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My 30-day intro to Egypt: Exhilaration, exhaustion and a ‘Mummy Tummy’ lesson

by Angela Sargent —

My first 30 days in Egypt were a roller coaster. The adventure began as soon as I arrived at an airport packed with people speaking different languages.

Before her journey to Cairo, Memphis Pre-K teacher Angela Sargent wrote a children’s book emphasizing “sight” words for students who began their educational journey during the pandemic. (Screen capture)

I was met by a concierge, who escorted me quickly through customs and baggage claim. Other members of my teaching cohort had mentioned issues with missing and damaged luggage. I was grateful that all four pieces of my luggage arrived with me intact. 

Next, I located the welcoming staff sent from Metropolitan, the school where I would be teaching for the next two years. Kristle, an amiable American teacher in her third year at Metropolitan, greeted me. Kristle’s job was to welcome all the ex-pats (nonnative residents) and accompany them to their housing quarters or hotel (if an apartment had not been secured). 

Before arrival, I was assigned an apartment broker to whom I communicated my housing desires. During the entire month of July, I virtually toured apartments and narrowed down the ones I wanted to see once I arrived. Luckily, my top choice was true to what I had seen online. I was able to move in immediately.

Kristle accompanied me throughout the entire moving-in process to ensure I was not taken advantage of. She also distributed the settling-in allowance to assist with any basic needs for my new home. 

One of the perks I learned about being a new ex-pat was that I had free access to a school bus driver for anything school-related that I needed to do during my settling period (1 week). I grabbed sheets, towels, bathroom essentials, and food before calling it a night. 

I arrived the Sunday before all the new-teacher networking activities began. The first week’s agenda was hectic. The administration of Metropolitan made it very clear that new ex-pats would get a full tour of Egypt’s finest attractions so that we could begin to approach life in Cairo as residents, not tourists. 

Our first stop was breakfast at the Villa Belle Epoque. It is a beautiful hidden gem in the heart of Maddi, Egypt, where the special features are flowers, pastries, and Turkish coffee. 

Our next stop was the Cairo Festival City Mall, a 158,000 square meter mall that included an IKEA and the hypermarket Carrefour, a larger version of a supermarket in the States. We were allowed to shop for home furnishings and groceries for the week. It was a very chaotic, albeit productive experience. 

A view of the Nile from the rooftop of the Hotel Zamalek. (Photo: Angela Sargent)

On Tuesday, we were dazzled by a sunset dinner on the rooftop of the Hotel Zamalek in Cairo, Egypt. The chic cosmopolitan restaurant is located along the Nile River and sets the stage for a jaw-dropping light show along the historic river.

New ex-pat Angela Sargent (right) and the Metropolitan staff at Andrea El Mariouteya. (Photo: Courtesy of Angela Sargent)

Wednesday was the Welcome Dinner in New Giza at the breathtaking outdoor restaurant, Andrea El Mariouteya, which overlooks New Cairo. The view gave life to the song “Nights of Egypt” by the Jones Girls.

Finally, on Thursday we returned to New Giza to visit the majestic pyramids. We visited the sphinx and had great photo opportunities. These amazing pillars of history are now mere tourist attractions, but the reverence is still very present. 

The first week proved exhilarating and exhausting.

I struggled most with the 8-hour time difference between Memphis and Cairo and with the water filtration system. By day two of teacher orientation, the lack of sleep began to weigh on my body.

Our school schedule is very different from in the states; the school day is from Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (GST+2); Friday and Saturday are days of Sabbath. 

By week three, I was beginning to adjust to my new schedule when I was struck down by what the locals call the “Mummy Tummy” – an illness caused by eating fruits and/or vegetables washed in water sourced from the Nile River.

The Nile is home to parasitic flatworms formally known as Schistosoma haematobium. We were warned about this parasite long before arrival; I never even gave it a second thought.

Well, after three weeks in Egypt, I decided to try my hand at cooking meals at home. I took an intentional field trip to the hypermarket, excited about my first home-cooked meal in my new residence. I purchased cabbage, carrots, chicken, onion, and vegetable wash.

I washed and soaked the vegetable as directed on the vegetable wash bottle, or so I thought. The meal was delicious, and I was so proud of my accomplishment.

To my surprise, late into the night, the “Mummy Tummy” rose up in me as evidenced by severe cramping and night sweats. (YIKES!) 

The next five days were what I tagged as my initiation into becoming a true Egypt resident.

 

Angela Sargent takes her first camel ride. (Photo courtesy of Angela Sargent)

Follow Angela’s journey in The New Tri-State Defender and online at TSDMemphis.com.

(Editorial note: Originally planned as a two-year journey, Angela Sargent’s journey now will be a one-year experience because of budget constraints. Follow her accounts in The New Tri-State Defender.)

 

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