Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

monasteries, Thanksgiving, and pyramid tourism

A couple weekends ago a few of us took a long Sinai day trip to visit the St. Paul and St. Anthony’s monasteries. They were incredible! St. Anthony’s monastery is the oldest in Egypt—dating from the 300s. St. Anthony lived in a cave up the mountain from where the monastery stands today, and should you decide to trek up the mountain you can search the cave out yourself! (See the pictures when I email them to you. By the way, if you want to see my photos but are not already on my list, send a message and I’ll be sure to add you.) One of the coolest things I heard all day was this; for over 1500 years monks have received water coming from a well source only 10m into the bluffs. Funny thing is, it’s been the same quality and amount of water every day for over a thousand years, and yet it never rains out there in the Sinai. Pretty nifty!
For Thanksgiving we had a whopping 47 people at our Dawson Hall home. Most people were other foreigners living and working here within a church or educational system. Ah, it’s so good to spend time with people who can completely understand your language and humor without needing to put much effort into it. And one of the best parts of the night was eating American food—yippee! On the eve of Thanksgiving our hired cook searched the streets of Cairo for turkeys and finally produced four big one for us. We also had gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green-bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. YUM YUM YUM! After stuffing ourselves silly and getting all hyper (or maybe that was just me…) we sang hymns as Nelle played the piano. The climax of the night was talking with my family—including grandparents and aunts! The greatest blessing of the evening: having Teri back with us!
Thanksgiving weekend as also the perfect opportunity to visit the well-known Giza Pyramids! However, the day turned out to be one of the most polluted days I have EVER experienced and very hot. I literally walked around with a bandana covered with pink pigs shielding my nose and mouth. I still felt sick for a good two days afterward. (When the pollution is really bad, I get headaches, sinus problems, and feel drowsy.)
The day began in Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt and one of the world’s earliest settlements. Today it’s not much more than a small community daily welcoming loads of tourists whether they like it or not. What’s left of Memphis is a little museum-type area full of unearthed tablets, sculptures, and sarcophaguses. Still, very cool to check out and there is one big statue of Ramses III lying on its back that is so smoothly carved you just want to stare at it forever and treat it like it’s the statue of David (see my pictures).
Next stop was visiting the step pyramids which is thought to be the first time stone masonry was practiced—that being the first time stones were cut to shape and purposefully placed rather than random rocks being piled up (thanks Teri!). Stealing from Teri: “It turns out that you can no longer go into that pyramid--not even archaeologists--because it's not safe anymore. That's right--after 5,000 + years, it's no longer safe. Why, you ask? Well, three words: Aswan High Dam. That's right, the big engineering wonder. The water table has risen like crazy, and continues to rise, meaning that formerly stable land is no longer stable, and formerly stable rock piles (like pyramids, like ancient churches, etc) are falling apart. Also, the weather has changed significantly in the past few years because of the rising water table. Apparently humidity is relatively new in Egypt, and the haze we've been experiencing this week has more to do with humidity than pollution, though the pollution is HUGE. The humidity just means that the nasty pollution looks more solid in the air. It was the worst I've ever seen it, actually, on Saturday. The humidity is ruining thousands-of-years-old paint on tomb walls, icons in churches, and buildings everywhere. In addition to all that, of course the Nile no longer floods so there are no more rich silt deposits in the farm land, which means that now farmers need fertilizer. Fertilizer is expensive, and it contains all kinds of chemicals that the land here never needed before and has not known. And where are the chemicals going? Into the rising water table and the already polluted Nile. Who thought this dam was a good idea? Many Egyptians are calling it "that damn dam." Amen to that.”
We moved on to the Giza Pyramids from there—the most famous of all. They are truly HUGE and amazing! It’s incredible to think of how perfect they are as well—the dimension are off no more than 10 cm in any direction, and everything is lined up perfectly with the four coordinates. These ancient Egyptians (or ancient slaves) were math geniuses, that is for sure! I spent most of the time working hard to avoid the annoying men trying to sell postcards and miniature pyramids or the other men calling for me to take a “very cheap” ride on a camel and take a picture. No thank you, no thank you. Every time I visit these amazing sites and want to be alone and sit in God’s glory and wonder of it all, I’m constantly hounded by people. Some of us visited the Solar Boat museum where archaeologist found a cedar boat designed to carry the (dead) pharaoh from the tomb into the sun/afterlife every day and then return.
As we were leaving the site, I took a camera shot/video of the contrast of contemporary society meeting antiquity; Pizza Hut and KFC are the closest eateries to the Sphinx and pyramids. One can munch on some supreme pizza and sip on some coke while looking through a window splashed with a semi-transparent “Pizza Hut” logo and see the magnificent creation of thousands of years ago through the letters “ZZA HU”. Odd.
Also, I’ve had some incredible musical experiences lately. In the past couple weeks I’ve listened to a World Music concert with Bill Evenhouse at AUC, a Cairo Symphony concert at the Cairo Opera House, and a Jai (guitarist from Australia) concert at Sawy Cultural Wheel. Almost every week the AUC holds a free concert on Wednesday evenings and I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. Can’t get that at home!


  • At 11/30/2005, Anonymous Audur Magndis said…

    I am a 23 yrs. old sociologist from Iceland. I will be living in Cairo from end of January 2006 till the beginning of June. I visited st. Andrews last October during my short visit to Cairo but there was noone present that day that could give me information about volunteer opportunities. Where can I get such information? I am very interested in the projects but would like to know more about them as well as my opportunies to become a volunteer. Your blog has also raised my interest! My email is

  • At 12/05/2005, Blogger guess! said…

    Wow Sarah! Good luck. Hope to see you sometime if you're in the twin cities.


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