Day 6: Mosque, Mara, Suez, Sinai
Today was mostly a traveling day through the desert. While it may sound rather boring driving through the desert, we made it interesting with the many stops we made. We drove from Cairo to the Suez where we crossed the Suez Canal. Actually, we drove under it, which was pretty cool.
I never really realized how awesome our guide was. At first, I was rather turned off by Izzat because I thought, “We are college students and we have two professors with us. Why are we paying for another person to tell us stuff we already know?” Oh how arrogant and wrong I was!
Apparently, in countries where history is so rich and so vibrant (and one of the main sources of income for the country is tourism), a bachelor’s degree in Tourism and Hospitality is required to do anything in the tourism industry. In America, we don’t know anything about tourism, really. Our country is only about 225 years old. We don’t have that much of a history yet. We don’t know anything about monumental structures and history that was built thousands upon thousands of years ago. (You can argue for the Native Americans, but still, people don't flock to America to see the Indians, come on now.)
After being with Izzat, I have concluded that professional tour guides are some of the smartest people in the world. They speak multiple languages and are experts on pretty much everything in their country. I can only recall one question that Izzat couldn’t answer (I don’t remember the question specifically, but it was something really specific like “What does this symbol mean?”), but that wasn’t because he didn’t know, it was because nobody knew (by “nobody”, I mean professors and people who know stuff).
Overall, I was really impressed with Izzat. I took time to thank him very much for all that he did for us. He really connected with us and was very informative the entire way. He even said he would find us and friend us on Facebook (which I thought was pretty cool).
Izzat was not only our guide, he was our translator, cultural expert, etc. One time we went to dinner without him but before he left he told us exactly what we should do. But then we ran into a snag. There was some miscommunications at the restaurant and we were forced to leave (not because of anything we did to offend them, but they were under the impression that we were not supposed to eat there, but at another restaurant they sent us to). Arriving at our second restaurant, we were confused. We realized just how much we needed Izzat in that moment and how ignorant we Americans were with Middle Eastern affairs. If Izzat was there, he would have had that whole thing resolved in a few minutes. But the night did end out working well. We ate and had fun.
Traveling through the Sinai was very interesting. I felt like we were following the Israelites as they left Egypt a few thousand years before us. Especially after we stopped at Mara, the place of “Bitterness” where Moses turn the bitter water into drinkable water. Seeing the two wells there really brought the history to life.
I learned something else after this event: Izzat seemed to really know his Bible history. After asking him, I found out he was a Coptic Presbyterian. How cool, being guided by a Brother from another culture! I talked to Dr. Appold about Izzat being a Christian, and he said, “Of course he is a Christian. Those are the only people I work with over here.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Besides it being my preference,” he said, “It is easier for the tourism groups to get along with the tour guide and get to know the country if everyone starts with the same presuppositions. When we try to tour over here, the travel agency asks us what our belief system is so they can pair us up with someone of the same background. That way, there is no dispute.”
How cool! Every one of our tour guides from here on out are going to be Christians. I am so excited about it. I can’t wait to tell you more.
Following His Call,