I'm in Cairo! Everything went fine on the flights over. I slept, ate, read, ate, and tried to remind myself that I really was going to Egypt for a month. When I landed, it still didn't seem real. I was met at the airport by May, my friend who I worked with for a year at the CDC. It's a bit of a hectic airport, to say the least, and seeing a familiar face was absolutely wonderful! The drive to NAMRU, where I'm working, was interesting--more about the driving later... At NAMRU, I met more people who I'd be working with and then got to join the carpool home to Maadi.
Ma'adi is south of the main city of Cairo. Many Americans live there and numerous embassies are also located there. It has more trees and is greener than much of the surrounding area. At one time, it was located outside of Cairo, but Cairo has grown to meet it. On the way home, we drove past the City of the Dead (it's homes and mausoleums all mixed in together) and the Citadel and then were treated with a view of all three pyramids of Giza. The pollution is so bad that that is a rare occurence--maybe only once every other week or so. I'll take it as a good omen that I was fortunate to see the pyramids on my first day in Egypt.
Now about the driving...First of all, I am not allowed to complain about Atlanta traffic or drivers ever again. Driving here is like organized chaos. There are no traffic lights and almost no traffic signs. Turn signals are rare, hand signals are much more common. Lines in the road are merely suggestions, as are arrows & one ways. Honking means everything--it's not out of road rage or anger, like in the states, but is a necessary form of communication. Pedestrians cross where ever. This morning, we passed a few donkeys with carts on the main road. At night, lights are considered rude & wasteful. They will be flashed on to signal to other cars and/or pedestrians, but mostly kept off. The people I've been driving with are amazing. They have nerves of steel and seemed to have adapted quite well to the organized chaos that is Cairo traffic. I feel safe & it's quite the way to start and end every day.
One amazing part of Egypt is how incredibly friendly, nice, and generous people are. Almost everyone I've met so far has given me their cell phone numbers and told me to call if I need anything. And they mean it. I'm well taken care of. :-)
Friday and Saturday are the weekend days here. I'll probably tackle the Egyptian museum and also take my first taxi--guaranteed to be an adventure. It will be time to try a new restaurant as well and I've been invited to a party. So far I've had koshari (typical Egyptian dish that is perfect for carb loading) and some really good soft shell chicken tacos. There are plans to watch the superbowl as well...
I miss everyone! More soon!