Well, I have officially been living in Cairo for a week. Maybe saying Cairo is putting it too loosely. My campus is located in New Cairo, which is an hour away from downtown Cairo and is surrounded by desert. The closest development is a cluster of houses in the making. So while twiddling my thumbs in the middle of nowhere Egypt I have been making a list of places in which I hope to travel:

Now I realize being here for only a semester is a hinderance to my plan of traveling everywhere the Middle East has to offer. In all reality, I hope to at least make it to Turkey while I am here.

Now when I finally arrived at the Cairo Airport, I was excited to be out of an airplane and in the country I have dreamed about for years. But before I could start my voyage, I had to get through security and obtain my bags followed by customs. Security was easy enough; however, my bags were the only ones on the entire flight that were put on Air France (I flew Delta). Thankfully that flight was landing right after ours. Customs…well I didn’t have to go through customs? After receiving my bags, I was able to walk right out of the airport. It was strange.

As soon as I stepped out of the building, I was shocked. The city was bustling and the air was questionable. I say questionable because it was so thick and filled with lord only knows what that I doubt it could really be called air. The people; however, were very nice and helped get all our bags into the shuttles taking us to our dorms.

On the way to campus I saw my life flash before my eyes countless times. That is not even exaggerated. Driving here is more dangerous than getting into a closed cage with a hungry lion while wearing a steak necklace. People drive between, on and around the lines. Flashing their lights and honking their horns at every passing car is customary. And driving on the wrong side of the road towards on coming traffic is way of passage for these drivers.

Once safely on Campus, we all dragged our luggage across campus to where the dorms were stationed. Bags lined the halls as girls (and guys, on the other side) tried to sign in and discover their new living area. Up to that point, no one knew what room they had or who they were rooming with. I still have no idea who I am rooming with as she has yet to arrive. For awhile I believe I was the only one in my unit (the dorms are separated into separate buildings – or units), but now I finally hear movement in the building.

During an orientation, the campus rules were discussed. Men are not to enter the women’s dorm area and vice versa. If that rule is broken, the student will be packed and leaving the dorms within 30 minutes. Here, men and women are not even allowed to touch really. Now I was expecting a form of conservatism, but I underestimated it by far. Holding hands, hugging for more than 5 seconds, and kissing are all taboo. PDA is not heard of when it comes to this culture.

Last night I made my first venture into downtown Cairo with a friend. [IMPORTANT: As a woman, never travel alone in this country. It just isn’t safe.] Once we arrived downtown, we had to take a taxi to meet a friend in a different area. Taxis here come in two varieties, white and black. If you can, always take a white taxi. White taxis either have a meter or they negotiate the price beforehand which is usually reasonable. We caught two white taxis to meet our friend (we went to the wrong place at first and had to catch another cab). The first was a decent price, but the second charged us way too much. Negotiating is something I will have to get used to.

Once with our friend, we went to a local place for a girl in our group to break the fast. Right now is where I should mention that it is Ramadan where muslims fast all day and feast at night. We went to a place called “Falfela” which specializes in the making of Foul, Taameya, Koushary, and Shawerma. I had a foul sandwich with tahini (this is smashed fava beans with a special sauce) which came out looking like an uncrustable you get at school cafeterias. Once you get over the looks and texture, it is actually a very tasty dish. Dinner was followed by a visit to an egyptian bakery where I was in heaven and could have spent my entire holding of egyptian pounds.

After indulging my sweet tooth, we walked around downtown for awhile. We had to cross the street many times which is not as easy a thing to do as it is in the states. Here, there may be crosswalks, but the drivers ignore them. You have to brave it, and weave between the on coming cars that are speeding towards you. It is pretty scary when you have cars honking and screeching their breaks around you every 5 seconds. While walking the streets, the girls in our group were constantly hit on and talked to. If this happens, please, keep walking and ignore what they are saying. Replying only makes things worse.

As a side note, my group consisted of four girls and one guy. While walking around, we were thought to be our guy friend’s four wives. Yea, its legal here for a muslim man to have up to four wives at a time. Go figure.

A little later, we needed to get to another part of town so that a few people in our group could look at an apartment. We hailed a cab, unfortunately a black cab, and were on our way. When we got there a girl, who has been here for months and knows the way things work, handed him 7 pounds and we got out of the car. He apparently was not happy with that amount and started following and yelling at us. We ducked into a bookstore nearby, but before my friend could enter, the guy caught up with her and ended up pushing her (this is a big no no). Thankfully, the guy behind us saw this and stood up to confront the taxi driver who ran away.

After taxis, confrontations, haggling, and walking, I finally headed back to campus with my friend from the beginning. I took a quick shower, popped some sleeping pills, and crawled into bed to play sudoku. *sigh*