I have arrived safely in
Alexandria and have begun exploring my new surroundings! I really
like it here. There is lots of activity going on at all
hours...this is a big city and it never sleeps! In my
neighborhood there are lots of shops and places to get food...even a
new coffee shop! I am about two blocks away from the sea.
It is not a bad walk at all. Once you get up to the main street
along the sea (called the Corniche), you can cross the street via an
underground tunnel. Then you arrive on the other side and you can
stroll along the walkway by the sea. There are covered areas with
benches all along this walkway as well. My area does not have a
beach, but if I walked a little to the east, there would be one.
My neighborhood is Sporting, and we are located just a little east of
the Eastern Harbor. Alexandria has an Eastern and a Western
Harbor, divided by the spit of land where Fort Qaitbey stands.
Fort Qaitbey is built on the spot where the Pharos Lighthouse (one of
the seven wonders of the world) once stood. They used some stones
from the Pharos to build Qaitbey, and some of the Pharos' stones are
visible under the water near the Fort as well. Anyway, I can see
the Fort from the coast by my neighborhood.
My neighborhood also has a
"country club" of sorts called the Sporting Club. This club was
built in 1898 and is where my district gets its
name. You can join it or you can pay to go in for the day and use
its facilities. They have a weight room, tennis courts, pools, an
18-hole golf course, and a running track. The track is said to
have been used by Cleopatra for horse races! And indeed they
still held horse races here until the 1960s.
We have a tram that runs
throughout the city, and there is a stop right by my
neighborhood. It is a very convenient way to get around, and only
costs the equivalent of 4 cents (USD) to use it! Taxis are also
very convenient and can get you anywhere in the city for less than a
dollar. In fact, most everything here is really cheap. I
got a chocolate cappucino at our local coffee shop today for about 65
cents. The only things that are more expensive are imports.
My apartment is really nice--much
larger than what I had in the U.S. The common areas have
beautiful tile work, and the bedrooms have hard wood floor. It is
pre-furnished, so that was nice. The shower is in a big room,
just on the wall. Also in the room are a sink and an electrical
outlet! So you can do lots of things while taking a shower, but I
guess this would be one place where you would need to pay attention to
the warning label on your hairdryer that says not to use it in the
shower. The toilet is in a separate room.
The apartment has three
balconies: one off my bedroom, one off the kitchen, and one off
the sitting room. They all face different directions, so that is
nice. The main one, off the sitting room, is larger and overlooks
the garden courtyard of our building. It would also have a view
of the sea if there wasn't another building in the way!
I got to attend services on Friday
with a local international congregation. That was nice, and one
of the families was hosting a holiday party that night and they invited
me. That was a really fun time. I got to meet lots of
people, and we had lots of food and sang carols! They wanted to
sing all the carols about snow...hahaha! Most congregations meet
on Friday since that is the day of worship around here.
In fact, when we got out of our
service, we could hear the local service being broadcast over
loudspeakers from the mosque. Every mosque broadcasts its entire
service on Fridays so that everyone can hear one, no matter where they
are in town. Also the call to prayer is broadcast from every
mosque five times a day. There are two or three mosques within
earshot of my apartment, so I get to hear LOTS of calls to
prayer! And they are not always simultaneous, so that's
fun. Even in public places and malls and such, the call to prayer
is broadcast and there is a prayer room where people can go to pray.
I had my first Arabic lesson on
Saturday. I have a tutor until the end of January, and then we'll
see what I'll do after that. I thought the lesson went well, and
my tutor said I did a good job, so that's encouraging!
If you want to see pictures, click
on the following links:
Click on the picture above to see
pics from Frankfurt, Germany.
(I bummed around the town for a bit while there for my 14-hour layover)
Oh--one tidbit from the
airplane. On the flight from Atlanta to
Frankfurt, there was a guy sitting diagonally across from me who did
everything opposite from the rest of the plane. He slept the
whole time while the lights were on and the meals were being
served. But as soon as the lights went out for us to sleep, he
woke up and started working on his laptop and studying some notes from
a class. When the lights came on again for us to wake up and have
breakfast, he went back to sleep. So he never had a chance to
talk or interact with anyone. I happened to catch a glimpse of
the heading on his page of notes, and do you know what he was
studying? Conversational Skills. You can't make this stuff
Click on the picture above to see
pics from Alexandria, Egypt