Caitlin Coyle’s Blog

Proceed with Caution

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 18, 2009

Ordinarily, a cab ride is nothing to write home about. In Egypt, taxi-cabs are an entirely different mode of transportation.

As of yet, I can think of no other experience that can sum up the fast-paced culture of Cairo in less than 10 minutes…

There are no meters in the cabs so you barter the price of your ride before entering. As always, drivers try to get the most out of your wallet.

The negotiations take place on overly crowded and incredibly fast moving streets. Cars zip past as you arrange the cost to get to your destination.

The real thrill begins when you get into the tiny piece of tin on wheels. Somehow the driver forces the car back into the moving traffic and you’re off.

Inside the cab, the dashboard is adorned with neon fur and little Egyptian-themed trinkets, such as sand-filled pyramids and turquoise scarabs. As you zip through the streets, Arabic music blasts over the continuous sound of honking horns. On one occasion, our driver placed more attention to lighting his cigarette than the intense traffic, missing cars by less than an inch.

Experienced drivers in Cairo ignore ordinary driving rules such as traffic lights, lanes and blinkers. A foreigner is quickly spotted by a polite use of a blinker, indicating a turn or change of lane.

For my parent’s sake, I would like to say that caution could be exercised in Cairo. However, my experiences have taught me different.

Words and Thoughts.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 12, 2009

“Each Morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” – Groucho Marx.

I found this quote in an Arab magazine inside café Arabica this afternoon. The quote reminds me of something my mother would send me in an email forward. While abroad, this piece holds significance. It serves as a reminder to live in moment – whether it be in or out of my comfort zone – and inspires me to accept daily situations with grace and optimism.

Slightly corny I know, but I had to include it in my blog.

Observations…

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 12, 2009

A call to prayer echoes across Cairo’s dusty evening sky as men and women head to their mosque. The smells of spices, falafel, and unknown odors transcend from street vendor to street vender. Just over a week in Egypt and I’m finally beginning to feel comfortable.

I’ve become used to cars, zipping around Cairo’s narrow, pothole-filled streets.

I’m used to the stares, the comments, the cats, the dirt and the trash.

The one thing that I am not used to is the children.

Walking through neighborhoods I am often approached by young children who put their hands to their mouths in a gesture of hunger. They have been one of the hardest and most telling aspects of Egypt.

8:30 Train to LUXOR.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 12, 2009

We boarded a train headed to Luxor last Thursday night. Since watching the Darjeeling Limited, I had been yearning for my own train adventure.

Curtains from the early eighties hung along the windows, with stains and hair fibers along their sides. A kind elderly man, similar in appearance to the attendant in the film, was our personal attendant for the evening. He offered us questionable food and always responded, “OK, sats fine, sats fine.”

The beds attacked my allergies worse than I had experienced since my childhood.

I can’t say I was surprised when my experience turned out to be nothing like the film-inspired fantasy I had envisioned.

To be fair, the twelve-hour train ride was a small price to pay for the beauty that awaited us in Luxor.

We stayed in a hotel along the Nile. (A very clean Nile in comparison to Cairo.) The pool was on a barge connected to the garden in front of our hotel.

It was the closest I’ll ever come to swimming in the Nile.

On the Nile…

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 11, 2009

My first night a felucca on the Nile was spontaneous, inspired by a magnificent sunset. I was with three girls and two guys from the trip. A group of individuals that I have enjoyed getting to know over our time in Egypt. We began at the Winter Palace, sipping cappuccinos while waiting for the rain the clear. By 7:30 we were headed back to our hotel, ready for showers and food. The sunset hit faster than we had expected, and its beauty was just that. Much more than we had expected. The sky was on fire. The sunset inspired us to take a felucca ride along the Nile in Luxor. Our felucca, named Bob Marley, was decked out in Arab rugs and pillows. Our self-certified captain provided the entertainment portion of the evening. We learned to sing in Arabic while dumbing our hands against the wooden center of the boat.

Tonight, my evening on the Nile was shared with a larger group of students. We shared stories from home while sipping on Egyptian wine. Once again, the Nile provided me with more than just a story for a blog. The Nile gave me a reason to unwind on a trip has been nothing if not a whirlwind of chaos.

Unexpected circumstances.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 10, 2009

I am sitting in a McDonalds Café trying to pick up a broken and crowded internet connection. This is not how I pictured my night ending after a day among 5,000-year-old carvings within ancient temples. American music is blaring as children, high on sugar, run between the tables. The view of the Nile is the only thing reminding me that I am not in Boston.

A collection of Photographs.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 10, 2009

Little Lisa sits inside the beautiful mosque.

Little Lisa sits inside the beautiful mosque.

The ladies on the trip take a moment to pose in front of the oldest mosque in all of Africa.

The ladies on the trip take a moment to pose in front of the oldest mosque in all of Africa.

Denis, in his element, explaining the many fascinating churches inside Coptic Cairo.

Denis, in his element, explaining the many fascinating churches inside Coptic Cairo.

Gates upon entering Coptic Cairo.

Gates upon entering Coptic Cairo.

James and the Giant Mosque.

James and the Giant Mosque.

“Glorify Him in the night and after the prayers. (Qaf 50.40)”

“Glorify Him in the night and after the prayers. (Qaf 50.40)”

Coptic Cairo

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 5, 2009

Today we explored Coptic Cairo, a once entirely Christian dominated area of Old Cairo.

visited a number of churches that have remained standing over thousands of years. The Hanging Church, one of Coptic Cairo’s most famous churches, was built high above ground to protect Christians from the Romans. While in the Greek Church of Saint George I watched a girl put chains around her hands and neck to show her respect to the Saint. Chains were used to cripple Saint George and are now viewed as a blessed object.

After Christianity, we moved over to an incredible mosque across from the gates that lead inside Coptic Cairo. It was my first time inside a mosque. Immediately, was impressed by the immensity of the sacred building. The entire center of the mosque, is marble and open without ceiling. While sitting in admiration I tried to picture the mosque full of individuals bowing their heads to Allah.

Sand, Camels and Pyramids.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 4, 2009

Our day began with camels and sand, lots of sand. We have arrived in Cairo at the same time as a sand storm. This type of weather I am told is unusual for Egypt this type of year. None-the-less, we headed for the pyramids. After getting suited up with camels decorated with brightly colored ropes, rugs and charms, we began our journey. While on a camel, it feels as though you are towering eight feet above the ground. I recommend keeping a firm grip on the wooden handle at the front of your saddle, as camels seem to have a mind of their own. They spit, bite and change their stride unexpectedly. Simply put, the experience was incredible. Breathtaking. To be standing in front of these incredible creations, built thousands of years before even Jesus Christ was born, felt unreal. Before coming on this trip, I used to dream about one day placing my hand against the golden stone base of one of Egypt’s pyramids. Today, I not only touched but climbed the pyramids.

 

Living in Puerto Rico I have had plenty of experience dealing with sand. Not one of my experiences (aside from a fistful of sand in the face) could have prepared me for today’s sand storm. In no way am I complaining, Ill take whatever Egypt has to offer with a smile on my face. However, the only problem with a smile is the sand it lets in. Our group left entire group left the pyramids wearing a fine coat of sand.

 

The guides on our trip were wonderful. We learned that the camel-lead tour business is being threatened out of business. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities wants to close down these primarily family-run local camel businesses for government profit. The Ministry of Antiquities is already, though very slowly, moving in on the tourism market generated by the pyramids. Government officials built a wall around the pyramids that is used as a way to control both the camel guides and tourists. While trying to cross into the desert, Professor Suillivan was forced to bribe the guards 100 pounds (roughly $25 USD) in order to pass. Even further, the Ministry of Antiquities plans to build paved roads directly to the pyramids. Once completed, tourists will flood in on buses, snap their photos and return to their local accommodations, unaware of the true Egyptian experience they were denied.

My own traveling pants.

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 2, 2009

I went home last week to sew some clothing for my upcoming trip. With little sewing experience I relied on my mother’s skills to get me through the patterns and stitches. I completed two pairs of drawstring linen pants. Though the pants took hours for me to complete, I intend to donate them to a shelter abroad. While working on my project, I found myself thinking about the difference in dress codes between the Middle East and my home. I am allowed the freedom of showing my skin (if I so chose). As I prepare for my trip abroad by compiling all of my most conservative clothing, I remind myself of Professor Sullivan’s advice that, “skin is to be kept to yourself.” I have not left yet, and already I am grateful for the freedoms that I am allowed as an American woman. I am sure that once I arrive in Egypt, Syria and Qatar I will understand what these dress codes mean for women in the Middle East. Most importantly, I will more fully respect and appreciate the freedoms allowed here in the United States.