Aswan as a tourist

Another day off, after another late night travelling; training starts tomorrow.
Temperature about 43′!
Evening visit to the Nubia Museum, which is a reminder of the history and culture of the Nubians, whose settlement was flooded by Lake Nasser after the building of the dams.
Then a chance to wander round the souq and purchase some souvenirs. The souq in Aswan has a distinctive scent of herbs and spices. Aswan is also famous for its peanuts and we were lucky enough to sample a handful each as sourced by Mr Abdulla. We bartered for papyrus and postcards and Helen and I were given scarab beetles for free from one trader, no obligation to buy, so we didn’t!

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Day off in Luxor

The day started at 5.30 am and we were driven to the Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s West Bank. First we paid a visit to Tutankhamun, son of Akhenaten. He died young with no great battles to his name. Howard Carter unveiled the tomb in 1922 to much media excitement and revived people’s fascination with Egyptology. His actual unwrapped mummy lies in a glass case in the entrance! All his treasures are in the Cairo museum.
Next was the tomb of Tuthmosis, which required us to climb many steps to the entrance and then descend 90 steps in to the tomb, a somewhat warm experience. Tuthmosis is known as the Napoleon of ancient egypt. He was one of the first to build his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
The tomb of Tawosret/Sethnakht was initially built for Queen Tawosret and was later pinched by Sethnakht.
Last was Ramses III. This is one of the longest tombs and was started but abandoned by Sethnakht.
Next was the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir al-Bahri. We approached this by a disney style tourist train! The temple is cut in to the cliffs and was first excavated in 1891. Deir al-Bahri has been appointed as one of the hottest places on earth, something we certainly experienced today.
We stopped on the way back at the Colossi of Memnom, which is 2 faceless monuments at the entrance of the West Bank. The giants are a tiny element of the largest temple ever built in Egypt, which is no longer in existence having been built out of mud brick on a Nile flood plain. The statutes are each cut from a single block of stone and weigh 1000 tons each.
We were extremely privileged to be invited to Mrs Magda’s house for lunch. We were given a meal of fish, rice and pittas. It was very special to see how people live here and for them to feel comfortable enough with us to remove their headscarves and talk to us properly about perceptions of Islam in our respective countries.
Before 6 we headed to the station to catch our train to Aswan.

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From Qena to Luxor

Certificate presentation in the morning then bus journey to Luxor.
Arrived in Luxor by bus provided by the university and taken to Shady Hotel. Left on our own for lunch so we ordered pizza. This took a really long time to arrive and our first western food for a while so it was eagerly anticipated. We met Sohaa whose mother, Magda is the leader of the Guide Association in Luxor. She escorted us to a youth centre on the East Bank to meet a group of Guides aged 14-16 who we had arranged to see for a couple of hours. We sang some songs, played some games outside and had them building towers from straws. It was a lovely opportunity to give something back to Guiding by way of an impromptu visit in another region of Egypt, we all felt a real boost from being there.
In the evening we were allowed to choose what we wanted to do so took a boat across the Nile to the West Bank, wandered around, then took a boat back. We visited Luxor Temple, for which I am struggling to find words to express how amazing it was lit up at night. It’s mind boggling to think that people have ever been able to move and carve such large rocks, particularly at the time the temple was built. Luxor temple was built by the pharaohs Armenhotep III (1380-1352 BC) and Ramses II (1279-1213). The front of the temple is the beginning of the avenue of the sphinxes that stretched for 3k to Karnak. The gates were flanked by 6 colossal statues of Ramses II. One of the original two pink granite obelisks at the front of the temple now lives in Paris. as you enter a further 17 colossal statues of Ramses II sons greet you.
Dinner was kushari and before we went back to the hotel we visited the souq for a spot of shopping with Esma and Sohaa to haggle for us. The traders were much politer than you would imagine and wanted to chat to us as much as they wanted to sell their wares. Maybe the pink t-shirts made the difference!

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Day 5 – our last in Qena

Training this morning was time management which was interrupted by a meeting with the president of the university who wanted to see how the week had gone for us. It was a shame we were taken out of training, but the President wanted honest feedback on how the week had gone for us and our impressions of the Univeristy. The time management session went well despite the interruptions and we had time to finish with a presentation of badges and some photographs.
Helen and Sarah had a disturbing experience this afternoon involving a rat. Helen saw something dash swiftly past, identifying it as a mouse or rat as it scuttled on behind the fridge. She yelped in astonishment and sought assistance. The hotel staff – once located – were timid in their venture. A bit of plodding about scared the rat out from behind Sarah’s bag heading directly towards Gemma. She leapt out of the way as it headed into a hole under a door soon boarded up by jittery hotel staff.
In the evening we visited the oldest Coptic church in Qena and then returned to the place where we have been training for a leaving party. For a short time we started to feel like celebrities again having arrived in our ‘tour’ bus. There was lots of table setting up in an x-factor judging fashion. The university president took on the role of Simon Cowell while the university scouts and then us performed a repertoire of action songs; from us ging gang goolie, linger and make new friends, finishing with taps.
Hayley made a final thank you speech and we presented the president, vice president and Mr Usama with our GOLD neckers.

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Day 4

The opportunity to attend English club has not materialised, which was a real shame as we were hoping to be quite a feature through discussing the difference between Egyptian and English education. Morning training was problem solving and team building. We had to accommodate several power cuts so some activities took place in relative darkness and without air conditioning but adapting to whatever situation we are presented with is second nature to us as Guiders so we handled it well! This week we could really see the teams start to work better together by the end of the session, once they realised that however much they moved around we weren’t going to let them stay in their usual friendship groups!
After the session we were taken on a tour of the art faculty so we could see some of the students’ work. The quality of the pieces they have made is outstanding. We were offered a piece of art each to take as a gift we compromised on a very unique cushion cover.
The evening saw us visiting the oldest mosque in Qena. It felt like a very spiritual place with lots of people visiting it seemingly just to be there for quiet contemplation.
We then returned to the university for fatir followed by a coconut cake.
Next was a visit to Mr Usama’s club. We were a little concerned about the type of club this was and were relieved to learn that it was actually a sports club where we were taken to look at the swimming pool. We settled beside the Nile for drinks and singing with Mr Usama, Heba, a teacher and 2 boy scouts. This of course turned in to a songathon with the boys teaching us some of their songs too; the Sound of Music featured heavily from our side, no doubt because we keep singing edelweiss!

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Day 3

The day started with a visit to Dendara, which is the Temple of Hathor. The goddess Hathor was the goddess of love and sensual pleasures, patron of music and dancing. She is usually represented as a woman, a cow or a woman with a headdress of cow’s horns and sun disc, as she was the daughter of the sun-god Ra. She was also a maternal figure and as wife of Horus was often portrayed as the divine mother of the reigning pharaoh.
Dendara is one of the most iconic Egyptian buildings, mainly because it remains virtually intact, with a great stone roof and columns, dark chambers, underground crypts and twisting stairways all carved with hieroglyphs.
We learned today that training this week was only going to consist of 5 sessions and not the 6 we were expecting. There appears to have been some confusion between the university and the guide association.
The session was communication interspersed with the trading game from the leadership session. This week the girls were able to play the shouty shouty game with only a few comments and raised eyebrows! The girls engaged with pictionary well, which gave us a chance to increase our repertoire of Arabic words. The letter about WAGGGS issues was adapted to fill a shorter time to accommodate the trading game. This week the game worked better. More space meant the girls could actually move between tables and they were more inclined to buy and sell materials between themselves. Taking away paper or pencils from some teams also encouraged this. One group even used the initiative to try and sell back their materials to the bank at the end!
We tried some singing; Alive Alert Awake Enthusiastic, which prompted one girl who we understand is a known singer at the university, to stand in the middle and sing a song to us. It was something of a surreal moment!
Some of the feedback we are getting this week is that there are too many games, which takes away from the serious stuff. We think this is coming from the students as the girls who are scouts seem to be having a really good time. It leads us to question what the girls understand to be the purpose of our visit but even if all we achieve with the non-guides is to show them a new way of learning and give them an opportunity to practice their English, it will have been worthwhile. Even better of course if some of them are inspired to start units at some point!
We are hoping to attend English club tomorrow. They have asked us to talk to them about education in England.
In the evening we had a chance to go to the supermarket to buy some comfort food. The trip also presented Mr Usama with an opportunity to parade us round the town by taking us to his sister’s wedding dress shop and to a studio for a formal photograph. We managed to get out of visiting his club!

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Day 2

The pace of life here is so much slower than Minia, which seems largely due to the fact that the university are organising us.
Training was in the morning. The self esteem session seemed to work better with more space and more time. The advocacy activity definitely benefitted from forward planning and the experience of testing it last week. It felt like we communicated the concepts more effectively with the help of visual aids and by being broken up with more discussion. It may also be that because the girls are all students and less excitable they paid more attention.
In the evening we took a boat trip on the Nile and stopped at a little cafe beside the water in the village of Teramsa for a drink before heading to the scout headquarters. We’d asked to meet more people involved in scouting and guiding outside the university, while we there Mr¬†Usama attended some sort of district meeting.

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Qena: day 1

This morning was very sedate, enabling us to meet the president of the university and some of the girls that we will be training. We had some photographs taken which may be published on the university website; svu@eg.com
The girls we are training this week are not all Guides so we may be able to encourage some new recruits. Everyone seems very pleased to hear that we will be teaching so many useful skills. In return Heba wants us to know 100 Arabic words by the end of the week!
First training was very different to last week. We had advanced warning that we were starting today and therefore time to prepare, arrange the room etc. The training room is laid out much more constructively. We have 2 rooms, 1 with tables and flip chart paper which gave us more opportunity for discussion and feedback. The other is an empty room which is perfect for games and means that all the activities can be carried out as intended. The girls themselves are more reserved and quieter but we think that we can draw them out of themselves more once they get used to our training style. All of them are enthusiastic and want to use the opportunity to improve and practice their English. It really makes us think about our own education to see that the girls here are bilingual and many also know German. The university governor explained that they have strong links with Germany and Austria, which might go some way to explaining why so many people have asked us if we’re German.
First experience of small lizards climbing up the building we are using for training.
After omlette for dinner we were taken on a bus tour of Quena, which involved driving through the town and heading to the corniche for a stroll. The peace and quiet of the corniche was a marked contrast to the bustle and noise of the corniche in Minia. We are also relishing the freedom of not having our tourist police escort.
From the bus we saw a tourist train head through the town. I don’t think many tourists are allowed to mill about here so we’re privileged to be able to experience the place, if only via university organised tours. Whether we will actually get to experience Guiding outside the university is something that seems unlikely at the moment.

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Arriving in Qena

After a 6 hour train journey, which should have taken 4 hours, we arrived in Qena and were greeted on the platform by some local Guiders and Heba #2, who is a translator at South Valley University. The university is providing our accommodation for the week and by comparison to last week we are being treated to a life of luxury: food delivered to our room, rooms big enough to cartwheel across and western style bathrooms. The pace of things here so far is more relaxed and seems to be more organised. We have also been given the luxury of choice so maybe this week there will be a few less surprises!

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Our last day in Minia

I’m typing this whilst waiting for the train to take us to Qena.
Thoughts from the week:
Hayley – why are we waiting?
Sarah – inta haroof (you’re a sheep)
Helen- yallah (let’s go)
Kate – I love you too much (frequently said by the girls)
Gemma – shokran *smile* *photo*
Becci – do we have enough water?
All in all I think the thing we least expected was the celebrity status we seem to have here, constant photographs, continually being ushered around without really knowing what is happening and being interrupted in the middle of everything we try to do (yallah) regardless of how important the reason for the interruption. That said it’s been so much fun, we’ve seen and done so much and if the next 2 weeks are like this we might just be ok!

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