one more from Cairo

Or, should I say, "una mas de Cairo." I think more Egyptians speak espanol than the average OC soccer moms. In the Coptic district we saw whole stores advertising in Spanish (No English to be seen.) We're accosted by constant: "Hola! Como estas? Cola frio!" etc.

We're living in a truly global world.

We got a taste of every major religion today (and hence probably ran the gamut of conflict in the Middle East.) In the Coptic district, we visited the Hanging Church (Al Muallaqah) and then the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is allegedly the site where the pharoah's daughter found Moses hiding. It's a small synagogue that looks like an orthodox church from the inside, save for the torah on the altar in the middle. That should serve the roughly 200 Jews left living in Egypt (according to our guidebook.) Then we caught a cab to the city's massive Citadel, home to the even more massive Mohammed Ali mosque. I wore a knee-length skirt and t-shirt, which apparently was enough to require me to don a green smock. Ladies in t-shirts and capris got through unscathed. Don't worry, I took a picture. Yes, I PROMISE I'm about to look for a place to download my pictures.

Security appears to be tighter today. We actually had the tourism police all but escort us through the metro station and there were several metal detectors and pat downs to enter the citadel. Luxor should be quieter, though Sharm el-Sheikh ought to be pretty tight, too.

Another word on food: We've given up on overcharging at restaurants and are sticking with falafel and foul (pronounced fool) and koshary (a vegetarian noodle dish) from street vendors. A complete meal for the three of us, with fresh mango and strawberry juices cost $2 and was infinitely tastier than the kebabs in the restaurants (which, for me, are all too familiar.)

Freeha left us today and should be at the airport by now. Courtney and I will finish our last night in Cairo with a boat ride down the Nile before catching the 12:30 a.m. train to Luxor. It's a 12-hour ride. Should be interesting...


habla espanol?

I don't know if it's my dark hair and pale skin, or my green spanish-style scarf or my general European demeanor, but every vendor/scammer/hawker at Giza and in the bazaars of Khan al-Khalili is absolutely convinced I'm an espanola.

"Hola senora! Como estas?"

I never heard this much Spanish when I was covering Anaheim. Courtney got jealous and began conversing with the vendors in Spanish and telling them she was from Spain. I spoke Armenian just to see what reaction I would get. (Confused looks, for the most part.)

We spent the blazing hot morning and afternoon (high of 38 degrees celsius) at the pyramids in Saqqara and Giza. Pictures can't do them justice. The architectural phenomenon of such a massive structure built thousands of years ago is enough to give you some serious pause and reflect on the true meaning of hard labor.

That said, I still couldn't bring myself to climb down the narrow passageways inside the pyramids. I tried the first one in Saqqara and less than 10 feet down, I suddenly realized I couldn't bear the thought of going any further. Add claustrophobia to the list of Eleeza's irrational fears. Courtney and Freeha, meanwhile, bravely climbed down, around, into and above every nook and cranny they can find. For that, I salute them.

A word on food: Awesome. And CHEAP. In Khan al-Khalili (a massive bazaar spread across dozens of city blocks and narrow alleys), we stopped for tea and sheesha (nargeeleh/hookah) at El Fishawy a family-owned cafe since 1778. We got a bit hungry, so Freeha grabbed some foul from a nearby stand. They threw in some tahina and falafel and the total was 3.50 in Egyptian pounds. Roughly 50 cents. And that was a complete meal! If you're looking for budget travel, Egypt is the place to be.

Tomorrow is our last day in Cairo. Courtney and I catch the overnight train to Luxor around midnight. I'll catch up with you all down there.

P.S. In case you're worried about terrorist, apparently so is the foreign ministry. An article in the Egyptian Mail today quoted a foreign ministry official as saying that Egypt isn't doing enough to combat terrorist. What a relief, eh?


walk like an Egyptian

We did, all over the Egyptian Museum today and my legs are killing me. It didn't help that last night I had a massive cramp in my leg for a solid hour. You know me, if I don't twist my ankle, I'm bound to hurt myself somehow. I'm sure a twisted ankle is coming up.

But let's start at the beginning.

Arrived last night in Cairo and less than an hour later, Courtney appeared to meet us in baggage claim. We caught a taxi to our hotel on Eltahrir Square and can see the Nile from our room. Yeah, it's awesome here.

We all got a solid night's sleep and have been wandering the streets of downtown Cairo that surround us. At every corner we're met by "friendly" locals, who insist they're not interested in your money and helpfully tell you that the museum/Internet cafe/etc. is closed but their business is open. It took us two times and we learned the trick.

Tonight we're having dinner with a friend of a friend, who helped Courtney and I buy tickets on the overnight train to Luxor. After seeing the neverending collection of sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?), jewels, etc. in the Museum, we're anxious to get to the tombs themselves. And tomorrow: The Pyramids!


almost forgot

I've already gotten a few emails about the bombing in Egypt, so I just wanted to let you know where I'm going to be. Don't worry, because I'm not.

Courtney and I are staying near Sharm El Sheik for a few days next week. Dahab, the city where the bombings occurred is nearby and is apparently on the road to the ferry we're going to take to cross over to Jordan. (yes, the ferry that sank and I'm way more worried about that than the stupid terrorists.)

In fact, Courtney tells me it may work to our advantage. Tourists are pouring out of the country and we're hoping to get into a better hotel in Cairo now.

So please don't worry. I'll be just fine. You know me; I'd rather flirt with disaster than scuba dive with the fishes. (Yes, Courtney, I'm still freaking out about the scuba diving. We'll discuss more in Egypt.)

finally, africa

Apartheid may be over in South Africa, but the remnants of that system remain in the informal settlements that dot the edges of the city.

We took a day trip to Soweto today, where the student anti-apartheid protests started in 1976. We saw Nelson Mandela's house and just down the road, Archbishop Desmond Tutu's house. It's the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners. Inside Soweto is Kliptown, a shantytown of aluminum shacks. And despite it all, the residents smile and introduce themselves to you warmly. They ask for nothing except kindness. Not money, not food, not clothes. They're too proud.

They live in the shadow of a giant monument to the African National Congress. For all the progress that party made for the people of South Africa, there are still thousands living in absolutely destitute conditions, with no running water or electricity. One tap provides clean water for 60 families. It really boggles the mind.

We also saw the Apartheid Museum today, which really drove home the violence and climate of fear that was perpetuated here for 50 years. Everywhere you turn here, Nelson Mandela's name or image is used as a point of reverence and for good reason. He really did save this country. He and the other activists and political prisoners who fought despite every threat imaginable to create a more democratic society. There are still many problems -- particularly with crime and AIDS -- but the South Africans we speak with say they have hope and that with three or four generations things will change.

I hope they're right.

Tonight is our last night in Joburg. Tomorrow night we fly to Cairo via a 10-hour layover in Dubai, where I'm anxious to see my cousins and aunt.

On with the world tour!


Larry and Zaheera got married

That title about sums up the last week in Durban. The wedding was last night and went off (for the most part) without any major hitches. That said, the bride and groom looked fantastic and happy (probably relieved -- especially Z) when it was all over.

The ceremony took place on the pool deck at the Elangeni Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean. About 300 people crowded onto the patio and separated the men from the women, despite Z's mom's frustrations. The Islamic ceremony was interested. A table of about 10 men, including Larry, sat off to one side and Zaheera was seated alone to the other side of the aisle. Several prayers were said and Larry was asked twice if he had Zaheera's permission for marriage. He of course replied yes. Zaheera was asked nothing during the ceremony and simply prayed. There were a few other traditions mixed in and the ring exchange wasn't done until we were inside the banquet hall after the nikkah (ceremony) was complete. After some dinner and far too many chocolate desserts, most the guests filed out as apparently is the custom. And when it was left to only family, the music started and the dancing begun. I put on my bhangra shoes and showed the boys how to really shake it to the Bollywood tunes. (Yes, you can start making fun of me now.)

The last two nights I've been going out with these boys as everyone in the wedding party has been too exhausted to make it out of the house. Imagine me, with my pale skin in an Indian-style outfit from the mehndi party (explanation to come) waltzing into a cafe at 2 in the morning, escorted by a dozen Indian men. Yeah, I got a few looks. Still, I put up with them and dished it out and apparently was impressive enough to prompt one of Z's cousins -- all of whom I've adopted as my own and all who insist on us returning to South Africa -- repeatedly proposed marraige to me. Don't worry, Mom, I refused. Over and over again. He's very sweet, but Durban just isn't my style.

I finally went to bed shortly before dawn for a few hours sleep before my flight to Johannesburg today. We've checked into our hostel (I'm with Freeha, one of Zaheera's bridesmaids, who's from LA) and have already taken a 3-hour nap to recover from the madness of the week. We both agree we feel as if we're finally in Africa -- not India.

I'd like to send you all postcards but it seems my address book has old addresses for many of you. If you want pictures of lions and elephants in the mail, send me your mailing address.

Oh yeah, almost forgot about the mehndi party Friday night. It was a blast. Almost everyone from the U.S. dressed in Indian clothes, I performed in a bhangra dance routine with 13 other cousins and friends and we even got a hookah set up. No party is complete without that. Oh yes, and the night before we'd had the mehndi (henna) applied to our hands. I only did a design on the top side of my right hand. I'll try to post some pictures soon if I can figure out how to do it.

Three more days in South Africa, then on to Egypt!


sonbono from south africa

That's Zulu in case you're wondering. I may be in Durban, but I might as well be in India. I feel I won't really be seeing Africa until I get to Johannesberg on Sunday afternoon. Every minute has been nonstop with the Wahid family since I stepped off my South African Airways flight Sunday afternoon in Durban. I was welcomed to the country with warm, humid and heavy weather. All the better to shower and take a nap.

The first night was spent at one of Zaheera's many aunts and uncles' homes. Not a home so much as a villa on a hill over the city. Pretty phenomenal. I scarfed down some much-needed normal food, Indian of course. Still, *not* food served in little plastic cups. Before I knew it we were headed to a Bhangra club at the Durban Hilton. For my uninitiated friends, Bhangra is a poppy style of Indian music. Z's cousins tell me they think I'm part-Indian. I think they might be right. The food is great, the music is awesome. I fit in just fine. Zaheera's father even told me and Freeha (who's joining me in Jo'burg) that we're now his adopted daughters. (See mom, I told you they'd take care of us.)

Monday was spent on safari. After no sleep for two days and barely 3 hours of sleep on Sunday night, we awoke before dawn Monday for our safari in Hluhluwe National Park. (pronounced shu-shluway. "hl" is pronounced "sh""). We saw elephants, giraffes, more warthogs than I ever need to see, buffalo but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) no lions or other wild cats. I wouldn't have noticed. I often fell asleep in the bumpy Indiana Jones-style jeep.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent bumming around Durban's malls and jeeps. Not much new about the malls, though I will say that they have more sari stores than South Coast Plaza. (By the way; tomorrow I'm dressing Indian style to do a dance for the mehndi -- henna -- party. Oh yes, I'm going to be the spectacle of a white girl. But Zaheera's entire family INSISTS I participate. Who am I to turn down a dance?)

As for the aftermaths of apartheid, there may not be legally imposed segregation, but there's definitely a self-segregation. Yesterday we stopped off at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (the state in which Durban is). As we walked around the campus it dawned on me that I was the only white face there. The student population was exclusively black and Indian. It was pretty incredible. Apparently it was once exclusively an Indian college and just now has started to mix with the black population. Another campus is nearly all white. I've heard it's a bit more mixed in Jo'berg...we shall see.

OK, this is the first time I've been able to get a DSL connection. All the homes have dial-up. How did we ever survive before cable and DSL? That said, however, it's $5 every 15 minutes, so I'll keep this short. I should have better Internet access in Jo'berg and will fill you all in on the details of the wedding. Right now, I'm off to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Keep leaving comments. Getting into my email usually isn't too difficult.

Loving and missing you all!

Your friend/daughter/niece/granddaughter/resident loon-in-exile,


guten tag von frankfurt!

The following comes is an email I just sent my mother because I'm too cheap to pay more than 1 euro for the piddlz subway Internet station. Besides, it covers all the bases. (Sorry you don't get original details, Mom.)

Also, Jessez, I DID have a frankfurter. It was DELICIOUS.

One final note, I board my flight to Cape Town tonight at 10 p.m. only to arrive 12 hours later, wait 2 hours for another 2 hour flight to Durban, where I will promptly fall to pieces at Zaheera's aunt's house before preparing to leave on safari the next day at 7 a.m.

In other words: Don't expect another post for a few more days.


Hello from Frankfurt!

Thank you for the numbers. I arrived in Frankfurt at 10 a.m. and now it's 530 in the afternoon. I'm exhausted and can't wait to go to sleep on the flight to South Africa. I slept only a few hours on the flight to Germany. While I was stretching my legs near the kitchen I met a girl from Halab (Aleppo, Syria for my neophyte readers) who was flying to Beirut via Frankfurt. She's a medical student at AUB (American University of Beirut). She was excited to hear of my ties to Halab and AUB. She's an Arab Christian, in case you're wondering. While we were talking about languages a Frenchman overheard us and the three of us spent three hours talking and had breakfast together after we landed. He's a French Jew who lives in LA. Imagine that picture, the Armenian, Arab Christian and French Jew drinking wine on the plane then eating eggs in Frankfurt (we decided to have breakfast together before going our separate ways). I'm hoping to see her when I'm in Beirut in June. Because she has a Syrian passport she could only get a transit visit for Frankfurt and couldn't leave the airport with me, but she also had a 10 hour layover. I'm returning to the airport soon to have dinner with her before her flight. The Frenchman already left for Paris.

In Frankfurt, I took a train to the city center stop the woman at the Lufthansa counter recommended. It's a very lively area with a mall on one side of the river and a massive bazaar on the other, sort of like Vernissage but with almost all Arab vendors. Very odd. Walking along I found a museum (Koonsinstitut) the Frenchman recommended and got the student rate so I spent about an hour walking around and then managed to take a 20 minute nap while pretending to watch a video about Max Beckmann. I really can't wait to go to sleep.

Miss you already.

Shad bachignerov,



The countdown is ON. Less than 24 hours from now I'll be en route to Frankfurt. My bags are packed and my heart is racing.

Two MONTHS. TWO months. TWO MONTHS, PEOPLE! That's a looooong time. Understandably, I'm wigging.

One of the girls who left for South Africa Tuesday night called this afternoon. She arrived in Durban to discover her carry-on bag -- which she was forced to check in at Johannesburg b/c they ran out of overhead space -- had been rifled through. Gone were her jeans, contact lens and precription medications. Seeing as how it was her carry-on, she hadn't thought to lock it. Needless to say, I've packed extra locks.

Heart pounds again.

There's not much left I can do except toss and turn all night. I'll do that soon. But first, I'm grabbing my last Corona with some friends.

See you in two months!

coming soon...

Seeing as how you've all been itching to know what's going on with me, I've decided to create a new blog to keep you all up to date on which end of the State Department list I've worked my way down to. This'll be a good way to keep up to date when I move to DC and start school, as well.


In less than 48 hours I'll be en route to South Africa, via a wayyyyyyyyyy too long layover in Frankfurt. (Any recommendations in Frankfurt? I have 12 hours to kill.)

Current state of mind: stressed. I can't wait to sit on the plane, tilt the chair back and go to sleeeeeeeeeee..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Got through some of my financial aid paperwork today, made a second run to Target, though I'm sure there will be a third tomorrow, and even started packing. I'm *hoping* I can fit everything in a backpack, but that may just be a pipe dream.

An aside: darling Ellyn is quite the clever one. She gave me a handy travel emergency kit today as a birthday present, complete with mini toilet paper rolls and a packet of toilet seat covers. Who knew you could buy travel-sized toilet seat covers? I'm definitely keeping those handy in my purse from now on.

More to come before I leave. Stay tuned...