Egypt & Not much time left in Beirut

I am sitting with three layers of clothes next to a small portable heater. Does it get so cold in Beirut you might wonder…? Well, the outside temperature during the day is still around 19 degrees but it gets colder in the night and more importantly due to the lack of any real insulation indoors it’s pretty much as cold as outdoors. One morning I looked at the thermometer in the corridor and it showed 14 degrees.

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Beirut has become my home. Especially throughout the last two month I have become so used to the environment and I have really grown to love the chaos and liveliness of the city. Even harder to imagine is now that I will be going back to Sweden in a bit more than one month. Time just seems to fly here. I am very torn about going back. On the one hand I look forward to seeing my friends, having all the conveniences of constant electricity, fast internet, western food etc. again (while I am writing this we just lost power and switching it to the other power line didn’t work, let’s  see how long it takes this time) on the other hand I really do not look forward to the Swedish dark and cold weather. Also even though I feel confident about my thesis topic, I am sure it also will be a challenge to get it done throughout the next months. Well and then, then it’s time to enter the grown up world as if everything goes as planned I will graduate in June 2016. Crazy thought isn’t it?

My father visited me here in Beirut last weekend which was really nice and my Mother will come over Christmas and New Year which I look so much forward to! But now, let me tell you a little about our Egypt trip in November. We did a great round-trip throughout the country, have a look at the map;

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We flew to Cairo were we spent a night in a super nice hostel and walked around the city and a bazaar. Cairo was very big, loud and overwhelming but at the same time especially some corners in the city center surprised us with a lot of charm and welcoming people.  Apart from on the actual bazaar people in smaller streets and in shops welcomed us to Egypt without trying to sell us stuff. I thought wow maybe it is not that bad with people trying to sell stuff and trick you. Yeah. I just haven’t had seen enough of Egypt yet.

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The next day we went to Giza to see the pyramids. After finding our way through using the tube and a local bus we met a pretty nice guy who said he will show us the way. Yes he did show us the way but to an office where they talked us into buying a carriage ride to the actual pyramids… Oh well we thought, it could be an experience as well. The actual pyramids were nice but I have to be honest somehow I was less impressed than I thought I would be and everything was so repulsively touristic. You could not go 50m without being bother by at least 3 people who tried to sell you useless stuff, camel ride or else. I understand that they are frustrated that tourism is not doing well in Egypt since the revolution but that does not excuse being overly pushy and even telling lies to trick you into buying stuff.  However overall I am still glad we went, since I was a small kid I wanted to see the Pyramids.

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In the evening we went to the train station to catch a sleeping train to Aswan which was absolutely amazing. The train was nothing fancy but we had our own little compartment with bed to fold down, we had a super nice train conductor who took great care of us, they served us dinner and the beds were even fairly comfortable. The ride took around 12 hours and when we woke up in the morning the view out of the train window was amazing. Driving along the river Nile and through small places was pretty magical. In Aswan we had booked a hostel a bit outside of Aswan on the other side of the Nile in a small Nubian village. The taxi driver had some troubles to find it at first and when we did find it the outside really did not look too nice BUT when we entered and saw the amazing roof terrace and the view every doubt was forgotten.  The staff was really nice and our room clean and simple. While living there we visited an island in the Nile and had a look at the temple of Philae. We also did a day trip to Abu Simbel right at the border to Sudan. The temple there were absolutely amazing and became and remained my favorite sight throughout the whole trip.

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From Aswan we took a bus to Luxor where we yet again where incredibly lucky with our chosen hostel. It was also a bit outside the city on the other side of the Nile (a boat over from central Luxor took about 5 min). The people in that hotel where even nicer, we had a beautiful room and the roof top terrace was breathtaking. Also the Egyptian traditional food was great! In Luxor we did two things. My first hot air balloon ride over Luxor which was more than breath taking and absolutely worth it to get up at 4 am. During the day after the balloon ride we rented a taxi for the day and looked at all sorts of sites like the valley of kings and other temples. That was also when I slowly grew tired of wall paintings, temples, statues and all other cultural stuff. I really wanted to appreciate every place we visited because I am sure every single of them would have impressed me a lot if I would have seen them during the first days but after so many days of culture and art I just couldn’t really anymore.

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That was also when I was pretty done with people constantly trying to sell us things and to trick us. I don’t mind so much when they try to rip you off and give you bad prices, it’s their job , they need to make money and if you have the patience to haggle you usually can get all prices down a lot. But what I do mind is when people start to actively try to trick you. In the evening we were walking around Luxor and a guy approached us saying “Heeyy good to see you again!! I am working in your hotel kitchen, remember me??” My first impulse was to smile and say “ohhh yeah…” as I trusted that my bad memory and face recognition has simply failed me once again but after a few seconds I thought waaaiit, our whole hotel has about 4 people working there and I know them by now and this is not one of them. That was also the moment he started to try to sell us a boat ride….  Well, we left him and went on walking. No longer than 3-5 min later another guy walks towards us; “Heeyy good to see you again!! I am working in your hotel kitchen, remember me??”  That was when I lost it. I am really not the angry type of person but something snapped in that moment after being bothered every single day by hundreds of people and I got so angry” I f**** heard this one before , another guy just tried the same f**** trick, get the hell out of here you asshole…! Yes, yes… I am not proud of the language but I just was so done with these lies and tricks. Well at least the guy walked away as fast as he could.

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After calming down and relaxing at our great hotel, the next day we took a bus to Hurghada to go scuba diving there. We did not see much of Hurghada since we arrived in the evening and went to dive straight in the morning but the first impression was not great. Touristic and our hotel was next to a 24h bar which had loud bad music on the whole time. But the diving was great. It was my second dive in my life and I loved it even more than the first time in Jordan. The diving teachers were super nice and the boat with which we went out was great. Over all the day was a little much though because we went on in the evening on the same day to get a bus back to Cairo.

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Back in Cairo we stayed at the same hostel as in the beginning. The next day was our last day in Egypt. Our flight was at 23.00 in the evening so we had planned to just relax and visit the Egyptian National Museum. Well, here I am going to admit something, ready? I really did not like the Museum! Everyone had said it is so great but to me it was a big mess of 1000000 of things, it was too big and I was simply done, done and done with anything what had to do with Egyptian history 😀

Overall it was a great trip, lots to see, beautiful nature and sites, we met great people – my impression of Egyptian people was that they are great and really kind and welcoming people as long as they don’t try to sell you things. This is of course a generalization (which I am usually against) and is simply based on my experiences during the 10 days in that country.

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Now I am back in Beirut since over three weeks and the days go by faster than I can comprehend. I like experiencing new places and it is easy for me do adapt to different living environments and I think one reason why that is so is that I pretty quickly develop small habits and ‘traditions’ which are only mine, which I can look forward to and which give a little sense of stability. I don’t have to have them daily but on a regular base and they always come by themselves without me forcing it. I have them in Sweden, I had them in Jerusalem and now I have them here in Beirut.
For example, my default lunch here is Hummus. I have figured out that the best hummus in town is sold by a really sweet guy in Hamra just a 2min walk from where I work. So when I go to get lunch I walk out of my office, walk by the shoe store and look at a pair of awesome shoes which have been in the window for months but are too expensive to buy them. I walk by the homeless guy whom I sometimes give some money but most days just a smile and then I arrive at the little hole in the wall where ‘my hummus man’ greets me with a smile and asks me how I am. I don’t have to tell him anymore what I want he knows it is hummus with veggies, and the oil in a little extra container since I don’t like when they drench the hummus in it. Whenever I walk back to the office with my hummus I feel happy.

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Another example is taking the minivan to work in the morning. 3 min walking from my home there is a bigger street where minivan no 4 goes to Hamra. They are usually really old vans which fit between 9 and 15 people depending on if the foldable seats on the side of the benches get used or not. You stop the van where ever you stand on the street and hop on, you usually have to crouch and take care of your head while finding a spot. Sometimes they close the door, sometimes they don’t. Their driving style is often absolutely outrages and often the van is stuffed with people and the radio blasts Arabic music. Traffic is always bad when going to Hamra. When I took this kind of van the first time it was a little intimidating but by now I somehow find peace in that chaos. Catching my ride, sitting in the van listening to Arabic music while looking out of the window I feel strangely content.  I can sometimes get the same feeling when taking a taxi or a service around here. One day I was going to the German embassy which is out of town and it took me a while to pursue a taxi to take me there for an okay price and once I was finally sitting in the taxi , slightly proud that I had done a good job in getting down the price a lot, I just smiled. The cab driver which seems slightly annoyed by having agreed to drive me that distance for a cheap price suddenly looked at me and started smiling very bright and said “wow you look happy!”

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Living here can be annoying sometimes especially when you need to buy something more specific or a bit out of the ordinary, you either simply cannot get it or have to pay 5 times the price it should be. Nothing is perfect here and right now I would not mind a proper heater in this room (well and electricity which is still not back…)  but overall I have come to love the vibe of Beirut and her quirks a lot more than I ever thought I would. I made awesome friends and have experienced so many great moments here. A bit more than a month to go. Right now, I don’t really want to leave.

Thank you for reading 🙂 and have a look at a few more images below from the trip through Egypt.

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