So…. Last year I deceived to find out where I was from. I took two different DNA test and came back with two different results, there goes that theory. Anyways, one said without a shadow of a doubt I was from West Africa (Sub-Saharan) that could be anything from Senegal to Cameroon.
Helen Lawrence 100%
- Sub-Saharan African 80.3%
- African Hunter-Gatherer 2.9%
- Broadly Sub-Saharan African 2.2%
- Broadly Northwestern European 7.0%
- Broadly Southern European 2.6%
- East Asian & Native American 0.5%
- Broadly East Asian & Native American 0.1%
These results were from 23 & Me. The next one said I was a mixture of Ethiopian, Nigerian, and Turkish??? Lawrence is a German last name, and yes I know the slave masters gave us a NEW last name and tried to strip us of our identities and royalty, but that’s another topic and blog for another time. OK, I’m back…didn’t mean to get so deep, I was really confused because “HELLO” Ethiopia is in Eastern Africa, oh well, I said all of this to say, that I made a vow that once I found out WHO I WAS, I was going to visit those areas to ingratiate myself in my TRUE and Authentic Self and Culture. Since I am still confused because most DNA test also do not include your Native Indian breakdown, I knew it was safe to say I was still in search of who I REALLY AM. What I know for sure is I come from amazing parents, grandparents and ancestors from all other the globe, and that I am a Perfect Combination of what GOD created me to be. So, in the meantime, my travels and discovery will be limitless and explorative. I knew my first trip to Africa would be this year, but where to?? I chose Egypt…LOL
I have had Egypt on my “To Do” list for many years. From both a Biblical and Historical standpoint I knew one day I would make my way there. At the beginning of the year I was laid off from an employer that I worked at for nine years. My last day was two weeks before the Super Bowl and to be honest I wasn’t devastated, but I was a little disappointed. My team makes it to the Super Bowl, and I had to “ADULT” and decided if spending $5,000 to go to the Super Bowl (flight, hotel and at least 200 level ticket) was fiscally responsible. I mean I got a handsome severance, I have always been disciplined and amassed saving in multiple accounts, and hey how often does YOUR team get to a Super Bowl (unless you’re a New England Patriots fan)? The Eagles had not been in 14 years, but I decided that I needed to pick between the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February, or Egypt for my birthday in July (both came with extreme temperatures on opposite ends) so I picked Egypt over my EAGLES. The good news is that the EAGLES won the Super Bowl and I was able to attend the first Super Bowl parade for my Team and City. Here it was June and I still had no job, my unemployment benefits were running out, and I had not been anywhere all year, so this “Wanderlust” was going through some serious withdraw. So, with no job offers, I did what any sensible person would do….I booked two trips for July 😊, one to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the July 4th holiday, and the other for Cairo Egypt for my 47th birthday, and in true Helen style, I went Solo and First Class for both.
I have been to every US State at least once (work mostly afforded this) with the exceptions of Alaska and South Dakota, 25 Countries, and enough frequent flier miles to start my own airline. Approximately 95% of those have been International SOLO trips, because for me, that’s my preferred way to travel. I am accountable for me, myself, and I. Being adventurous I also decided to stay at my 4th Airbnb and coming from a bourgeoise Hilton Girl that is saying a lot. After careful review and narrowing it down, I found the best place in Cairo for me, with Pyramid views, enough room for 8 people and a HOST that topped all past Host. My host Mahmoud affectionately known as “Mo” was extremely responsive, planned my trip from pick-up, to additional flights, to a 4-day cruise in between, and back to the airport for a 3:30 AM departure for my flight back to Atlanta. It was go hard or go home.
I left the night before my birthday; the flight was 15 hours with a brief layover in Rome. I didn’t sleep the entire flight, and that’s not the norm for me. I’m the girl that falls asleep before the cabin door even shuts, but this time, I just could not. They served dinner, dessert, I watched two Nigerian Movies (my favorite) and got up 3 times (something I have to force myself to do), yet I was wide awake. Upon arrival in Rome, I checked into the Sky Club Lounge (y’all thought I was lying when I said I’m bourgeoise) freshened up, had lunch and said a Happy Birthday prayer, before my connecting flight in two hours. “Thank You Father for 47”.
When I arrived in Cairo, I was a little nervous. Not because I was in a predominately Muslim Country, not even because I was traveling solo, because truth be told I was familiar with both, but I was not sure what to expect I guess. As I came down the escalator the first thing I noticed was a well-dressed man holding a sign with my name on it. He whisked me through getting my Visa and Immigration while others were looking at me like “who is that girl?” He spoke amazing English and during the ride gave me a car tour, being sure to point out all landmarks and answer all of my questions, and I had few; like in the first 20 minutes, I didn’t see one female driver?? My greeter and driver let me know they just recently started letting women drive, remember in the Muslim culture, women are more caregivers and quite frankly not expected to drive. Now here is this professional, executive, single black female who does EVERYTHING for herself in a Country where that is frown upon. CHECKED & NOTED…After about an hour drive, observing the clear bifurcation between the haves and the have nots, I was in front of my HOME for the next week. If you have ever done an Airbnb in other Countries, the outside is generally not the best aesthetically, and can make you a little nervous, but Mo was standing outside to greet me, and had a gentleman take my luggage up as we walked together to the elevator. Lord please let this place look like the pictures.
The pictures online did not do the apartment any justice, the place was amazing. It could sleep up to eight, a full kitchen with a stocked refrigerator, ice-cold AC, a balcony with the three pyramids in my view, and most importantly HOT WATER for the Shower. Later that night Mo’s wife and mother prepared me the most amazing birthday/welcome to Egypt meal fit for a Queen. They do this for every guest I’m told, but I’m going to pretend it was all because it was my birthday LOL. What isn’t the norm is later that evening Mo took me to sit outside with the locals to smoke some Shisha and discuss my packed itinerary. Because I was solo, Mo was my personal tour guide and his good friend was my personal driver for the Cairo portion of my trip.
My first full day started with the Pyramids of Giza & Sphinx. They were MASSIVE in person and I count it a blessing to be standing here at what is still considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was also excited that I finally was able to check this off my bucket list. I rode a camel, and had an impromptu photo shoot courtesy of my Brother Mo. Next, we ventured off to Sakkara, what I didn’t know if this is where the very first Pyramid ever built was and I was able to venture inside the tombs of Teti and Kagemni. Time for lunch, to know me, is to know this is an area I am NOT adventurous in, but I tried a local favorite Kofta. It is a mixture of minced beef or lamb with spices, rolled onto a skewer and barbecued over coals. They look like and taste a little to me like Jimmy Dean Turkey breakfast sausage.
Now that our stomachs were full the next stop was to Memphis the ancient Capital of Egypt to see the biggest statue of King Ramsses II. The last two spots were visits to a papyrus painting shop, where they showed me how the paints are applied to papyrus paper. Here is the popular Judgement Day:
Afterwards, I went to a fragrance shop that made their own oils and perfumes. Let’s just say I spent more than I planned, and one of the four oils I purchased was guaranteed to heal my knee pain, and another would get me a husband LOL. I haven’t opened any of them yet.
I slept in the next day because I had a flight to Luxor. Mo set me up for a 4-day cruise on a 5 Star Cruise Ship (called floating hotels by the locals). I was met by my English-speaking tour guide, Omar who immediately along with my personal driver, took me to the Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple all before the sun went down. In between, he also took me to find an Egyptian style dress to wear to one of the nightly theme parties, it cost me a whopping $6 USD and I have to say I was cute 😉
During the next few days I visited The Valley of Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Edfu Temple, KomOmbo Temple, and continued to sail to Aswan. On the last day was a visit to Phialae Temple Island, and the High Dam then the unfinished Obelisk. I asked my tour guide if we could modify the tour (at this point I was all tombed, pyramided, and templed out…LOL) I had read about the Nubian Village and I had to go. With a few phone calls, we hopped on a motor boat and about 30 minutes later we were there, and I’m so glad as this became one of the highlights of the trip. The Egyptians here speak Arabic, but they also have a Nubian language, they looked more like me, and I got to touch a crocodile. The plan was to hold him, but he was NOT as cooperative as he was the day before, and let’s just say momma didn’t raise no fool, I knew how and when to leave well enough alone.
I arrived back to Cairo that evening and once again my FAVORITE driver was at the airport waiting on me. We brushed up on the 10 Arabic words I learned on the cruise and he tried to teach me a few more. The next morning was a tour of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I guess we went on the most popular day and time because it was overly crowed. Mo told me Friday is the weekend and many go to Mosque for noon prayer. Because I was not a Muslim, I had to observe the prayer but could not enter the mosque at this time. We took a trip to the downtown market place, it was a combination of Canal Street in New York; South Street in Philly and the Underground in Atlanta. You can get clothes, food, household items (Mo brought me a beautiful top spread/throw in Purple). We sat and enjoyed both a Coke for me and a fresh pineapple drink for MO. He continued to educate me on the Muslim culture and what I would see at Noon. He excused himself and participated in the noon prayer, in the street. To watch the men and women worship on one accord was moving. I have always been a spiritual person, and I LOVE true authentic WORSHIP, and this day was beyond anything I had EVER seen. Imagine hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people praying on one accord, over 100 degrees, many could not make it in the Mosque, so they worshiped in the streets. Imagine, young and old, you don’t have to be a Muslim to appreciate what I saw this day. Once the prayer ended, tourist were then permitted to enter the mosque. We traveled to another mosque instead; The Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali. This place was beautiful inside and out. The view from the outside of the mosque was even more breathtaking.
We were slated to visit the hanging church, instead we opted to ride to the top of the 70 story Cairo Tower. I pulled the Canon back out and we went to taking pictures. MEET MO Ladies and Gentlemen, your FUTURE Tour GUIDE, HOST and BROTHER (because I know many of you want to go and can and should.
Now a sister was wiped out and hungry. Mo saved the best meal for last. In true authentic Egyptian style, I was treated to and devoured the Egyptian favorite, Kushari or Koshari. This dish is made with rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar; also add in some chickpeas and crispy fried onions and a squirt of lemon or lime juice.
I don’t know if I ate it too fast or ate too much, but when I got up that next day my stomach was not as happy as it was when I ate it LOL, but it was worth it. On my last day, Mo and I had Shisha that night, amazing conversation, and I promise you he is my new found brother. I had a 3:00 AM flight, and my driver was friendly and alert at that time of morning. Mo brought me a papyrus paper art picture that I was eyeing but was trying to be frugal. I cried like a baby when he surprised me with it, saying I wanted to do something nice for you, plus it’s your birthday.
They say people don’t have to be nice and when they are, they don’t have to be nice to you.
As-Salaam-Alaikum, Akhi Sadiki MO 😊 (PEACE BE UNTO YOU BY BROTHER AND FRIEND MO)
shkra lk ya sadiki (Thank You my Friend)