Monday, May 21, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm finally home again! I spent two terrible, mind numbing weeks in the field doing army training. I went through six books, most of which were very very bad. But my good friend loaned me a book she had read called The Kindness of Strangers. It completely inspired me and reminded me how much I love to travel. The book is a collection of short stories by traveling authors about a time when they were in a foreign country and a strangers kindness saved them. If you have ever traveled you probably know the feeling.

This book made me want to share one of my greatest accomplishments. It was six years ago now, but still one of the best moments of my life (aside from my marriage, of course!) This was the three days I spent in Egypt. I took a trip to Israel and had an amazing time, but my ultimate goal while in the area was to see the Great Sphinx of Giza. It was one of those things that seemed impossible. It was one of those places you see in Nat Geo or on the Discovery Channel, but not a place you would actually see in person.

The border.
When I crossed the border from Eilat, Israel to Taba, Egypt I had no plan. It felt unreal. I was in the desert in a Muslim country as a single woman, alone. I ended up hitchhiking with a guy named Saad, in his "taxi", all the way to Cairo.

Saad, the driver.

After driving through the desert on roads almost completely covered in sand, we stopped in a village. It was filled with goats, camels and naked children ran up to the car as we drove in. We cooked a chicken and chatted with a family there.

Fatima and her baby at the small village outside of Sinai.
A village we stopped at on the way to Cairo.

Each village we stopped at Saad kept the men from getting too close to me. He made sure they didn't give me bad food or spoiled meat. He was my translator and my tour guide and my bodyguard. He got us through the check points on the road. I was still cautious, knowing that being a woman who did not cover her face and wore tank tops would be perceived as promiscuous. When he said we would sleep on Mount Sinai that night I tried to think of an escape plan just in case. Would I be able to find my way to the car? Would I be able to see the road or would it be covered in sand? Would I know the way back to Israel? He could have killed me or raped me the night we slept under the stars on Mount Sinai, but he did not. He made us food and we watched shooting stars and smoked spliffs instead. 

Children in Sinai wanting to know who we were.
The day we arrived in Cairo was overwhelming. Saad left me to my own devices which turned out to be pretty dangerous. I got a ride with a man who owned a papyrus shop to Giza, where I knew I could see the pyramids. I ended up riding through the Sahara on a camel at night to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx lit up in colorful lights. Amazing. Afterwards, with the owner of the camel, I smoked hookah and ate dinner on a roof with a clear view of the pyramids. He ended up being a creep, grabbing my face to try to kiss me, so I ran out of the place into the streets filled with camels to catch a cab back to the hostel. The cab driver was convinced I carried some "American weed" which was "very good" and wanted me to share with him. Nothing but colorful characters in that city.

The Khufu Pyramid and the Great Sphinx of Giza. The money shot. 
The next morning I hooked back up with Saad, my escort and the only person in the country I felt safe with, to go get a last look at one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

I could go on and on about those few days. I hope one day I can take my husband with me to a place he never thought he would see. I hope that if we get into trouble or get in over our heads, a stranger will help us and make the experience that much more unforgettable.


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