I’m Back

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.

40 thoughts on “I’m Back

  1. That sounds like an amazing visit. No wonder you needed to rest up when you got home! The ancient abandoned city sounds intriguing and must have felt weird and wonderful to explore. By comparison, I have done nothing so exciting. I think I’m more of a ‘time traveller’ – my heart beats faster when exploring the wynds of Old Edinburgh thinking of the exploits of the bodysnatchers, and walking in the footsteps of the Brontes on Haworth Moor. The ancient city you spoke of appeals to me. It would be good to know its history.

    1. Your time travel sounds intriguing as well. We began to explore the place ourselves, but this fellow showed up–a local–and accompanied us. My Arabic isn’t very good, so I asked my wife to ask the guy if he knew if anyone had ever written a book about the abandoned city and he mentioned a professor at one of the Egyptian universities. Your question reminds me that I wanted to see if the book has been translated into English. So I’ll do a bit of research. I’ll post here if I find anything. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I live in Sri Lanka which is also pretty manic, though not by Egyptian (or Indian) standards – it’s sometimes called ‘India lite’. Also has ancient cultures. Anuradhapura, which hardly anyone outside the island has heard of, was in its heyday the second most important city on the planet, after Rome with which it traded (Roman coins have been found there). The largest dagoba (Buddhist dome structure) located there was, when built, the second biggest man-made structure on earth. The Great Pyramid at Gizeh is bigger, but the other pyramids are smaller. So if you want a treat, when travel is again possible, come to Sri Lanka! But the weirdest foreign trip I ever made was almost twenty years ago to visit my brother-in-law, now deceased, who lived on a very remote Philippines island. Took three days each way from UK to get there. Riding unhelmeted on multi-occupied motorcycles across plank bridges, spending a night on a prawn-fishing boat and watching (but not joining) the local kids digging up sandworms and eating them live were among the highlights!
    Glad you had such an exciting time – we need to spend more emotional energy on living well than we do currenrly on living safely IMHO. Welcome back!

    1. Wow! I really loved your story about your travels in the Philippines. I don’t think I could do such a trip because I’m terrified of heights. I mean, I can ride planes because I’m enclosed in them, but I cannot get next to the edge of very high places. I loved your line about Sri Lanka being “India Lite.” There are so many amazing places on the planet. Luckily, I’ve had lots of really cool adventures. (I actually lived abroad, outside my home country, which is the USA, for about twenty years.) I agree that we need to live what I like to call “uncommon lives.” Too many settle for too little. I was a little concerned about traveling during this period but my wife and I are both vaccinated. Plus, we were required to wear masks in all planes and airports. Thanks so much for leaving such a fantastically interesting comment.

      1. Cool. Where do you live? I lived in Egypt for seven years, as I’ve mentioned a few times in the blogs I publish here. I had a friend from Djibouti, but I’ve unfortunately fallen out of contact with him. In the future, I’d like to do a lot more traveling on the continent.

      2. With pleasure. I’ve always been in love with the geography of this great, big planet. When I was a wee child, I started collecting the postage stamps of the world. I loved holding those little bits of paper in my hand and reading all those different languages. I admit that I don’t know much about Uganda. So this is great opportunity.

    1. Yes, I’ve looked at Morocco and think it looks beautiful. Actually, there are some cities there I wouldn’t mind living in. I also love their textile arts, especially their rugs.

  3. Hi Troy!
    Good to have you back.
    Glad you had a great adventure.
    And if you want to see traffic (CHAOTIC), then Indian cities are great places.
    Have never been to Africa.
    Rest and take care. A vacation drains out a person. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the welcome back. Yes, there are lots of mega-cities where traffic is totally out of control. Africa is a way underappreciated tourist location. The people are so welcoming and warm. It was hard because I had to immediately return to work after such a strenuous trip.

  4. I hope you had a great time. I invite you someday to “India” it is a great place with varied cultures and values. It is exhilarating to learn about Cairo and thank you for the insights.

    1. Thank you for the invitation. My wife has a very good Indian friend, a person who used to live in Cairo back when we lived there. My wife’s friend is named Anita, and we have received an invitation from her to visit. We would love to go to India and see Anita and more of the country. I know India is a marvelous country. Also, I used to live in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and had Indian friends there–one of them (my best buddy) was named Nagarajan. Thank you.

  5. Ever since you announced you were going to Egypt with your wife, I’ve been looking forward to your return, hoping to hear about it. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences, it sounds wonderful. I’ve never been to Africa, but I hope to go one day. Europe as well, and Asia haha I want to go so many places! I don’t think a lifetime would be enough time to do all the traveling I want to do. Welcome back!

    1. Thank you! I found a way to work overseas which helped me leave for the very first time a long time ago. If you really want to see the world, maybe you ought to think about finding a way to work overseas. If you’re an educator, that’s very easy to do. I wish you all the best and thanks for reading my piece and commenting.

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