Traveling from Luxor to Cairo, Egypt

I woke up at 6:30AM for a morning quiet time that I had planned for several weeks. I had planned to read from the book of Genesis, as I caught an overnight train from Luxor to Cairo, which was scheduled to arrive in the early morning on 6/4/0 (Monday). The train ride was a rough one, despite the fact that I had a personal sleeping compartment all to myself. Rising from my bed and tired beyond words, I began reading the account of Joseph at the end of Genesis. The sun had not yet risen over the Arabian Desert, and the pre-dawn fog still flooded the plush farmlands that lined the Nile. The countryside was remarkably "blue" before its pending illumination, and the distant palms and crops peaking out through the hazy curtain stirred in me a surreal and haunting emotion. As we proceeded past towns and villages and homesteads that have not changed for centuries, I continued to read the story of Joseph and gaze out into the very land that Joseph administered for Pharaoh. To think that Joseph controlled all of the land I was viewing! It was a powerful feeling and I was overcome with emotion.

haunting images

early morning mist

SPECIAL NOTE: Less than nine months after my trip on the Luxor to Cairo train, that very same train was involved in the "worst accident in over 150 years of Egyptian rail history." On 2/20/02, a fire broke out on the train from a small heater that was brought on board by one of the passengers. Passengers often use portable gas stoves to brew tea and coffee on trains. The train was grossly overcrowded and did not have proper fire extinguishing equipment. Panic ensued from the spreading fire and no one was able to alert the train conductor who pushed onward into the night. Hundreds of people were cooked to death, many while trapped behind locked metal grates in third-class compartments. Others died while jumping from the speeding train. In all, 361 passengers were killed.

At 7:30, I was served breakfast and began to get apprehensive about my arrival in Cairo. Unbeknownst to me, and not told to me by my travel agent in the States or in Egypt, there are two train stations in Cairo. There is one station in Giza and another station in the heart of the city. A relative of mine was scheduled to meet me at "the train station" and now that I have been told there are two stations, I was beginning to get nervous that I might pick the wrong station.

Entering the city was an disconcerting affair. The poverty and depressive look of the city outskirts were only surpassed by the innards of this urbania. I wondered how people could live in such filth.

poverty in "middle class" Cairo

zipping by on the train

When we reached the Giza station, I peaked out and did not see my cousin Donald, so I decided to ride through to the other station. Upon my arrival at this locale, I was upset to see that he was not there to meet me either. After leaving the track and entering the main station, I did not find my friend and started to get concerned. I was the ONLY white person amongst literally THOUSANDS of Islamic people scurrying about the cramped confines of the station. After making my way to the outer areas and seeing that my cousin was not there, I realized that I was not in a good place. Luckily, I had Don's phone number and address, so I could try to contact him. It wasn't long before the security police approached me.

Obviously lost and wreaking of a tourist about to be jumped, the security police asked me in broken English what was going on and I tried to explain to them that someone was meeting me. They told me to wait near them so I would be safe. I sat in the station for about 30 minutes, but no one arrived. I then tried to talk to the security police and managed to explain to them that I wanted to make a phone call. They helped me exchange some small currency and I tried for about 10 minutes to call. They insisted that I leave my stuff with them, which made me very apprehensive. Finally, I did leave my main suitcase, but took my valuables with me to prepare for the worst-case-scenario that my main bag "walked off." After trying repeatedly to call, I finally got through, however, the number was wrong and I accidentally woke up some lady. I tried again, but this time I got a man, who screamed at me in an Islamic tongue. Realizing that I had the wrong number, I wondered if I should try to go to the address I had written down. I remember that my cousin said that he would be moving around the time that I was arriving. I figured that this had probably happened, since the phone number was wrong. Therefore, If I went to the address that I had for Don and he was nowhere to be found, I would REALLY be in trouble. I decided it was best to stay put.

Fear began to set in at this point as I realized that I was truly alone and in a bad place. I sat on my bag, alone in the Cairo train station, for the next hour. I have never felt so scared in my life. I wasn't panicking, but I was very scared. I was alone and it seemed the only option available to me was to wait for my cousin, who may be at the Giza train station or Lord knows where else. I knew intellectually that God was with me and I did say a prayer or two and remind myself that he was near. Still, my prayers did little to calm my nerves. Muslims began praying right in front of me at one point as the minarets called the masses to prayer while I was waiting. In light of the situation between Muslims and Christians, I was worried that they might get enraged in their prayers and walk over and confront me . . . or worse. I can't say that I have experienced much fear in my life. I'm sheltered from much of that in America. However, I experienced genuine fear in the Cairo train station.

After an hour of waiting, I again spoke to the security police. I asked them if they could help me purchase an "international" phone card. They helped me. With the phone card, I was able to call the United States and luckily, I was able to get in contact with my mother who had not yet left for work. I explained the situation to her and she told me that Don had e-mailed her with his new contact info (I did not have access to e-mail at this stage of my trip. I told her that she needed to contact him and tell him where I was. She said she would. At this point, I felt much better, because at least someone knew where I was. I called back after 15 minutes and my mother was able to get in contact with Don. She said that he would be there in 30 minutes. Thus ended my ordeal. The half hour went by in no time and after a 30 minute cab ride, I finally arrived at the home of my relatives, Sylvia and Don Barlow.

The Barlow's are awesome people, as I had never before met them personally. I think the last time they had seen me I was just a little boy. When I started planning my trip to Egypt, I remembered that they lived there and contacted them. They were both enthusiastic about the prospects of me coming to stay with them for a short time. I was able to spend a little time talking with them before heading off to a short nap. It was still morning when I laid down for to take a nap, and when I awoke, it was 7PM. Oddly enough, I was still tired. When I awoke, Sylvia and Don had gone out and purchased Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coca-Cola. Oh, the beauty and divinity of American fast food!!!! REAL food, after the junk I had been subsisting on for the past four days, was a godsend! (take note, for this may be the only time you ever hear KFC described as "real food").

I really enjoyed talking and getting to know Sylvia and Don. They are so incredibly cool. Don is very funny and always eager to laugh. Sylvia drips with sweetness and her smile lights up every room she enters. Together, they were such a blessing to me and got me through my first day in Cairo and eventually the rest of the week as well. I only stayed up for an hour or two and then I returned to bed. Sunday by the pool had really taken its toll on me and I was a little burned, definitely dehydrated, and the sickness I had experienced at the hotel and on the train did not help matters.

my cousins, Don and Sylvia Barlow


Tuesday was scheduled as another day of rest (remember, this was also a vacation!) I was still recovering from my long list of discomforts, so I decided to stay around the house. I woke up very early at 4:30AM as I have been doing regularly, which coincides non-coincidently with the Muslim call to worship. To me, it was like doing combat. The Muslims were praying to their God, it was time to lift up the true One. I also sent my first e-mails on this morning, which worked out to be a good time to check my account. I basically spent the day sleeping a lot and watching the BBC, which was the only English channel we were receiving. That evening, Don took me out to a local restaurant that was owned and operated by an American couple. I gained a new appreciation for America as I was constantly craving US food. Everything else in Egypt seemed to make me sick.

Excerpts from an e-mail sent to friends on 6/5/01 -
I have had a rather tumultuous trip thus far, however my Father has been faithful. They almost cancelled my flight from NYC to Cairo, which would have ruined the first part of my trip . . . Then I was stranded at the train station for 3 hours in Cairo, because of a mis-coordination with my relatives who live here. I have never been so scared and helpless in all of my memories. I knew that I was not alone, and I tried not to panic, but I was very scared. Since that event, I have been gripped by fear for the last 2 days and have not desired to leave the apartment here. I am not used to living in fear, and I haven't adjusted to it well. I have been comforted through Psalm 46:1-2 and verse 10 and I believe that I will feel better in short time.

I managed to speak with Gil in Bethlehem, and he has assured me that he will meet me at the airport this Friday at 5:45PM and will take me back to Bethlehem with him. Gil had previously said he couldn't make it, and I would have to find my own way into Palestinian Occupied Territory, which had me very nervous, especially since they shut down the border to all Palestinian travelers a short time ago. However, Gil has an American passport, and will be able to go and meet me. That will be a MAJOR help to me. Terrible things have happened in the region recently, so I am also concerned. I may have to limit my travels while in Israel so that I maximize my safety.

Thank you for your prayers. I implore you to continue to pray for me to make all of my connections well, and I thank you in advance for doing so. My health has not been good. I have sunburn, a fair amount of fatigue (including jet-lag), and have had some stomach and intestinal problems (I think you know what I'm talking about). However, I am surviving and have been enjoying my time here. Oddly enough, I haven't thought very much about home in the States. I am very focused on my time here. My Father is accomplishing many purposes in my life and teaching me new things each moment. I am trying to loose myself totally in His will. I don't know that I have felt much closer to Him than I do now.

I have been keeping odd hours on my trip thus far. I have been waking up routinely at 4:30AM and have had significantly lengthy quiet times (usually 1.5 to 2 hours.) My ferverency has been heightened by my need, and I have been brought closer to Him as a result. Two of my quiet times this week were especially emotional (I am still recovering from them) . . .I have already been in tears several times, as I have read the scriptures and experienced things I have never felt before. I cannot continue now, but at a later time, I will. Until then, please be in constant prayer for me.

Danger still abounds here in Egypt. On my way here to Egypt, a group of English-speaking Egyptian residents told me about the recent and highly publicized threat by terrorist Osama Bin Laddin.

Apparently, he has threatened to target and murder American tourists in Egypt. What a wonderful news item to hear as you are waiting in the Cairo airport with a 9 day "tour" of Egypt before you. Anyway, security here has been EXTREMELY TIGHT as they anticipate Bin Laddin's next move. Tourism is their #2 source of income here and they were TERRIBLY affected after the terrorist bombing at the Pyramids several years ago. Without the tourists, Cairo suffers BADLY. Therefore, there are police officers EVERYWHERE! - Almost on every street corner throughout the city. In fact, in most parts of Cairo, there are more police officers than traffic lights. Every government building is swamped with guards . . . The government is taking EVERY precaution to keep things safe.

Journal excerpt
Tomorrow, I would like to go on my first grand tour and spend the day seeing the pyramids. Don has told me about a friend of his who sometimes helps him learn the Egyptian language and who is an excellent tour guide. His name is Ibrahim Morgan and Don has arranged for Ibrahim to meet me at the subway station in the morning. I am hoping to see at least the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum. Anything else would be a bonus.

You may download my Egypt 2001 screensavers at Webshots

Traveling to Luxor
Luxor and Karnak Temples
West Bank of ancient Thebes
Final day in Luxor
First 2 days in Cairo
The Pyramids, Sphinx, and King Tut
Touring Islamic and Coptic Cairo

On to Israel!!!!!


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