By Benjamin Engle
I am very fortunate to have traveled to Egypt during the winter break for Professor Ghaly’s miniterm. Everyday was a new day full of excitement and intrigue as we often weren’t sure what we would be experiencing and observing.
During the three weeks in the African country, 42 Union students traveled to at least 15 towns and cities to explore ancient and modern Egypt. As I wrote in my journal, “Words cannot accurately describe the past three weeks. It has easily been the most productive and most fun winter break I’ve had in college. Sure, some places and hotels were nicer than others, but all in all, it was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will treasure forever.”
Because of my fantastic experiences in Egypt, it has been hard watching and reading news reports of “chaos” and “crisis” in the country. The news often makes Egypt sound like a violent and unpleasant place to be in; however, during the three weeks I spent there, I experienced friendly and courteous people who were excited to meet American students.
It is often forgotten that Tahrir Square, the central location of the Egyptian protests, is currently home to Egypt’s pride and glory, the Egyptian Museum. It was sad to see people trying to loot their own heritage during the early days of protesting.
It has been sad to see Cairo in disarray because the rest of the country is truly beautiful and historic. Besides visiting the Giza Pyramids outside of downtown Cairo, we traveled to many ancient cities and towns including Sakkara, Memphis, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the Nubian Village, Kom Ombo, and Alexandria. We climbed Mt. Sinai and saw the biblical burning bush in St. Catherine. We also had the opportunity to spend time on the Red Sea in the gorgeous resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheik. My favorite city, however, was Luxor and its West Bank, home to the Valley of the Kings, the Avenue of the Sphinxes, and Karnack and Luxor Temples.
Toward the end of the trip, I was impressed by the Egyptian culture and atmosphere, as I recapped in my journal, “Going to Egypt, however, was amazing. Simply amazing. I learned about a whole new culture—different money, language, and religions. I learned how to haggle and I learned how to repack my suitcase every three days. The tombs and temples were remarkable in every way and the ancient Egyptians were so advanced and smart. They had technology and architecture, and today we struggle to achieve in the ways they did despite our computers and formulas.”