2874 k travelled
200 girls trained
100 years of Girlguiding Uk
50 degrees, highest temperature
27 degrees, lowest temperature
6 members of team Egypt
5 train journeys
4 Nile boat trips
4 media appearances
1 truly memorable experience.
2874 k travelled
Arrived safely early in the morning on monday and headed via metro to our beautiful hotel.
A long lunch at pottery cafe then a couple of hours in the Egyptian museum, the highlight being the Tutankhamen exhibit, including the death mask.
Tuesday was spent admiring the pyramids. We felt very proud of ourselves after having navigated our own way there by bus. We also trekked to the Giza plateau for photo opportunities without the assistance of a vehicle or animal! We’re definitely benefitting from the cooler temperatures of Cairo, which we estimate to be a very pleasant and comfortable 30 degrees.
Wednesday; a day beside the sea in Alexandria! A visit to the library, which took 17 years to build at a cost of $355 million. The library’s architecture aimed to revive the legendary “mother library” of antiquity. Pictograms, hieroglyphs and letters from every alphabet are carved on the exterior to evoke the diversity of knowledge embodied in the ancient library and the aspirations of the new one. Dinner was of course fish and chips!
Thursday; we finally met Nesirin this morning, the international commissioner here who organised our trip. We also met the head of the Egyptian Guide Association. They were very keen to hear about our experiences here. We also briefly met a group of rangers so it was out again with old faithful, edelweiss and ram sam sam. It’s amazing how quickly you can make friends with a smile and a sing song! After our brief visit to the federation we were taken to a scout celebration which was held to mark the end of a water purification project they have been working on. Again our celebrity status required a conversation with the press and many photographs!
We spent the afternoon shopping in the fabulous bazaar in islamic Cairo, Khan al-khalili, which offered a vast array of beautiful things to buy, it seemed quite different from the Souqs we had experienced so far! We wandered through Islamic Cairo to take in the architecture and the atmosphere and then walked back through the hustle and bustle of the ‘real Cairo’: street vendors jostling with cars and pedestrians, selling everything you can imagine, with the smells of corn on the cob, sweet potatoes and popcorn emanating from various carts. Not another tourist in sight, just the 5 of us, in uniform!
Our last night together was at Zamalek, by the Nile. A luxurious suburb of Cairo where we went to L’aubergine for our last meal, a delicious selection of delicacies that seemed to bridge the gap between English and Egyptian fare.
With project over our last few days in Aswan have been holiday.
Sunrise visit to Abu Simbel on Friday. Great atmosphere of tourists and the dancers from the carnival. So many people the buses travelled in convoy, 4 hours folded in to a seat with nowhere to rest our heads.
Saturday; morning visit to Edfu, temple of Horus and sister temple to Dendara.
Cinema at 6 to see film chosen by Mr Abdulla’s son. Plastic school chairs are the cheap seats and fold down seats at the back with fans.
Evening was spent by the Nile hosted by Marwa and Esra on behalf of the association. Temperature has dropped and is now very pleasant, apparently we have had up to 50 degrees over the course of the week.
Sunday; chill out day by the pool. Then sleeper train to Cairo. Full entourage from the Association to wave us off, memorable.
The morning began with a trip to the television studio! The 8th Egyptian channel (for Aswan) wanted to interview us about the project. Whilst waiting to be called we were watching the show on a tv in the director’s office and spotted ourselves dancing at the sun festival last night!
Hayley, Kate and Gemma were ‘on the sofa’ in Aswan’s version of This Morning, Our Lives. Sarah, Helen and I were in the studio observing proceedings and also watching clips as the live show went out of us all running the session last night. If our mission was to spread the word about Girl Guiding we certainly achieved it with a 25 minute slot where the girls were asked about the history of Guiding, the promise, the centenary and the similarities and differences between Guiding in the UK and in Egypt. Luckily we have the whole episode on DVD…
For lunch we returned to Aswan Moon.
The session was time management and was again attended by about 50 girls including a quota of Brownies and similar aged girls. So we split them up again for much of the session.
Today had an air of finality hanging over it. It was our last session of project and Kate left us mid session for her train back to Cairo. The team very much feels like it’s lost a limb without her which has made us all realise how easily and well we’ve worked together.
But for the rest of us the holiday starts here and we’re off to Abu Simbel at midnight to watch the sun rise in the temple.
Kate, we hope you have a safe journey home and miss you lots already x
A visit to a French language school in the morning where some of the girls from training put on a show for us. We were also treated to some yummy cake.
Next was a trip to the High Dam via the Aswan dam, which was constructed in between 1898 and 1902 by the British engineer William Wilcocks. When it was completed the dam was the largest in the world. Since the opening of the High Dam it now generates hydroelectricity for a nearby factory.
The High Dam contains 18 times the amount of material used in the great pyramid of Khufu and created Lake Nasser, which is the world’s largest artificial lake.
Then on to Philae. On the island is the Temple of Isis. After the old Aswan dam was built the temple was flooded for 6 months every year by the high waters. After the High dam was completed the temple would have been completely submerged but Unesco intervened and the temple was moved stone by stone to Agilkia island, which was then landscaped to resemble the sacred temple of Isis.
For the Guides among you reading this you will be well aware that today marks the end of Guiding’s centenary year. At 20:10, 20/10, 2010 Guides, Brownies and Rainbows will renew their promise to mark the occasion. As we are the only GOLD project in country we decided to mark the date by renewing our promise at 10 past the hour throughout the day. First at the High dam, then at the aptly named Friendship Monument at the dam. Next on the boat to the temple, then at the temple, when on our own as a team for the first and probably only time today we exchanged promise badges. The next 2 hours were marked on the way in and out of the restaurant where the Association hosted our lunch.
16:10 we were in our rooms at the hotel getting ready for training.
17:10 was waiting for people to arrive at training.
18:10 infront of Tv cameras – The local station filmed parts of our session today, reminding us of our celebrity status here!
19:10 just before the end of training.
20:10, 20/10, 2010 Egypt time: we attended the Abu simbel sun festival; the festival commemorates the 22 October when the first rays of the rising sun reach across the Nile, penetrate the temple at Abu Simbel and move along the hypostyle hall, through the vestibule and into the sanctuary, where they illuminate the figures of Ra-Horakhty, Ramses II and Amun.
The festival is marked in Aswan by a parade of dancers travelling from the corniche, through the souq to the train station. We missed the start and were therefore hustled and bustled through the crowds by the guides that came with us from training. We were barely allowed to stop to take photos in their rush to get us and our entourage to the front! So we renewed our promise as we ran through the carnival. Reaching the front gave us the privilege of being dragged in to dance with some Nubian dancers who were leading the procession. The photo is of us just after we were allowed a moment to rest and watch the parade pass by. The occasion passed in a flurry of people and the smell of the spice markets, fast paced and to be remembered for a lifetime.
21:10 (20:10, 20/10, 2010 England time) was marked by setting off a sky lantern on the corniche, which sailed off across the Nile into the desert, then saying our promise in a garden beside the river.
Aswan botanical gardens reached by boat in the morning. The island was given to Lord Horatio Kitchener in the 1890′s when he was commander of the Egyptian army. He turned the island in to a botanical garden, importing plants from the Far East, India and parts of Africa.
We returned from the island via felucca and viewed the Nilometer which was used to measure the water level of the river to determine the taxes. The higher the level, the better the harvest and the higher the tax!
Training was leadership interspersed with communication. Less girls today and only 2 brownies so it was much easier to run.
After training we were taken to the house of a friend of one of the guides for henna tattoos.
A morning visit to a school for deaf and mute children followed by a school for children with learning difficulties.
Afternoon on Internet then Aswan Moon restaurant for lunch. I had the Lonely Planet recommended daoud basha (meatballs). Delish!
Training was Self Esteem. About 50 trainees attended and 12 Brownies – logistical nightmare in far too small a space so Sarah Kate and Gemma took the brownies in to a separate room to run a related but more age appropriate programme. The session ran more smoothly without the younger ones, and as Helen said, the 2 weeks of practice meant that we could run the activities smoothly enabling us to cope with the numbers more efficiently.
The brownies engaged well and performed cheers and learned ram sam sam. They attend a French school so communicating with them became an interchangeable mix of French, Arabic, and English.
MacDonalds for tea, on our own.
Hayley, Sarah and I had another animal kingdom incident. We’ve had a small lizard in our room since we moved in. Asked the man who came to look at our air con to remove it. The incident involved a slipper and lizard jam!
The day started with a hotel move.
As seems to be the way here the middle of the day was ours. It’s so hot that even the locals don’t want to be outside in the midday sun. So we seized the opportunity for some swimming! A refreshing dip in the pool of a nearby hotel by the Nile, wonderful!
After takeaway pizza for lunch we attended our first training. An entirely different experience from previous weeks. We started the session with 31 trainees and by the end had about 40. A mixed age range from Brownies upwards. Discussion of expectations revealed that most of the girls are already involved in Guiding in some way and some of them are keen to become leaders, so on paper our perfect target audience. The number of people and the vast age range complicated matters though, as did the acoustical difficulties of the hall.
It was also hard to engage the ‘grown ups’ in some of the activities, which meant that things took a long time to organise. There aren’t any suitable tables for group work in the room either, which may make some of the games a challenge as the week progresses.