As I arrived to my apartment in Cairo, my host gave me some tips. One of them was to never walk alone at night in the area, and to wear long sleeves and pants. With that, he left, and I was standing alone, in a huge, semi-creepy apartment, if Im going to be real, overlooking the pyramids.
This is Part 2 of an adventure series, read part 1 here.
I got as settled as I could in the space, and thought that I’d be off to visit the pyramids on foot, soon after. But the toll of the long bus ride was hitting me, and I decided against a big adventure. After all - I could see and feel the pyramids clearly, visiting them up close could wait until I had more energy.
When I was preparing to go outside, and wander around the neighbourhood I’d arrived in, I hesitated. “Do I put long sleeves on?” It was hot. I was in the Middle East after all. I decided against it. Im all for respecting cultures, but sometimes I have to make the call if Im actually respecting a culture, or a patriarchal belief system. My shoulders were covered in the outfit I had on, and so were most of my legs. I thought that was a good compromise, and wandered out of my temporary home, thoughtfully ignoring my Airbnb host’s advice.
And I tell you… once my feet hit the ground, I’ve never felt more like a celebrity than I did in those 3 days in Cairo.
People stared. And shouted. And ran to ask me questions. I don’t think long sleeves would have helped.
After walking through the winding streets, looking for vegetarian food, and not finding too much, I was ready to give up and go back. I was tired from being stared and called after incessantly. When I was trying to find my way back, I saw a man, who looked to be in his late 50s, sitting on a chair at the end of a dusty brown road, with the pyramids rising up from behind him.
The man spoke English, and started engaging with me immediately, asking what I was doing. But this man was different. I wasn’t immediately turned off. My intuition told me it was safe to converse. And that’s when he invited me into his home to see his “dancing horses”. “What now?” I thought, “Dancing horses?”
Normally, I would have blown off an invitation from a strange man in the Middle East to enter into his home. But my spidey senses said… “Go, it’s safe.” And I listened.
As I entered into this man’s home, right in front of where I was sitting, I was introduced to many members of his family. Many of his adult children, his wife (actually ex-wife, but that’s a whole other story…), and his grandchildren, all lived in this 2 story house. The women were downstairs in the kitchen, making food.
This home was very far from what Westerners are used to. On a superficial level, it was kind of dirty. Ok, well it was dirty, but not in a bad way, simply from a lot of dust and sand blown in from the desert. I don’t remember any real glass windows. It was simple, small, and immediately told me “This is the real Cairo.” So, as a travel junkie, I was in love. Out of my comfort zone, slightly wondering what I was doing, and simultaneously, in love.
And so, this man, Nasir, guided me upstairs to see his dancing horses.
They were photos.
Of dancing horses.
From days long past.
It was kind of hilarious, but while I didn’t get to see any dancing horses in real life, I stepped into a local family’s world for the next 3 days. A family whose living came from giving people tours of the pyramids.
These people literally adopted me. They told me that. They said “You are our sister now, our family.” They had me over for dinner. They took me to their son’s wedding reception, and then, to the wedding.
Ok people. The wedding. That was one of the craziest experiences of my life.
The night of the wedding, I tell Nasir I’m pretty tired, and he told me we didn’t have to go to the wedding for long. (A lie... :D)
So he gets his sons to pick me up at my apartment, on foot, and I meet up with everyone. Turns out Nasir’s fancy idea is to have me ride his camel, Mickey, through the winding streets of Cairo, until we get to this wedding.
Ok, sure. Let’s do that.
I have never ridden a camel at night through very, very busy streets. I have never had said camel stop traffic to cross the road. Until that point.
It was great. It was chaotic. I was kind of freaking out internally. But I kept telling myself, “Girl, this is once in a lifetime experience, just go with it.”
So, we get to the wedding. It turns out it’s in the middle of a street. Sort of 80’s prom decoration. And it’s a PARTY. The moment I get there, and people find out there’s a white girl at the party, shit got cray.
I was the only white person, the only foreigner actually. It was then I understood some of what major celebrities go though. People were tugging at my hair, on my dress, everywhere I turned they wanted a selfie, or were pointing at me. I could hardly walk, I had a trail of people clinging to me.
And then, they made me dance. I love to dance, so it wasn’t necessarily a problem, but it was quite difficult with children and women tugging on you. I probably should have mentioned that - there were no men tugging on me. So even though I did in fact, feel ambushed, I was surrounded by women and children, so I felt safe. I also had Nasir and his sons watching me from our table.
And so - we danced. Turns out, Middle Eastern hijab wearing women know how to get DOWN! Kissing before marriage? No. That’s a no no. Grinding and gyrating around like a bellydancer. That’s allowed apparently. It was awesome. We went wild.
I will never forget that night.
We finished the night by eating falafel at Nasir’s. I was kind of uncomfortable with that, because the women were serving us, and not eating with us. Somehow, as a white woman, I was able to eat with the men, but not his female family members.
This whole experience lit a fire under me. The pyramids. Which Nasir took me to, on his camel of course. The activations from those structures still resonate through my being. The patriarchy. Which made me so much more aware of why the Divine Feminine is needed in this world. And by life. Amidst different cultures and languages, I still found the women, and we danced. We danced, and we celebrated.
And shortly after, I left Cairo… back to Dahab, where I would spend a little more time, before taking a cab and a bus ride to Israel, to see a Hebrew lover I had met a long the way…
…To be continued!