Today was my second full day in Alexandria. I didn’t have internet access for several days, so I am posting this “after the fact”… Just being on the ground since the Revolution (January 25th), one can still feel the energy in the air and the way things have changed. This is my first time to Alexandria and I am captured by its beauty. It is cleaner than Cairo. There are still crowds of people, but the traffic is not as bad. Alexandria feels like a city with life and energy, vibrant; without some of the hassles one experiences in Cairo. I woke up with the sun shining over the Mediterranean Sea. The cuisine in Cairo is also different – a combination of Arabic food (Egyptian), Italian, and Mediterranean. It has been fun to see the diversity in this regard! I continue to eat my way across the Middle East…
There are so many little things I have learned about the city and the Egyptian people who live there. My gracious host has been Pastor Farouk Eldeiry. Farouk was the founding pastor of Ibrahimi Evangelical Church in Alexandria in the 1960s. I am amazed at Farouk’s vision, passion for the church, and the example that he leads of someone tirelessly working to make a difference in the world. He is truly inspiring!
This picture of him was taken next to a plaque in the church which commemorates its founding and the longevity of him serving as the senior pastor – from 1968 (if I am reading my Arabic numbers correctly!) until 2001. The church, in its more than 40 years of existence, has members who are now living all over the world. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the current pastor and to learn more about how active and involved the church is with the local community. There is also a media center which has several projects address women’s issues, children’s needs, AIDS, and other programs that are focused on caring for the poor and providing Christian education.
While on the streets, it seemed around every corner there was something new to see and learn. I wish that I had the opportunity to take a picture of one of the ambulances that I saw. I learned that Egypt’s neighbor, Libya, does not have adequate medical care – thus, it is common to see ambulances from Libya which have brought the wounded, injured, and sick to Egypt’s hospitals for treatment.
This poster was one of many that can be seen hanging between palm trees or above the roads. I am told it is a verse from the Koran and is most likely from someone in the Muslim Brotherhood. They are a newly emerging political party (since it was illegal for them to participate in elections under Mubarak’s regime).
This picture is one of the main government buildings in Alexandria. It was considered to be a part of the “hot bed” of injustice under Mubarak and it was destroyed during the Revolution. Egypt’s revolution was (mostly) non-violent… but these images of destruction remind the outside world that the changes which are sought by the youth of Egypt are more than just ideological.
The day ended when Farouk, a dear friend Ezabelle, and I drove to the train station and then hopped on a train from Alexandria to rural Upper Egypt. When I arrived at the train station and saw hundreds of people (the vast majority men), I was a bit nervous about the experience. Then when the first train arrived, I thought “Oh, no! It is going to be a long 8-hour ride.”
However, our train was very comfortable. We fortunately were able to sit in the most comfortable part of the train and I slept for much of the many hours across the Egyptian countryside. At one point I woke up and there were about six men talking animatedly with Farouk and Ezabelle. I couldn’t really catch what was going on (and my limited Arabic is in a different dialogue, so I have a particularly difficult time understanding Egyptians!). In the few minutes when my eyelids stayed open, I learned that our luggage couldn’t be found. Was I worried? Not at all, within 30 seconds, I was back asleep. By the time I woke up (who knows how much later), the luggage had been found. Elham de Allah (thanks be to God). Tomorrow our day starts at Mallawy Evangelical Church. I am excited to be back in Upper Egypt and look forward to what the days ahead might hold!
As I close out this blog (it’s about 1:40 a.m. in the morning)… My room is a few floors up from the street and I can hear the sounds of the city of Malawy, still very much awake! Men in conversation, horns honking, dogs barking… and my favorite, the clip-clop of a horse galloping its way down the road.