… part 1?
I recently spent nearly 3 weeks on a whirlwind tour through Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and am still processing everything I saw and learned (ancient Egyptian history crash course while marveling at the ruins of the temples, tombs and pyramids? Check.). Not to mention STILL going through the 11 250 pictures I took… talk about trigger happy. To be fair, the vast majority of them were bracketed photos (under- and over-exposed, and normal exposure, per shot) so you can divide that number by 3… AND there was barely any other tour groups there due to the tensions with Syria so my pictures of the ancient sites are tourist-free! But still, it’s a lot to process. It was an AMAZING trip. I got to see the pyramids, Petra, Jerusalem… and so much more (P.S. the pyramids are a little over-rated in my opinion.The temples are way cooler and display just as, if not more, amazing architectural feats).
The main thing I learned from this trip though?
How blessed I am to live in Canada.
Because Canada has:
- water that is FREE and is SAFE to drink from the tap (we could only drink bottled water in Egypt and Jordan to be safe. Not only is it expensive, but think of all the plastic bottles that are NOT being recycled and will likely end up dumped on the dirty, polluted streets… not to mention not being able to eat fresh veggies or fruit… killed me)
- clean air (Egypt is crazy dusty… I know, I know, you’re saying, “But Grace, the country is mostly desert! Of course it’s dusty!” True, but the desert areas are actually quite clean. I’m talking about the big cities, especially Cairo. So. Dirty. I had a nasty cough the entire time because of the air quality.)
- freedom of speech, religion, equal rights, and education (never have I more appreciated what we Canadians take for granted every day)
I love how travelling opens up a ton of new perspectives, and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have been able to visit nearly every continent in my 24 years (just missing South America and Australia!). This trip definitely expanded my horizons the most out of all my travels thus far. Arabic culture is so, so different from Western and Asian cultures. I saw a massive clash between semi-Westernization and traditional Arabic culture in Egypt and Jordan. For example, you see 30+ year-old cars crowding the streets (3 lane road? 5 cars going through), alongside donkeys pulling carts stacked with sugar cane, or men wearing either the traditional garb (long robes) or Western wear (designer jeans and tight graphic tees with dress shoes).
Here, I can walk around without being bothered, whereas in Egypt and Jordan, I was stared at for being Oriental and leered at for being a woman and not being covered from head to toe. In Luxor, there was actually an Egyptian family that excitedly asked if they could take a picture with me because they’d never seen an Asian before! Most people I met couldn’t grasp the fact that I was Chinese, but not from China! Such strange notions since I’m so used to multicultural Canada.
After 1.5 weeks in Egypt and Jordan, going to Israel was a reverse culture shock. I didn’t expect it to be SO Westernized! I mean, we had free wi-fi on the tour bus! It was like coming back to civilization! Traffic is orderly (as opposed to complete chaos on Egyptian streets), there’s no garbage anywhere in sight (everywhere in Egypt), people are dressed similarly to us (barring the extremely religious Jews), and the ultimate sign of Westernization? Malls and food courts :P It was nice to be able to feel safe walking around (we were accompanied by a security guard and at times, a security envoy with soldiers carrying AK-47’s in Egypt and Jordan). Even the air is clean (my cough subsided substantially once we arrived in Israel). Ruins in Israel are similar to those in Italy, since most are Roman or heavily Roman-influenced. It was just cool to think, “Jesus walked here…”. Definitely a different kind of ‘wow‘ factor.
Anyways, I’ll leave you with a pic from my favourite temple, Karnak… teaser for the full albums I’ll be posting on FB and Google+… will take me forever to get those up! (or never… see my Flickr for my favourite shots)