going.  It is quieting down and hopefully will stay so.  Our job, as educators, is not to solve what's happening outside of the school; we can't.  What we can do is to push ourselves back into our roles as shapers of society.  

We will be at work every day as previously planned, though the children will not arrive until September 15.  That's a two-week delay due to security fears.  When they come back inshahallah, we will have to cram two-weeks of material into them by staying half-an-hour later each day.  It is what it is.  At least they ruled out coming for 10 consecutive Saturdays! working seven Saturdays and giving up two days from our Eid Al-Adha break.  It is what it is.

Our school system was founded in Lebanon.  That is a country torn apart by war for 15 long, hard years.  Did the schools stop?  No.  There were bombings and killings AND school.  You can't stop education because it is the future hope of a nation.  Teaching is a noble profession and making the choice to teach during country-wide chaos is not an easy choice but it is the right choice.

It is the right choice for me.


Monday, August 19, 2013

4 Years Ago

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is a quiet little post quite unlike the grandstanding spectacle of yesterday.  It's about the passage of time and of growing older and wiser.  Today marks four years since I stepped off the plane in Cairo to begin a new chapter of my life.

I left America August 18, 2009 and arrived here the next day on August 19.  That was four years ago, at the age of 41, with my little 4-year-old boy and four suitcases.  That's a lot of fours!  I wish I could say that I had $4,000 with me but I had half of that.  I came to Egypt with a lot of trust in God.

I wrote about that in my series "Making Hijrah" which you can read.  Many people say they read the 40 parts at one go.  It is a page turner---although this a computer screen so we should probably think up a new expression for a suspenseful story in cyberspace.

As I sit here, in the safety of my furnished apartment with both my son and husband sleeping soundly, I do feel blessed.  It's a quiet morning in Egypt with only bird song and the occasional shuffling of footsteps down on the street.  Alhumdulillah.

It's been a hard week in Egypt.  It's hard sometimes to feel God's Grace when you aren't getting exactly what you think you need.  God, thankfully, doesn't give you what you think you need but rather what you actually need.  God knows best.

Over the course of the last four years, I have been given the best life and I'm grateful.  That doesn't mean every moment has been perfect; being the best and being perfect are two different things.  Without question, I could not have improved my life by staying in America.  I had to come to Egypt on hijrah.

There are lessons which only this adventure could have taught me.  I feel cleaner, truer, and calmer.  I feel more centered and stronger.  I have found how to ask for respect and to give that respect.  I have felt powerless and learned to let control needs go---for the most part.  I'm still working on the control needs!

I truly did give myself to God.  Maybe that sounds saintly but it's quite the opposite.  It's that moment in a sinner's life when you can't live through one more gut wrencher so you stop and you submit.  You don't wish for one more person or one more thing; you only wish for God's increased presence in your life.

Sure, it would have been possible in America for somebody else to go through that process but it was impossible for me.  My destiny was to come to Giza.  I know that hearing somebody speak of  DESTINY sounds so grandiose and almost melodramatic.  So, let me use the Arabic.  It was my naseeb to come to Giza.

When you follow your naseeb, you can't go wrong.  You can't.  I have done that and I'm proud that I've stuck with it.   Islam is the biggest commitment in my life.   I'm almost 11 years in Islam, 10 years 8 months since I put on hijab, 10 since I've said all my daily prayers, 7 since I walked alone on this path, and 4 since I made hijrah.  It's been a process.  I didn't snap my fingers and become who I am today.  I evolved.  Alhumdulillah.

Sometimes I think of who I would be had I stayed in America but then I have to stop.  It's a very sad thing to imagine.  I can't go there in my head.

At this point in time, I have two governments telling me to leave Egypt and go back home.  My mother said that she realized for the first time that I can't go home because I'm already home.  I didn't want to contradict her.  Though I've made a very nice home here, the reason I can't go home is because I don't feel all my blessings have run out of this place with these people.

I read Quran this morning.  Praying fajr and reading Quran before I begin my day is one of my biggest faith goals.  This is the Quran I purchased four years ago on my excursion into Khan Khalili with Ahmed.  I only read through half of it before I caved in and brought over my huge Muhammad Asad translation from America in Summer, 2011.  I was using that instead of the green volume from Al-Azhar.  Yet, I came back to it and decided to finish that second half for Ramadan.  I'm a little late, but I finished it this morning.  Alhumdulillah.

What I can tell you is this:  I don't have to stay in Egypt but I do have to be where God wants me.  It isn't about me staying in a certain home or a certain country.  It's about where God wants me.  I trust that wherever God wants me to be, then He will guide me and protect me there.  I have gone through so much and have come out for the better.  I can't doubt my naseeb now.  If I ever feel that it's time to leave, then inshahallah I will pray istakkarah and ask for God's guidance and blessing.

For now, four years and two revolutions later, I remain on hijrah enjoying the ease after hardship.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mallawi Museum in Egypt Looted

Asalamu Alaykom,

Let's play a game. 

When I take children to museums I often play this game.  I tell them, "As we're looking around, think of this as a store not a museum.  Pretend that you could have one of these things from the exhibit with you when we leave."  It motivates them to see the value in things which other people have collected together.

I played this game with Mr. Boo when we were visiting the museum in Aswan.  I chose these earrings

He chose this crown.

I should be more specific.  We're going to play this game in the Museum of Mallawi.  

This is not a place you've ever heard of.  It's in Egypt in between Minya and Sohag.  You might not have heard of those places either.  

That's part of the problem.  When nobody knows about a place, then nobody visits and when nobody visits then nobody understands the value.  The townspeople themselves didn't realize what they were holding in that building.  It was not benefiting them because no tourists were coming any more.  It became a bunch of stuff to them.  There are reports that the police army didn't even guard the building.  Imagine that!

From Travel Wolf:  

"Not the most prepossessing of places, Mallawi is somewhere people merely stop off when using public transport to reach archaeological sites such as Tel El-Amarna, Tuna El-Gabel [the burial site of Hermopolis] and the Meir Tombs. Replaced by Minya as the regional capital in 1824, Mallawi has been in a state of decline ever since. Today its littered streets make it a town most people avoid, particularly because Minya is just up the road. At present there are no hotels that accept tourists so it’s not possible to stay overnight. 

Hold on.  I'm losing our train of thought.  We weren't trying to imagine the little village town of Mallawi.  We were trying to imagine inside the museum.  Here's some more on that:

There is, however, a good museum (Sat-Thu 0800-1500, E£6, students E£3, cameras E£10) which displays some beautiful and unusual findings from Tuna El-Gabel and Hermopolis. Among the many mummified ibis and animals on display is a baboon with amulets still embedded in the linen wrappings, as well as the mini-sarcophagi that housed their remains. Painted plaster death masks from Hermopolis individualize the deceased, and decorative coffins made from a variety of materials are in an excellent state of preservation. Upstairs look out for the coins minted with the profiles of tousle-haired Roman emperors and 2000-year-old palm baskets identical to those still woven today."

You conjured up the baboon in your mind, didn't you? 

Here indeed in the baboon mummy with the amulets still embedded in the linen wrappings.

Now, you are imagining the other animals mummies.

Imagine you walk a little ways and see a case of ibis bird statues.  Lean in to get a closer look.

Look closer.

Wow.  Look at this one.  Don't you wish you could reach out and touch it?  Of course you can't.  It's a museum and there's a glass case surrounding it.  But remember our game!  You can "take" one item with you.

How many of you would choose this?

I think this shrine to Persian ruler of Egypt King Darius is rather grand.  Can you picture it?


Read the information, "Small shrine of wood created for Persian King Darius.  The Persians ruled Egypt from 525-404 BC and were represented like any other Egyptian pharaoh--as here.  The shrine was reused in the Tuna el Gebel catacomb to hold an ibis dedication."

That would be amazing!  I might choose that.  I love how the colors are still vibrant after all these years.

Remember that all Egyptian museums hold antiquities from the many ages of Egypt---not just the pharaohs.  Here are some Roman statues.  I bet some of these would look good in your garden.

So much to choose from!

Do you need some time to think about it?  Remember you get to choose only one item.  I'll give you a minute.

Oh, no.  We took too long.  The museum was looted in the dark before Thursday morning.  This was the scene after looters came in.  1050 (more or less) objects are missing.  That's one THOUSAND and fifty cataloged treasures.  To see what all is missing click here.

Doesn't look like they took everything but whatever they left is damaged.

What a shame.  I wish those lips could talk and tell us who did this horrible crime.  As for you, Dear Reader, please don't try to guess who did it.  In Islam, we only testify if we've seen it with our own eyes.  Some people are blaming this on Pro-Morsi supporters or Islamists.  I didn't see that and neither did anyone else.

I  can surmise that whoever did this was an opportunist.  There's a lot of that in Egypt right now.  It's not a person representing a group but rather a person out for themselves.  "Take what you can get," might be their motto.

Yes, they certainly did take what they could get.

They also killed a security guard ticket seller and injured the director.  Astragferallah.

Part of the museum caught on fire from a nearby blaze.  It wasn't the only important building on fire that night.

The Evangelical Church in Mallawi was also burned.

Oozabellahi min a Shaytan a regime.

You know, soon this imagination game for museums might be all that I can offer you in Egypt.  I'm sorry.  I had hoped that someone in authority knew how to safeguard invaluable historical objects.  Astragferallah.

Before the Revolution, I used to be on the bandwagon of returning the Egyptian antiquities to Egypt.  Made sense to me then.  It was a robbing a country of its own heritage!

The night of Friday, January 28, 2011 that nice little theory changed for me.  I heard that the Cairo Museum was being looted.  It chilled me to the bone.  If Egypt couldn't protect King Tut, then how could I ever stand a chance.  King Tut did survive that night, thank God, but not everything did.

You can read more about it here.

Time Magazine reported on the Cairo Museum looting and said that out of the 1,000 objects taken, four had been returned.  That link is for an article published on April 23, 2011.  Did anything else ever come back?  Is it possible that 996 objects from the Cairo Museum remain missing?

Shame on Egypt for not protecting its museums---and churches for that matter.  Where was the army?  You do not deserve Egyptian artifacts returned to you from the museums overseas.  No one will ever believe you again that you care about your history because you have not protected it.

Shame on whoever is secretly hoarding these antiquities.  Shame on them and their families.  It is as bad as if they ripped the flesh from their own mother.  Any money earned from the selling of these is haram and any food or drink they buy with it will burn in their insides.  This will be a small taste of what eternal hell will feel like to them.  The only way out of this torment will be to return the treasures for the world to enjoy.

Shame on any collectors who are buying these for their private pleasure.  You say you love Ancient Egypt but you really don't.  Loving isn't possessing.  If you truly loved these objects, then you would want everyone to enjoy them with you.

There are no tourists are here now.  The U.S. Government has warned against travel to Egypt.  I'm even supposed to leave (but inshahallah I'm not going to).

Whenever the travel ban is lifted, I've got a good idea how to spin this tragedy.  Maybe the Minister of Tourism can encourage travelers to come to Egypt with the slogan,


August 23, 2013 UPDATE

 National Geographic has an article up on its website about the looting.  There isn't necessarily more information than what was previously reported but it is set in a context.  National Geographic is so good at explaining the big picture.

Speaking of pictures, there are a few more objects they show on their site than I've shown on mine.  I really do like the statue of King Ahenaten's daughter but I felt it was too risque to post on my blog.  Sadly, somebody else liked it too much and it is still missing.  The photo of her is captioned, "Abducted Princess."

August 20, 2013 UPDATE

Blogger Luxor Times reports that objects are being returned.

Here is the one eye witness who is making a statement.  Egyptologist Dr. Monica Hanna risked her life to stand up to the thieves.  If you want some heroes in this revolution, you put her on the list.

This is not the first time she has risked her life this year.  She came out publicly in this story from June 15, 2013, denouncing the desecration of Egypt's treasures by mismanagement and looting.

August 18, 2013 UPDATE

Dr. Monica Hanna, of the Mallawi Museum, has given this Facebook status:

تم بنجاح ساحق انقاذ القطع الاثرية التي تركها اللصوص بمتحف ملوي،انقذنا التوابيت الخشبية و مومياءتين وبردية كاملة بالديموطيقي، بالأضافة الي الكثير من القطع المكسرة التي سوف يتم ترميمها في مخزن الأشمونين حيث نقلنا كل القطع بسبب حالة حرب الشوارع وضرب النار المستمر بملوي؛ الشرطة كانت بطل اليوم لأنها اتت على عهدتها الشخصية وسط الحالة الامنية...

We have successfully transferred all the objects from the Mallawi museum, which were left behind by the looters. We transferred the wooden sarcophagi and mummies in addition to numerous fragments under fire. The objects are safely now in al-Ashmounein magazine because we could not leave them in the mayhem of thugs in the city center of Mallawi. The police has been the hero of the day, because they showed up on their personal responsibility

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We're OK

Asalamu Alaykom,

News from Egypt isn't very good today.  Infact, it's horrible.

We are OK, alhumdulillah.  Yesterday, we made it out to the mall and finally got Mr. Boo's Ipad games loaded.  He's been happily absorbed in that.  We picked up some food.  I got the Mad Men Second Season DVD.

And...we're all sad.  There's the sadness about what happening outside.  There's sadness that my brother-in-law's wedding party might be cancelled.  There's sadness that I was supposed to return to work in three days and now what?

It's hard for me to call up my mom and tell her what's going on while being both informative and reassuring.  It was writing to my father that made me cry as I signed off.  No, I don't like being disconnected from my family during such a turbulent time.  I don't like being here at this moment.  I'm tired of Egypt suffocating itself with its own tear gas.

I am not going to update the blog every day to let you know that we're OK.  Check my Twitter feed.  I usually do tweet something daily.  Some of what I'll be tweeting will be upsetting.  Sorry.  It's an upsetting time.  I do want to keep this blog from being too fraught.  I've always wanted to keep it free from too much turmoil.  My Twitter account, on the other hand, is different.

Don't worry for us.  Worry is a prayer for chaos.  Instead, pray for us and pray for Egypt.

Thank you for any and all good thoughts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunny Aswan

Asalamu Alaykom,

"People don't take trips...trips take people." 
-John Steinbeck

When I began living in Egypt in 2009, I imagined touring the country at every chance.  I would be spending my money on sightseeing excursions instead of furniture.  I would be able to enjoy the incredibly rich history all around me.

A year and a half later, my wish was going to come true during my winter vacation.  I finally had enough saved up for a big trip to Luxor, the ancient captial city of Thebes.  Our little family toured that city with carefree abandon.  It was really a great experience.  After that getaway, I vowed to take many more trips.

One of the places I knew I had to go to was Aswan.  If you go to Luxor, then you also think about going to Aswan.  The two are spoken about as if they are twin cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul but they're not really the same.  Luxor and Aswan are three hours away from each other.

They are the two biggest cities in Egypt's south but they are not actually next to each other.  You can't really move easily between the two and see everything in one short vacation.  Later, I reasoned, we could return to see Aswan.

A few weeks after our return home, the whole country fell apart.  The Egyptian Revolution changed how people felt about safety in the country.  I no longer felt safe to travel freely---not even with my protective Egyptian husband.  While the cities themselves might be safe, often the routes between are not.

The other issue is that stability in Egypt remains very unpredictable.  You can plan a trip and then have an incident spin everything out of control countrywide.  The one short trip we did take since the Revolution was up to Port Said and Ismailia.  We made the journey to the coast over the long weekend for Sixth of October.  Four months later, that February, we all witnessed the Port Said stadium massacre.  This year's riots in January have made the city off limits for us until further notice.

At this exact moment, there is a lull.  In times of relative stability, it feels like you have to take the chance and seize the opportunity.  So, even though Egypt is not completely safe, we made the decision to fulfill a two-year-old promise.  We made plans to travel down to Aswan.

My husband and I really did waffle.  There was a U.S. Embassy ban on train travel for a while (due to armed thugs jumping on trains and protesters blocking the tracks).  Embassy personnel were not allowed to use the trains but obviously U.S. citizens have the freedom to do as they please.  My husband had been  thinking of riding the night train down.  When I heard about the ban, I started looking into air travel.  Later, the travel ban was lifted but my apprehension remained.

It cost our family of three about 3,280 LE to fly that one hour to Upper Egypt.  It's hard to part with that much money!  Yet, I remembered our train trip to Luxor.  You imagine you can sleep on the train but you don't really.  You do your best to rest but it's not really possible and that was before the fear factor was added to the equation.  So, against the wishes of my never-flown-before husband, we got our tickets to Aswan.

The immediate moment of having the plane tickets in hand caused me to  jump up and down.  The moment I experienced afterwards was fear.  Did we really know what we're doing?  No, we didn't know.  No one ever knows the future.  It's that moment between excitement and fear when you truly feel enlivened.

"Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions."       -Peter Hoeg

The day before the trip, I woke up sick with a sore throat.  I knew that it would move from my throat to my nose and become a full-blown cold.  I took as many Sambucco tablets as I could to lessen the symptoms.  I cried.  I really didn't want to be sick on my first vacation in such a long time.

My husband helped me finish packing and without complaint.  Many husbands help their wives but God bless the ones who do so with joyfulness.  Maybe me getting weak helped him become stronger than his fears.

I was feeling so tired.  I was feeling like I was setting out on an adventure under less than auspicious circumstances.  Subhanallah, I got a jolt to get me out of my pity party.

I never bump into anyone in Egypt.  It's a big place.  Yet, there at the airport, I saw a former parent from when I was teaching KG.  I was pretty sure that was her.  She looked a little different but I was sure it was her when I saw her daughter.  Her daughter was the little blind girl in my room my first year here.  Subhanallah.  Seriously?  If a sightless child can make it through the airport, then I might as well smile and say, "alhumdulillah."

It was great seeing the family again.  Mr. Boo took out his noisy video game that I hadn't wanted in his backpack so his former classmate could play it.  Subhanallah, it was beautiful to see her pressing the controller as he directed her with his voice.  Her mom and I chatted at the gate.  We took pictures and traded contact info.  It felt like a blessed moment and a sign that everything really was going to be OK.

The plane ride was uneventful.  Mr. Boo and Ahmed sat together.  I sat next to a nice, old Canadian lady who asked me nervously about my hijab but still found reason to talk with me.

We landed at Aswan's dinky airport and felt how the heat had been turned up a notch.  Though we were still in Egypt, we were in a new land.  It's hard on my husband to navigate through new places.  He doesn't like to feel out of control of his surroundings.  We needed a taxi to get us to our hotel.

On the way, we crossed the dam.  The dam has been a miracle achievement for Egypt and for 800,000 Nubians it's been a deplacer.  Very few modern advancements are made without hurting the least fortunate.  The Philae temple to Isis and Horus, which had been saved by UNESCO during the dam building, were on our right.  It had been resettled better than the natives.

We took our ferry ride over to Elephantine Island for our four-night stay at the Movenpick Resort.  Yes, this would be a huge step up for us.  I've stayed in my fair share of cruddy Egyptian hotels and I wasn't about to keep doing it.  Everything about the lobby bespoke of class.

Then there was a glitch.  Of course there was a glitch.  When the woman at the reception desk asked for our passports, I handed all three of them.  Maybe I was so relieved to actually have Mr. Boo's passport (after about 9 months of trying) that I handed it over too.  She left to photocopy them and then returned with a funny look on her face and asked to see our marriage license.  I had completely forgotten that the difference in Mr. Boo's last name was a red flag of impropriety.  My husband dug out the official paper (which he always carries in his wallet) and handed it over as his face tightened.

"You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that revels you within yourself." 
-Ella Mallart

Soon after that, in the privacy of our lovely junior suite, my husband was mad.  He threatened to leave and go back to Giza alone on the train.  I was handed the cash, he zipped his suitcase shut, and headed for the door.  I stopped him.  He was illogical.  He hadn't prayed yet.  I knew the whole experience had been too much for him.

My guy had left his family and traveled out of his comfort zone.  He had zoomed up into the clouds for the first time and had experienced the headiness of seeing how big the world really is and how humblingly small we are.  He didn't know what to do with the memory of being an ordinary guy working in a hotel.  How could he now be the one others worked to please?  And just when we thought we could enjoy a family vacation together, up comes the knowledge that our family comes with fractures.

I prayed alone.  I knew that, while I was praying, he might make good on his threat and leave.  I went to God to ask for increased patience and love.  Alhumdulillah, when I finished my prayer, he was still there.  I didn't want him to leave.  I wanted him to find himself again---even in strange surroundings.  Mr. Boo asked him to pray and my husband visibly softened.  He said they would.  I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes.  It was a bit much for me to take (especially since I was not feeling well).

When I awoke, there was a fresh start.  The mood had lifted.  I'm telling you all this because we need to remember that transitions are harder on some than others.  We can't pull our loved ones through seismic shifts without having them gasp for air.  When they struggle, we can't leave them, even if they threaten to leave us.  It was really worth it to me to continue on the journey with the man I love.

"I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
-Mary Anne Rademacher Hersey

We adjusted to Aswan that night and woke to this scene the next morning.  That is the moon still lighting the sky before dawn.  Waking for fajr prayer is a blessing anywhere but especially along the Nile.  It was an extremely peaceful spot in the world where we were privileged to sit.   

At first, the bats ruled the air.  They swooped silently between the trees and I wasn't afraid.  I marveled at them.  They were so beautifully designed and I loved them for eating up the mosquitoes.

Then, right before the dawn, the birds began to tweet and twitter.  The white herons glided into the marshy wetlands next to the Nile.  I gazed over at the gardens coming to light on Kitchener's Island.

We never did make it across the Nile to that botanical bounty.  I admire any war hero who can turn his sword into a plough.  It was such an idyllic place from afar that I never really did want to stand on its shore.  Some places should remain out of reach.

Instead, that morning, we readied ourselves to see the temple on Philae .  I have mixed feelings about visiting the  temples of gods and godesses.  There's a definite line between appreciating the ancients and worshipping like them.  Some Muslims do not like to visit these sites.  Extremists even want them destroyed.  Me?  

I feel how powerful God is in those places.  The Ancient Egyptians believed they were god on earth.  Astragferallah.  They all died.  They did their absolute best to recreate an eternity with their architecture but it still can't hold up to Allah's creation.  The temples, tombs, and carvings are amazing yet they are not what I worship.  I can admire what I see but not forget The One I love more than anything or anyone. 

I did not like the inner sanctum where the statue of Isis used to stand.  I felt really creeped out and left that room immediately.  The energy was not good.  The open air felt better.

I love how the sun shines out from behind in this picture.  The capitals on top of the columns were so reminiscent of Art Deco and then I had to remember which came first.

This bird's open wings mirrors the fanning of the capital.

Click here to see more pictures of the site from another blogger who went there one August.

It was hot on the island.  It was stiflingly hot.  You really can't travel to Aswan in the summer without thinking you're going to die.  Ideally, you travel to Upper Egypt in the winter.  We were pushing it by going the end of April.

We retired to the hotel room after seeing the temples.  You can't fake staying cool.  You have to get out early and head in early and submit to the heat.

After cooling down, we walked over to the pool.  It would be for another day.  Maybe we could find the island's museum instead.  On the map it was just a little walk.

Honestly, I couldn't figure out how to escape our resort.  I felt like The Prisoner.  I could see the Nubian village buildings next to us but I couldn't find the way to them.  I had to find out from the reception desk that there was only one little green gate keeping us apart.  

What a world of difference that gate made.  The village was not what I expected.  I had seen photos of the tourist version of the Nubians' homes.  Really?  The poor on Elephantine island live in mud brick homes.   

I have lived on various socio-economic levels.  I'm comfortable with myself enough to not be too hung up on classes.  Yet, our consumption of "the good life" next to our neighbors in mud brick homes was sobering.  I felt, for the first time, how closely "tourism" and "terrorism" are.  My husband and I always joke about him having to pronounce "tourist" carefully because his accent can make it sound like "terrorist."  In many ways, my presence on that island wasn't right.  I've been the white chick on the island before (in the Virgin Islands) but this time I really wondered if what I was doing was right.

Don't get me wrong!  I still enjoyed myself.  I wished, however, that I had brought some teaching materials down for the local school.  I wish I had something to share with those who didn't have enough.  I wondered about their fate as proud, displaced people.  In retrospect, our journey through the villages made me understand an Egypt I hadn't known before and in some ways I wish I didn't know.

My husband greeted everyone with, "Asalamu Alaykom," and asked each one if we were getting closer to the museum.  We were, they reassured us.

When we finally saw a European looking house rising up on a hill, and we were relieved.  Then we found out that it was closed.  It was closed down.  My old guidebook had failed us.  

Yet, at 4:30 that afternoon a man agreed to guide us quickly through the site of the reconstructed Satet Temple.  I've been reading about Hatchepsut to my youngest students and I wanted to see her efforts.

This sculpted head is part Hatchepsut and part Khunum, the god of the Nile's flooding.  It was worth the walk to see it.  

At the end of our tour, we headed down to the Nilometer. It's a staircase to the water's edge with each measurement marked in the walls.  A good water level meant a good growing season (and more taxes).

I like taking pictures of staircases to nowhere.  Led Zepplin must have influenced me more than I'd like to admit.

We toured the town again that night and found our food once again at Al-Masri.  I kept watching the table in front of us and wondering if the large European-looking man was part of the German and Swiss archaeological team reconstructing the Satet Temple site on Elephantine.

Getting back to the hotel meant taking the ferry.  Normally, we didn't have to wait long.  For some reason that night we did.  I people watched.  I tried to figure out the group to our right.  There were two woman, a guy and a little boy.  Who was with whom?  

When the ferry pulled up at the dock, we started down the three  small steps and the pretty, young lady when down.  I don't mean she went down the steps.  I mean she fainted.  I saw it happen.  It was as if in slo-mo.  She was so graceful that it almost looked like she had suddenly decided to sleep on the metal dock.  

It was a shock to realize that no one with her knew what to do.  Ahmed and I had to jump into action.  I had the little boy sit down next to Mr. Boo.  Ahmed put the back pack under her head.  I raised her feet on my lap.  I asked questions of the other lady.  Was she sick?  Did she have diabetes?  Had she done this before? 

I had the dock workers bring her a drink with a little sugar.  We put water on her pulse points.  We loosened her hijab.  She started to cry and I talked to her firmly and reassuringly.  "Ameerah, enti kwaysa".  

The hotel doctor had been notified and when he arrived on the next ferry boat, we sat her up.  He wanted Ameerah back at the hotel.  She started crying and couldn't carry her own weight.  My husband picked her up and carried her onto the ferry.  I said Quran.  I talked to the boy and a little girl who had now joined the group with another woman.  It was intense.  

"Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it."
– Cesare Pavese

The next morning, I saw the two women with the boy and the girl.  I asked about Ameerah.  They acted as if nothing had happened and that I was inquiring about something that was none of my business. Oh well! 

We had left the comfort of our room to once again gorge on the breakfast buffet.  One good thing about walking around so much was that somehow I ate everything in sight and still lost some weight.  

It was getting later.  At 9:30, we had to make our deal with a boat captain to take us across the way to the Tombs of the Nobles.  We saw them from our patio area but, unlike the gardens Kitchener's Island, I really had to see the tombs for myself. 

That little jaunt across the Nile cost us 60 LE.  It's painful to pay that much for a short ride but the trade off is that the captain waits for you.  He was an interesting man, a Nubian, with good English and a European wife from Belgium.  

We didn't opt for the camel ride to get to the top of the mountain.  I'm still not sure if that was a mistake.  We trudged.  For a major tourist attraction to not have steps and safe footing is still strange for me.  I don't expect Disney World but it's a struggle to experience how primitive Egyptian tourist sites remain.

No matter how these pictures appear, let me guarantee for you that they were taken in the heat.  If a place is hot at water's edge, then it is painfully hot on top of a mountain.  Really?  You have to be stupid or saintly to climb to the highest point under a burning sun.  I always feel how close death I am on these expeditions to tombs.  There's a reason the dead are in these locations---no one else is going to live there!

So, the moment comes on a trip when you have to let go of your discomfort and enjoy the experience.  I did enjoy the tombs.  "Enjoy" is maybe not the right word. I was very aware that I was visiting the dead.  

“What gives value to travel is fear. It is a fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country, we are seized by a vague fear and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. I look upon it more as an occasion for testing.” 
-Albert Camus

As Muslims, we enter into these places with "Asalamu Alaykom," the same greeting of peace we make to the living.  I often uttered, "Aoozabellahi min a Shaytan a regime," to protect me from the unseen world of evil.  I warned my husband not to try to playfully scare any of us.  We didn't want to be screaming in the tombs.  

There were more bats and I'll admit that bats in a tomb are scary.  They are not the happy, mosquito-eating bats of pre-dawn.  Well...maybe they were.  Come to think of it, they probably were the same bats.  

There was a guide helping us enter into these carved-out final homes.  I didn't like to go in too far.  I felt like it might be fated to be my last home and visualized some freak cave in.  There were some bones to remind me how bodies look after staying in a tomb.  

I had to deal with two dangerous creatures outside of the tombs.  One was a little snake hiding at an entrance which made it impossible for us to walk past.  Another was a college girl, from a group who had also climbed the mountain.  She was trying to pose in cute ways for the boys to take her picture.  She laughed too loud and talked too much.  Whatever.  

When she tried to expand her circle of friends to my husband, that's when I asked her,  "Kallam ma meen?  Da gozee ana.  Andak kateer ragel hena mafish goz.  Kallam ma ragel de mish kallam ma raglee."

This translates to, "Who are you talking to?  That's my husband.  You have a lot of unmarried men here.  Talk to that man; don't talk to my man."

She laughed coquettishly and tried to say something about me not understanding Egyptians.  Oh, I do understand Egyptians and I told her so.  She tried to say something else and I told her that I was busy with my family.  I was nice enough not to push her down the mountain.

We cooled off in the pool that afternoon.  It was shady and quiet (except for Mr. Boo chortling and splashing).  I wore my modest suit which doesn't cover like a Burkhini but it's inshahallah good enough.  We relaxed.  No one else came.  We enjoyed ourselves and really it was wonderful.

Upon returning to the hotel room, we realized that my husband lost his ring in the pool.  Yep.  After an easy time comes hardship.  It works both ways.  He told me that he would just get a new one.  I wasn't having it.  So, he called the front desk and he went back to the pool with the worker who had given us our towels.  He was the one to find the ring again.  Nothing like a little suspense followed by a happy ending!

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” 
-John Steinbeck

That night we ate in our room.  We aren't used to eating out so much.  It's hard on us.  It seems like it's going to be endlessly fun but after two nights, it wasn't.  

In many ways, going out and seeing extraordinary sights is also hard.  I can't handle weeks of it any more.  I feel over-saturated.  Yet, if you're already there and you feel you should get your money's worth.

Getting my money's worth, reminded me to pick up my card for one hour of free internet.  I checked my few emails and thought to check Twitter.  I'm glad I did!  Though we had just discussed traveling to Abu Simbel, where the colossal statues of Ramses are, the travel agent who wanted our money neglected to tell us what Twitter did. 

There had been an armed protest of Nubians on the road.  They had blocked any tourists from leaving.  That meant that busloads of angry and frightened foreigners were forced to stay in a town with few amenities while the police sorted out angry and displaced Nubians with guns.  They wanted their land and their rights.  I understood that completely.  Yet, cutting off your tourism-dollars nose to spite your economy face doesn't make total sense.  I wasn't mad at them.  I was mad at the travel agent who hadn't allowed us an informed decision for ourselves and our boy. Shame on him.  It's always best to be forthcoming.  Since you're not going to get that in Egypt from those working in the travel industry, you need to search Twitter for real people's reporting.

Abu Simbel was out.  I was sad but alhumdulillah.  It was three hours away.  We'd either be spending close to 4,000 LE for air travel or spending less for a hired car which would mean six hours round trip.  And it was dangerous!  No, we needed a Plan B.  I looked through my DK and Lonely Planet guidebooks and found it.  The next day we were going to Kom Ombo. 

Not a lot of people go to Kom Ombo temple.  It's dedicated for Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horis the Elder.  It's outside of a little village Daraw.  Here's  a picture of a masjid in Daraw.

Daraw is an hour north of Aswan on the way to Luxor.  We drove through it without stopping.  It was too hot to actually get out and take a picture, so it was from the comfort of our taxi.  The village isn't worth a stop though some like to ogle the camel market on Mondays.  We have enough camels here and market days are CRAZY (having experienced Kerdasa's years before) so we opted out of that.  I reasoned that the temple itself would be enough.

Truly, the temple was amazing.  I haven't seen much better carving anywhere else.   At other sites, you can see the shapes of the objects but at Kom Ombo you can see the small details down to the scales on the crocodile or the feathers on the goose.

I'm not sure why it's so good there.  I think part of the reason must be because it's rather new (parts are from Ptolemy).  The colors are still apparent too!  Did you see the polka dots design on the Egyptian hat up above?  That's a true journey into history.  I enjoyed the temple so much.  We were the only visitors there until, upon our departure, we crossed paths with a Japanese couple.  Really?  It's a shame because the place is a gem.

Mr. Boo wasn't happy about the temple at first.  He'd fallen asleep in the air-conditioned taxi and had been understandably miffed to be pushed out into the heat.  When the tourist tout came up with a handmade stringed instrument and bow, we paid whatever he was asking.  Yes, there is a reason why Egyptian tourism is big business.  We were there and we had to buy something ANYTHING to make Mr. Boo enjoy his time.  Alhumdulillah.  We still have it and he still takes it out to practice. At least...I think it's's either him or a cat in heat.

We tried to see the Crocodile Museum while we were there but an electricity outage made that impossible.  That was a bummer.  Mr. Boo played his little Aswan stringed instrument by the Nile to serenade us before we moved on. 

We bought some sodas at the little tourist village below the temple.  It didn't really quench our thirst.  I knew what we needed.  We needed some acer asab.  We went back into Aswan and bought some.  Once again, I was the pampered tourist and got mine handed to me in the taxi.  Here's one of my big Egyptian loves.  

This is the freshest sugarcane juice you can ever hope to drink.  If you ever make it to Aswan, you have to drink two things:  acer asab (sugarcane juice) and karkade which is hibiscus tea.  Both sugarcane and hibiscus are grown around Aswan.  I was drinking karkade every morning at the hotel buffet.  

Now, I bought some karkade to make at home.  The trick is that you just let it seep in regular, room temperature water and not in boiling water.  What I'm told is that karkade increases blood presssure if it's been boiled and decreases blood pressure if it's only been steeped in cold water.  If I'd been smarter, I would have bought a few kilos of the dried petals to bring up to Giza.

We did buy other things in their market.  Mr. Boo got a wooden crocodile and snake from the 40 LE he'd slowly earned by getting up and getting ready every morning of the trip.  I got underwear which sounds funny but I actually did go all the way to Aswan and bought undies.  I also bought a white galabiya for the first day of Eid.  

Back at the hotel, I wanted to buy a trinket.  It's strange how the tourist shops don't really cater to a tourist's needs.  I tried to explain to the shop owner that, since it's Elephantine Island, he should have elephants prominently displayed in his window.  I bought one.  I gave up all my statues years ago yet I wanted this one.    It's carved from one piece of the special pink Aswan granite.

I also decided to buy a pottery piece from Aswan.  I grew up around pottery.  I appreciate it more than china or crystal.  The pottery from Aswan incorporates metal detailing and even leather!  Do you see the leather triangles on this jar?  

My piece is smaller and less formal.  Though I loved this piece, I didn't buy it.  The one I bought has some of the same bright colors as my living room so it made more sense to purchase it.

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” 
– Mark Jenkins

That night was our last.  We splurged on dinner in the hotel's restaurant.  It was pricey but convenient.  I ordered two vegetarian entrees that sounded interesting.  Mr. Boo ordered a huge hamburger and my husband ordered chicken.  The maitre de was so attentive and kind.

The other table (yes, it was sparse that night) was a British couple we'd seen around.  I had assumed they were guests but (joke on me) they were snowbirds.  After our meal, we started up a conversation.  I was really intrigued by the lovey missus.  She was so vivacious.  What was her story?

So, it turns out that they have spent the last seven years being part-time ex-pats.  They were floating down the Nile when she spotted a beautiful mansion on the hill.  "That's my house!"  She declared and then went about buying it (and having their money ripped off by an unscrupulous lawyer).  There was no electricity and no running water.  She would hightail it back to the hotel for baths and credits the kind staff with saving her sanity during the remodeling.

One of the crazier stories she told was of living for months with a stench.  She wasn't sure what it was.  When the workers eventually moved the heavy stove, there was a dead desert fox.  Subhanallah!  She stayed.  Her husband had gone back to the U.K. and left her to "get things sorted."  Somehow she did.  

She was ever so respectful of our little family.  I was respectful of her and her husband.  There are no children between them.  They have this life they've carved out and they're not trying to be something  they're not.  They are authentically British Conservatives with money and Western clothes and mores.  Honestly, you don't have to jump into a galabiya, head scarf and flip-flops to live in Egypt.  I asked her if anyone had ever pushed religion on them and she said that no one ever had.  That's good.  We don't need to push others to Islam because we actually only push them away.

I asked her about having friends.  She has less and less connection with friends back home who can't understand her part-time life in Egypt.  She also can't be bothered with making ex-pat friends in Egypt simply because they are British.  Nationality doesn't pull at this lady as much as a sincere connection.  I was really glad to have had the chance to speak with her.

The last day was needing some effort to get up, get packed and get out to the museum before we left.  I really wanted to see the museum but I was tired.  It's hard to keep going day after day---especially in the heat.  Four nights was enough for us.  

My husband called our taxi driver, an elderly Nubian man, who was as tall as he was proud.  He really catered to our needs during the trip.  God bless him.  When we rode with him, I knew that we were being welcomed to his land.  He met us at the ferry dock and took us up the hill to the museum. 

We passed by the Cataract, where Agatha Christie wrote, "Death on the Nile."  I would have liked to have had tea there but the British couple told us that even tea was an outrageous 55 LE a cup.  Another day!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” 
– Martin Buber 

The Egyptian museums are always too overwhelming for me.  I can't believe what I'm seeing.  It's unreal to think that any one place could hold so much AND be seen by so few visitors.  We were some of the only people that morning.  

I took a lot of pictures.  None of them are going to be great because they were through glass.  The real point of the pictures is for me to remember what I saw; I need to make the memory tangible.  

This picture is of the oldest pottery ever uncovered in Egypt.

I know I should tell you what year they're from or even which century.  Even if I zoom this photo, it doesn't state a number.  This reminds me of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote from "The Little Prince" about how grown-ups love numbers, and that, if you were to describe a pretty house, no one would care, unless you told them the large amount of  money it was worth.  No, I don't know how old this pottery is but it is the oldest in Egypt.

Of course there were mummies.  I like the animal mummies.  This sheep mummy was so well done.

I can't show you all the amazing objects.  I can't.  There's too much!  I only wish that you get a chance to see it for yourself.  It's possible. 

Isn't she beautiful?

For me, I waited years EVEN with living in Egypt to see Aswan but I made it there.  If you have a dream to see Egypt then keep it.  Maybe it's not the right time now but inshahallah there will be a time.

I'll end with this page from The Holy Quran on display at the museum.  The calligraphy was done with such artistry.

I don't know what it says but I would like to leave you with this quote from the 115th verse of the second surah Al-Baqarrah:

وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Walillahi almashriqu waalmaghribu faaynama tuwalloo fathamma wajhu Allahi inna Allaha wasiAAun AAaleemun

"To Allah belongs the East and the West; whichever direction you turn your face, there is the presence of Allah.  Surely, Allah is All-Embracing and All-Knowing." 
-Quran 2:115, Malik Translation