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October 14, 2010

Arabic Study

Arabic classes at ETC in Hadayek el Maadi ended with exams and a party.  The teachers at ETC brought delicious Egyptian dishes to the school and we shared a feast with them. The Goshen students sang songs in both English and Arabic and also performed several skits.  After six weeks of studying and speaking Arabic daily the students are much more prepared to use the language as they get ready to leave Cairo.  We are very appreciative for all of the hard work that has been done, and the kindness that has been shown to us, by the ETC staff.

October 8, 2010


We headed east on the Suez Desert Road to the Sinai peninsula.  Our destination was St. Catherine’s, the small town that is near the base of Mt. Sinai. As we traveled east the desert was constantly changing: mountains, lime stone formations, mineral deposits in rocks that create beautiful designs and colors. We arrived in St. Catherine’s in the late afternoon and enjoyed the fading evening sun. We went to bed early in order to get up at 1:30 and head to the base of the mountain at 2 AM where we began the seven kilometer climb to the top of…

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October 3, 2010

Upper Egypt

We boarded the night train at Giza station and headed south to Upper Egypt. After twelve hours of restless sleep and 900 kilometers of railroad tracks we arrived in the city of Aswan. We went straight from the train to the bus and then to the temple of Philae. In order to get there we had to take a small boat to an island in the river. Philae is one of seven temples that were moved to higher ground during the construction of the Aswan Dam.  After our boat ride back to the mainland we had a chance to see…

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September 25, 2010


Once again we traveled north on the Desert Road, to the beautiful port city of Alexandria. The city is named for Alexander the Great who occupied Egypt in 332 B.C and remained for a brief period of time.   His successors (The last of the Ptolemaic royalty was Queen Cleopatra who committed suicide in 32 B.C. when Egypt became part of the Roman Empire.)  had an enormous impact on Egyptian history. Under their reign, Alexandria became one of the premier academic centers in the world. It was, of course, most famous for its vast collection of extant scholarship in the…

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September 19, 2010


We traveled north of Cairo on the Alexandria Desert Road to a Coptic Retreat center.  Anafora is a compound surrounded by fruit, olive, date and other trees. It is a sea of green that has burst out of the desert. It was created as an ecumenical place where people from many backgrounds and many nations can come and live together and form relationships that cross the boundaries that separate many of us. It was built upon the idea of the monastics, i.e., let go of the trappings of this world and the frames that tend to categorize humans such as…

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September 16, 2010

The Citadel

Our afternoon class was at the Citadel, a fortress built in the 12th century by Salah al-Din on a hill overlooking Cairo . We spent most of our time in the Mohammed Ali mosque built in the 19th century  on the Citadel grounds.  It’s grand dome and spacious interior was our classroom. Heba lectured about Islam and the architecture of the mosque.  Mohammed Ali is a very important figure in recent Egyptian history.  In addition to building this dramatic mosque Ali is credited with laying the groundwork for the formation of the modern nation state of Egypt by industrializing the…

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September 13, 2010

Old Cairo

We took the Metro to Old Cairo, the site of the oldest Christian communities in the area of the city known in early Christian history as the Babylon in Egypt. Our first stop was at the Hanging (or suspended) Church that was constructed over Roman ruins. We went on to visit the churches of St. Barbara, St. Sergius and the Ben Ezra synagogue.  The earliest structures date back to the 6th century.  We ended our time in Old Cairo with a visit to the Coptic Museum.

September 12, 2010

Our first field trip took us to Giza to see the pyramids and the Sphinx and later to the ancient sites of Memphis and Saqqara.  In a period of about 500 hundred years (roughly 3000BC to 2500 BC) the first dynasty to unite upper and lower Egypt was created at the site that came to be known as Memphis.  Scholars suggest that this was the first imperial city in human history. The first pyramid, known as the step pyramid because of it layers resembling steps, was built in nearby Saqqara and finally the great pyramids were built within a short…

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September 8, 2010

Week 1

The week began with Arabic classes,  and a series of cultural orientations by Heba, Tom and Mennonite Central Committee volunteers.  We learned to use the Metro system and in the afternoons we took walking tours of Cairo neighborhoods. Our days also included group meetings, lectures on Egyptian history and a comparison of Egyptian and North American cultures.

September 3, 2010

The students arrived safely in Cairo and we headed straight to Eman house in Helwan. They had a chance to play some frisbee, volleyball and practice Arabic before their first Egyptian meal which they enjoyed. Tomorrow the adventure continues.

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