Remember when the “genie” proposed those three wishes? Well, I only need one- send me to Cairo, Egypt. Ok, I may use the other two buying a hot pink Lamborghini and a multi- million-dollar condo nestled on the beaches of Alexandria. Still, a plane ticket to Egypt will suffice. My love for this remarkable place aroused in the summer vacation of 2008. The food, culture, and mind-blowing attractions surpassed the state of enchantment. By seeing family members, old and new, adapting to the Egyptian culture, and learning about Islam, I realized that dream vacations could truly be anywhere I make them to be.
Let’s face it. We all need family. However, when family lives six-thousand miles away, I find that impossible to achieve. On my two-month stay, this task soon became a daily virtue. Starting off at ten in the morning, I scurried off with my favorite uncle to the nearest falafel cafÃ© to buy breakfast for the entire family. After the noon prayer, I quickly traveled with my cousins to Khan a Khalili, the country’s famous bazaar, to buy genuine Egyptian souvenirs ranging from clothes to spices. After washing down some of my aunt’s famous mango smoothies, I went to what I call the most beautiful place in the world — the Nile River. Of course, the day would not be complete without taking a fifteen-minute walk from the Nile River to visit my adoring grandmother, Nafeesa Rashad. People could easily say that my family would cram fifteen years of “family love” into two months. I say, however, that they were simply leading the true Egyptian life.
Also, my 2008 summer vacation introduced me to the Egyptian culture. Living in a culturally deprived town, I was oblivious to the amount of culture one place can attain. My first cultural experience was my Egyptian dialect. Sure, we all can take a foreign language class. However, I quickly learned that there is nothing better than experiencing language for yourself. While I stumbled at first, I quickly learned to grasp the catchy language that all Egyptians spoke. Since belly- dancing is a huge asset to Egyptian culture, it is only fit for an Egyptian to master the dance. However, the closest I got to actual belly-dancing was the coffee cafÃ© two blocks down from our apartment. Nonetheless, I did experience the art of such a complex dance first hand. The most important cultural lesson I learned was the tasteful delight of Egyptian cuisine. Ranging from desserts like baklava (a sweet pastry) to main dishes like kofta (barbecued meat), I was culturally swept off of my feet at the unreachable limits Egyptian cuisine undertakes.
The most significant experience I acquired was my ability to strengthen my religious affiliations. Everyday, at the break of dawn, I was awakened to the sound of the peaceful athan (Islamic call to prayer). Watching from my balcony, I observed the hundreds of adults gathering each day to pray in unity. Little did I know, however, that I would soon be a part of this mass. My uncle, Alaa Rashad, introduced me to this religious act only two days after arrival. Everyday, he took me to the nearest mosque and showed me the true meaning of prayer. Before long, I was not just a spectator — I was a follower of Islam.
From my stronger family connections to my new religious understanding, I can say that my 2008 summer vacation is more than just a dream vacation; I consider it to be a turning point in my life. My summer spent in Cairo was an exhilarating experience that benefitted in ways that I did not think was possible. The amount of knowledge and heritage that I acquired will continue with me forever, and the experiences that occurred will forever be engraved in my memories.
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