By Troy Headrick
I’ve been gone from this blog for about a month, and now I’m back.
A lot has happened during my absence. So much, in fact, that I found it hard to write.
Back in mid-July, my wife and I traveled to Egypt, her home country, for exactly two weeks. We had plans to pack a lot of activities into that half a month. Carrying those out left me feeling like I needed a vacation from my vacation once I’d flown back to the US.
Egypt is an amazing country that’s located on an astounding continent. (My Kenyan friend and Pointless Overthinking colleague, A. B. Osogo, often refers to Africa as the “motherland,” and it certainly feels like the womb of the world, the place where everything got its start.) And for those of you who have Cairo on your bucket list—I can’t tell you how many people have told me they have dreams of traveling to that massive metropolis—I have a bit of advice: Rest up before you go. That’s because it’s enormous and loud and colorful and sleepless and wild and filled to the brim in every way it can be. Calling it “intense” is an incredible understatement. For example, Google “Cairo, Egypt traffic” and then click on videos to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
The jewel in the crown of this recent Egyptian trip was a visit we made to several villages in the El-Dahkla oasis of Upper Egypt, which, paradoxically, is located in southern part of the country, down toward Sudan, a part with the highest elevation thus making it “upper.” My wife’s brother, a successful businessman who owns a large factory in Cairo, is starting a food export business and has thousands of date trees growing on a large farm in a village call Ain Oda. We went down to check out his farm, visit family in the area, and do a bit of touristing.
My header image is one I took in Al-Qasr, a city of hundred thousand located a few miles from Ain Oda. Right on the edge of new Al-Qasr lies the remnants of an ancient, abandoned city which we explored. The place felt older than old and was incredibly beautiful and somewhat “magical” in the sort of way that only such places can be.
Ain Oda has about one thousand citizens. I was told, by more than one person in the village, that I was the first “agnabi” (“foreigner”) to ever step foot into the place. Of course, my presence was big news. During our walks around town, everyone wanted to see me, to provide me with a service of one sort of another, to invite me to some activity or gathering, to show me that they knew a bit of English. I was both honored and made more than a little self-conscious by the whole process. (It is hard for a shy person to suddenly become the center of attention and be the reason that crowds gather.)
Of course, it is perfectly understandable that all this took place. Curiosity is a universal human attribute. I wanted to meet them and learn more about their customs, so I was just as guilty of gawking as they were. I was also likely making as many assumptions about them as they were making about me. Despite my “foreignness,” I managed to connect, in a very deep way, with a lot of the locals and (hopefully) made a positive impression. I certainly was impressed with them, especially their joie de vie and hospitality.
Thanks for reading about my recent adventure. Have any of you ever traveled to Africa or had a similar trip, perhaps to a different part of the world? If so, I’d like to hear about it in the “comments” section.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.
If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.