It was about four months after my dad moved to Egypt, when I decided to visit him over Christmas. He is still living alone and my mother will join him abroad very soon in February; in fact, their flight is tonight. I had a very special time in Egypt with my dad. He lives on a big farm, quite far from both the city of Cairo and Alexandria. Upon my arrival on the farm in Egypt, I received some beautiful red flowers on my bed side table. Although the borders outside the farm are protected by Egyptian Army and security, the farm itself is peaceful and quiet. In Egypt, most workers only have Fridays off, so my father and I used the Fridays for some exploring.
Before my departure, I did some research about Egypt and I read that in the earlier days, Egyptians called their country the “Two Lands,” considering the Nile Valley as Upper (Southern) Egypt and the delta as Lower (Northern) Egypt. Each was symbolized by a plant native to their region: the lotus (water lily) in Upper Egypt and the famous papyrus in Lower Egypt. They also referred to their country as the “Black Land” (kemet), alluding to the inhabited river valley and delta. That was opposed to the “Red Land” (deshret), the desert – the Arabian Desert to the east and the Libyan Desert to the west.
Egypt, of course, is mostly famous for its pyramids and the Nile River, and was the first world power of Bible history. Under its shadow the nation of Israel was formed. Moses, who penned the first five books of the Bible, was also born and educated in Egypt. Throughout the Bible, Egypt fulfills a dual role both as a place of refuge and a place of oppression, a place to “come up out of” and a place to flee to. This role begins with Abraham. He seeks refuge in Egypt because “there was a famine in the land” ( Gen 12:10 ); yet he must leave when Pharaoh wants to place Sarah in the royal harem. This is also the first recorded encounter of the divine ruler of Egypt and Yahweh the God of Abraham.
The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:13–23) and in New Testament Apocrypha. Soon after the visit by the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill him.
My dad and I visited the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, where Tutankhamen’s tomb was unearthed, where after we rode on a camel and a horse carriage.
The Egyptian Museum is conveniently located in Cairo, the capital city of Egypt and today it is home to 120,000 Egyptian artifacts, although it should be noted that not all items are on display. Many items need to be stored under very exact environmental conditions in order to prevent rapid deterioration. Nonetheless, there are enough items on display to warrant spending at least one or two full days at the museum.
I didn’t even make it through the whole museum after a few hours of exploring; we even saw a few mummies in some rooms. The museum is really big and consists of amazing historical artifacts. This was definitely the highlight of our day.
Throughout my visit, I learned that there are basically two main religions that carried out traditions in Egypt: Muslims and Copts. The metropolis is packed with soaring minarets and medieval schools and mosques for Muslims, some of the greatest architecture of medieval Islam. At the same time, Egypt’s native Christians, the Copts, have carried on their traditions that in many respects – such as the church’s liturgical language and the traditional calendar – link back to the time of the pharaohs.
The old saying that Egypt is the gift of the Nile still rings true; without the river there would be no fertile land, no food and a lot less electricity. During my next visit, I would love a day cruise on the Nile along with my family.
Now as many things in Egypt may shock you, this one definitely came as a big shock for me (although my father warned me before my arrival). The first thing a visitor in Egypt will learn is its national anthem: car horns. Egyptian traffic is notorious for it. Also, the whole of Egypt only has a handful of traffic lights. Apparently, chaotic conditions on Egypt’s streets are not solely due to the lack of proper infrastructure, but are the direct result of a lack of order.
I just wanted to stay on the farm, because going outside to a nearby city would mean that we would have to face the roads (and that I would have at least 5 mini heart attacks). You see, in Egypt, a two-lane road is not actually a two-lane road. A two-lane road is transformed into a five-lane road by drivers. No one drives in between the white markings (if they exist). This means that all cars are frighteningly close to one another. And be aware that at any given time, a vehicle can appear in you lane, heading your way. Yes, they drive on the left AND right side of the road, according to their personal preference I suppose.
Now for me, strange food is always a different story. Here I am in holiday mode, eating the Egyptian version of pita bread filled with scrabbled eggs and watching some tennis. The Arabic influence is clear when I compare the local food of Abu Dhabi and Egypt. The variety is great, from basic kebabs to local vegetables and rice, through the most traditional dish is Kosher. It’s a mix of rice, macaroni, and lentils topped with tomato-vinegar sauce and fried onions (I think my father has had enough of this dish for a lifetime).
The one thing I really wanted to do in Egypt (which I will consider again in the summer time) is snorkeling with the dolphins. The coast along the Red Sea has a rugged desert beauty above the waterline and is apparently very rewarding to explore on a day’s outing to one of the globe’s great dives or snorkeling jaunts along a coral wall.
On the last night of my visit, we went to the city of Alexandria, where we dined at a Greek restaurant next to the ocean. We could choose our own fresh fish from the counter and I chose fresh prawns and calamari (although the big, fat, red crabs looked pretty good and interesting too!) We had a spectacular view over the ocean and harbor.
Whether you’re watching the sun rise between the beautiful shapes of the White Desert or the shimmering horizon from the comfort of a hot spring in Siva Oasis, Egypt’s landscapes are endlessly fascinating.
I had an amazing time in Egypt, mostly because I could spend time with my dad. I went for quad bike rides some mornings and in the afternoons I went for a run with my dad on his popular jogging route between the orchids. What a privilege to be able to have some family time while exploring another country.
For my mom who will be arriving in Egypt tomorrow and who will be living there for a while, I want to say: I don’t think living in Egypt as an expatriate is for the weak or the fainthearted.
But neither were the last 25 years; raising up four children (who have all by now left the house), moving at least five times to different towns and farms and conquering every new challenge that life has thrown upon you. By His grace and power, you’ve overcome it all.
Mom and Dad, embrace and enjoy this new phase of life and know that we are blessed. Blessed beyond measure.
Deuteronomy 31:8 English Standard Version (ESV)
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”