My First Trip to Egypt

My First Trip to Egypt

I will never forget the first time I went to Egypt; I was 10 the oldest of four. We disembarked our passenger ship in Cairo and I felt an immediate hit on all senses. It was December but the air was warm and humid. I heard sounds of horses, men shouting, and cars honking. There were some familiar smells like in Saudi but they were much stronger in Cairo. I could see the flurry of people rushing here and there in costumes that were somewhat familiar but the faces were different. I could not help but feel the striking differences between the chaotic Cairo port and the much slower and quieter pace of Saudi. It was different and I loved it.

We lived in Saudi Arabia because my parents wanted us to experience the rich cultures of the world. When I was 10 and my youngest brother was three, they thought it was time for us to see more of the world. We had lived in New York City, Saudi, and Amsterdam and traveled through Europe. However, I soon learned that none of those places captured my imagination like the Middle East.

Cairo, EgyptWe stayed in Cairo for a week. Everything was new and exciting except the call to prayer five times a day. We toured the city visiting the mosques and the grand bazaar. We attracted a lot of attention because it was unusual to see American children touring busy Cairo or anywhere in the Middle East for that matter. All the sights, sounds and smells of this ancient city captivated me. The faces of the merchants in the bazaar held the character of thousands of years of history. The heady scent of spices from grills of lamb turned on taste buds unfamiliar to my bland diet of peanut butter and jelly. The rich colors of the fabrics, spices, and brilliant gold jewelry expanded my awareness of art and beauty.

I felt so alive, like my imagination and the world around me were the same. Visiting the pyramids and then seeing them off in the distance as we traveled through Cairo made it seem like the ancient ancestors were still with us watching over the city. Everywhere we went, there were vestiges of life during ancient times. I imagined being with them – creating new meaning through their hieroglyphics, colorful jewelry and clothing, and building monuments to the Gods.

Cynder Niemela on the Nile We left Cairo after a week and floated down the Nile for another week. While the first week in Cairo ignited my passion for people and their beautiful crafts, the adventure down the Nile deepened my curiosity about the ancient Egyptians, their customs and way of life. I was in awe of the contrast between the stark desert and the richness of their tombs and temples. We studied the pictures and symbols they drew their walls while listening to our guides tell us about their lives and customs. It seemed like an intriguing challenge to piece together the puzzle pieces and come up with a story about how the ancient Egyptians lived their lives so many centuries before.

When we returned to Saudi Arabia, I embarked on a quest to learn their symbolic language so that I could read the stories for myself. I traced hieroglyphics from books, memorized the alphabet and read all I could find on the Egyptian way of life, beliefs and artifacts. Ultimately, this transformational journey led to my passion for working with organizational cultures.