Where have I been? In America!

I have had some major life changes, including dh moving to the states to work, and me and kids staying here in Egypt. And that is not all! Anyway, I went a little out of my head, and took a trip to the states without the kids. They stayed with their Quran teacher.

I traveled Egypt Air. To be honest, I have always looked down a bit on airlines from third world countries, preferring the European Airlines for international travel. But Arab carriers tend to be cheaper, and since we’re not rich, I have tried a few, including Air Morocco, and Tunisian Airlines. Egypt Air was pleasantly surprising. Unlike Moroccan and Tunisian Airlines, there was no alcohol being served. Mashallah, the dua for travel was made by the pilot, and flashed on a screen for passengers. That felt really good, to travel with people who believe that success in anything, including travel, lies with the Lord of the world.

I’ve spoken with people who won’t travel with European carriers, cause they don’t want to travel with ‘kaafirs’, but for me it’s always been a safety issue.  And as far as I’m concerned, you can’t tell any outward difference between the Europeans lines and the ‘muslim’ ones (except Egypt Air).  Well, mashallah, Egypt Air has been around for 75 years, they were the seventh carrier in the world and the first in Africa.  I don’t know how they rate for safety, but that is noteworthy experience. The only down side was that my luggage was lost.  I shopped til I dropped for clothes/toys for the kids (partly to make up for leaving them in Egypt). and they were really disappointed.  Alhamdulillah, I got a call at 4am two days after my arrival, and they had my stuff!  All of it!  And they delivered it to my door. 

America was a bit of a shock.  All that stuff, and for cheap!  Walmart!  Dollar Stores!  Dunkin Donuts!  There was too much to choose from and I couldn’t possible get a taste of everything I’ve been missing.  Seeing my dh was the best part.  He had everything waiting for me, red roses, chocolates, even TWIZZLERS, LOL!  12 days just was not enough time, especially when I had to meet with friends and family.  Also had a very interesting experience taking my drivers test (to renew) with an Indian named ‘George’. 

No problem going through US Customs, alhamdulillah.  Was waved right through.  This was my first time traveling  alone internationally so I was confused switching over to my connecting flight, but alhamdulillah made it.  For the first time I was asked to remove my niqab in America!  I’m used to it in Egypt, but usually they’ll get you a woman.  I did have one male officer who insisted I lift up my niqab, but he was probably curious (or miffed) because I insisted I am originally from America.  I always get that, going in or out of a muslim country.  First, where are you originally from.  Me: America.  No, originally, originally.  Me: America.  Where is your father from?  Me: He’s American too.  They finally give up and hand the passport back, after insisting on seeing my face (they want to make sure I am a REAL American?).

The trip back was ok, except  I left on yawm al-Arafat and arrived on Eid.  So no fasting and no Eid prayer for me!  The person who checked me in at Delta was a muslim, who gave salaams, then mentioned that the ssss symbol on the lower right part of my ticket meant I’d been picked out for ‘additional scrutiny’.  Then he  moved me to the front of the line, to the puzzlement of the white businessmen behind me.  The Ohare screeners were pretty nice (much better than New York, where I was told to spread ’em and patted down).  Once back in Egypt the crew wished us kulli am wa antum tayyabeen.  Not really a substitute for missing Eid with family, but it’ll have to do.  I’d looked forward to getting some pics of all the slaughter that goes on in the streets, but most of it was finished by the time I got here.  Looking forward to my next visit with my dh!  

Ein Sukhna

We tried to take a vacation recently to Ein Sukhna, or hot springs.  It’s a spot near the Red Sea, where mostly Egyptians vacation, as opposed to tourists from outside of Egypt.  That means it’s more affordable, and with a more Islamic atmosphere. 

We basically went on the spur of the moment, because that’s how dh is.  He gets it in his head to go somewhere, and he wants to do it that day.  Unfortunately it was Friday and we couldn’t find a driver.  We did find one Egyptian brother, Usama, someone I’d dealt with before to go to Rehab.  He seemed pretty nice.  Dh makes the arrangements for the brother to show  up at 9am Saturday.  I shop, prepare food and get the kids ready.  Well, 9am Saturday, no Usama.  Dh calls him.  He apologizes and says he was out late.  Dh is like, ‘And?  We had an agreement.’ So he says he’ll call “Muhammad” to come get us in an hour.  Dh told him to call and confirm that “Muhammad” would actually be showing up.  We didn’t hear anything, so dh calls around and finds someone else, who shows up about 10am.  We’ve been traveling for an hour, when dh cell phone rings.  It’s Usama to let us know our driver is downstairs waiting!  Dh is like, brother, we left.  They go back and forth, dh letting him have to for breaking his agreement.  Finally Usama says, ‘Cancel my number from your cell phone.’  I think he meant erase, but his English is shaky.  Dh was like, shukran, wassalam. 

I was like, hold on one minute.  He’s in the wrong and is telling us not to call again!  As if we did him wrong!  The problem is that there are so many foreigners in Egypt now, that some people have started to have it a little good.  They don’t have to worry about giving good service, cause hey, someone new will come along.  But I just had to put our experience out there and we will definately not be calling that brother again. 

 On to the trip, the driver who actually took us was a brother dh had met previously while taking a taxi to the Cairo International Bookfair, two years ago.  The brother had welcomed us to Cairo, and actually treated us to a lunch of falafel.  He tried  to refuse the fare, but dh insisted on paying.  Fast forward two years.  He lets us know his rates, they turn out to be a bit more than the previous brother, but he says he’s giving us a discount on his normal fees.  Ok.  On the way he offers to rent us a tire from the car for 5 LE to swim with.  Dh is like huh?!  Later dh related the sad reality that the brother had changed.  From treating us, to trying to make whatever money he could.  The price even ended up changing at the end of the day, but we’ll get to that.  The point was dh knew an Egyptian that seemed different from the many that try to fleece you, but now he’s joined the mainstream, mashallah.  I viewed it a little differently.  The brother has married and has a kid, now.  He, probably feels he has to make every dime, or piastre he can.  I wish he could treat us like ‘normal’, but who knows how I’d act if the roles were reversed.

On to Ein Sukhna.  I’d heard you could rent a place for a reasonable amount, and have a good amount of privacy.  Try as we might, we could not find any place to rent.  We ended up just paying to sit on a crowded beach, which was none too clean.  Dh first refused to get out of the car.  When he finally did, he just sat there, cursing Egypt and Egyptians, and vowing never to travel again, lol.  He really likes many aspects of living here, but he hates getting burned.  LOL, when we got home, the brother upped the price of taking us there, reasoning, well, you didn’t have to pay for a hotel, so you may as well give it to me! 

We are used to just picking up and going someone in the States, but obviously it’s not a good idea in Egypt.  Plan in advance and prepare.  Alhamdulillah, all was not in vain.  The kids had a good time in the water.  The scenery on the way was beautiful, the roads cut right through the mountians.  Here are some pics. 

The Red Sea

Red Sea

The beach

beach

On the way:

A masjid on the road