Fatou Takes on Egypt
Monday, August 1st
I just boarded my flight for Egypt. It’s strange because I’m not excited as I felt when I was going to Senegal. I also noticed that I wasn’t very excited while I was in Harlem. I’m starting to feel more like a world citizen. My black body is floating from city to city and country to country. I am 18 years old and by August 2nd, 2016, I would have been to 2 countries in Africa. And I’m not done yet. I don’t know what to expect while I’m there. But I’m excited to see what the country offers. I’m not afraid. I’m not scared. Egypt is not ready for me.
Tuesday, August 2nd
The flight didn’t seem as long as I thought it would be. Senegal felt longer. We went to the hotel and checked in. Mikaela and I bought paninis and fries. The food was really good. It reminded me of Olga’s Kitchen; I love their bread. We ended up taking an hour and a half, because people got their room keys extremely late. So, dinner was at 8pm and afterwards, we went to debrief and introduce ourselves. It was really beautiful hearing the reasons why people wanted to come to Egypt. Hearing the struggles and testimonies that allowed us all to be here, in the place where humankind started, is truly a blessing.
Wednesday, August 3rd
So our hotel is literally facing the Giza Plateau and the Great Pyramids of Giza. I wake up every morning, walk outside, and I face the greatest pyramids built by my people. Black Africans, as the late and great Asa Hilliard would say. And to know that my people created these phenomenal structures is almost unreal, but it is and I am blessed to even be in this presence.
This morning, we went to Saqqara. The first stop was the tomb of Ptah-Hotep and his son. We couldn’t take pictures while we were inside but I didn’t mind only because sometimes I just like to sink things in. For me, it was a way of living in the moment. We saw the hieroglyphs in each room and I couldn’t help but touch every wall of every single room that we entered. The stories that are told on these walls are so sacred. The pictures, the colors, the way the pharaohs stood in hieroglyphs with their left foot facing forward, and the way each animal is depicted in different ways is amazing. And these are my people. Ancient Egyptians who created these spaces that are now occupied by Arabs who are not truly connected with the Ancient Egyptians…but that is neither here nor there. I kept touching the walls. We saw a dung beetle walk all around us as we stood in the room of Ptah-Hotep’s son. After this, we were still on Saqqara, but we went to a different site. We saw Mereruka’s tomb and Titi’s pyramid. We had to go a couple of feet underground but it wasn’t bad. Once we got down there, again, I couldn’t help but touch the walls. These hieroglyphs have stayed down there for thousands of years and will continue to stay down there for thousands more. We visited the oldest stone building in the world. 4,750 years old. The architecture is brilliant. As I was walking to the next area, a man who was offering horse rides for money told me his name is Moustapha. And so of course I said to him that my father’s name is Moustapha. He said we would talk later but I didn’t end up seeing him again.
After Saqqara, we went to Memphis, which is where we saw a multitude of statues of Ramses II. When I first walked in, I was shocked. You know when your mom told you something when you were a child? And whatever she told you, you heard it over and over and over and over again and you listened to what your mom was saying and you believed it but once you actually learned about it or saw it, it’s almost as if you never heard it? This is exactly how I felt. My mother told me over and over again that the Ancient Egyptians were African and black like me. In fact, blacker than me. Black as the midnight sky. And of course I knew this, but standing in front of these statues changed my entire perception. I saw it. I could feel it and I could physically see the connection. Something that many black people will not be able to say. And it was powerful.
We left Saqqara and went to the Giza Plateau. I was standing in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza and again, all I could think is “My people created this.” They are in me, literally embedded in my DNA.
We walked up a set of stairs that was designed for tourism and we walked inside of the Great Pyramid of Giza. There were at least 3 flights of stairs, but like my professors keep saying when you come half way around the world, you want to try your best to go the last 2 steps. So I walked my unfit body up every single stair and I kept looking up. We made it to the top, but many of us later that day discussed how we didn’t feel a spiritual connection while we were at the top. I don’t know if it had to do with the Arab man leading us up the stairs rushing us out of the pyramid and continuously telling us to be quiet. I don’t’ know if it had to do with it being no hieroglyphs inside of this pyramid or not finding anything inside. But I did feel connected with my Howard sisters and brothers as we called out “HU!” and replied “You know!”
We left the pyramids of Giza and went not too far from our hotel to go camel riding. I’ve never rode a camel before so this experience was amazing as hell to say the least. We ended the day with dinner and a lecture with Dr. Carr and Dr. Beatty.
Thursday, August 4th
Today, we visited the Egyptian Museum. Everything that my mom taught me became realistic today. We walked inside and I saw 2 huge statues of a queen and a king. I didn’t write their names down but as soon as we walked in, I felt like something within me made gravitate towards those statues. I asked Hala, our tour guide, if we could go over to the statue and she explained to me that we were going through the tour chronologically, from the Old Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom, and that statue was in the New Kingdom so I waited. We started with looking at small pieces from the Old Kingdom. The more we walked through, the more I started seeing my blackness within these statutes. And not just the statues. I could see it in the jewelry, the hair, the style that each and every single pharaoh or king or queen had in Ancient Egypt.
These are my people and I continue to see it in black culture, especially when I visited Senegal. Senegalese families have portraits of themselves and their children and their grandchildren and their parents, aunts, uncles, hanging all throughout their homes. The pride that black Africans have in our culture, our families, our scholarship, our traditions, our religions is truly an aesthetic that is represented in each of us. And I can see it reflected in Ancient Egypt. Kemet. The land of the blacks. I am black and these figures in this Egyptian Museum are black, which verifies my blackness and nobody can deny this. We continued and I saw two colossuses of Akhenaten or Nefertiti. Earlier scholars theorized it was Akhenaten but more recently, scholars are suggesting it is Nefertiti. I looked at the figures on both of these colossuses and could clearly see black. Their hips were wide and their legs were thick. Clear features of black Africans. But of course the Egyptian Museum interpreted it as “odd” with a “sagging body”.
Statue of King Akhenaten at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo picture
In order to know thyself, you must know thy history. If not, I would have taken everything that I have heard today or the texts that I read literally and would not have even questioned it.
I saw King Tutankhamun’s 2 coffins, the other is on the West Bank of the Nile at the Valley of Kings which he will be visiting in 3 days. I saw his 2 tombs that were made out of pure gold and the size of an average classroom in my eyes. I saw the mask that was placed on King Tutankhamun’s head when he died. It is solid gold and weighs 11 kilograms. 11 kilograms of pure gold. If someone tries to convince me that Ancient Egyptians aren’t black, clearly they have lost their damn mind. After this, we saw wigs that they wore. Braids and curly thick hair. Real representations of my people.
The last thing we saw in the museum were mummies. Black mummies, with black nails, black gums, black toes, black hair, black bones. Black people. My people.
We left the museum and visited the Mosque and Madrasa of Sultan Hasan, which the current Egyptians consider the greatest Islamic building in the world. It was very powerful. Hala was telling us about the beginnings of Islam and when Islam came to Egypt. In moments such as this, I am very blessed to have learned even a little bit about Islam in Africa because I can compare and contrast. Specifically, the differences and similarities of Islam in Senegal compared to Islam in Egypt.
Today was very fulfilling. And as the days progress, I feel as though I gain more knowledge.
Learning about the beginnings of mankind. Creating safe spaces among my Howard sisters and brothers and professors. Learning more about myself and others as the trip continues…these are the reasons why I am here. My faith got me here and my faith will allow me to go anywhere I desire.
Friday, August 5th
Mikaela and I woke up late, so today was not the best start. I remember getting up and hearing the wake-up call at 6am but I went back to sleep. Last night I did stay up making sure that I posted my first 4 days here, but I have stayed up later on other nights. Regardless of our tardiness, Dr.Beatty made sure we got up.
We went to the Maydom Pyramid. This pyramid was Snefru's first pyramid. Snefru is Khufu's father (Khufu's pyramid is the great pyramid of Giza, which is also one of the seven great wonders of the world) and is also the husband of Hetep-Heres. We walked on the outside of the pyramid to get inside. We walked down at least one hundred steps, probably more. Then, there was another set of steps that we had to walk up to get inside. This pyramid had a difference structure at the top of it in the inside from other pyramids that we have visited. Dr. Beatty explained to us how Egyptologists are still amazed to this day at the infrastructure.
After, we went to Snefru's pyramid. It took a very long time to get down and there were many stops but we finally made it all the way in after the next set of steps. It reminded me of National Treasure and the scene when they got inside and had all of those spiral staircases to walk up. The inside of the pyramid reminded me of a hallow cave with huge rocks sitting all around. We made it out and I heard Layla whistling "Lift Every Voice and Sing". All I could do was look up towards the light. To know that my ancestors built this and to know that my ancestors also went through the worst dehumanizing form of slavery known to man is cryptic to me. And I don't know how to feel about it.
We just left the Red Pyramid which is Snefru's 3rd pyramid and as I stood in front of it, I glanced at the 2nd one and it looked so perfect. The precision of each of the pyramids and the differences in each one is mind boggling. Now we are on our way to lunch. I had lamb, rice, bread and fries. The mango juice was really good, it tasted like the fresh mangos I had in Senegal.
Next stop was the Christian Coptic Church. We had to go underground. A lot of people were staring at us. I don't know if you all know this but the majority of the people in Egypt are Arab. So basically if I see black people, they are here for tourism. But there are black Nubians south of Egypt, which we will be visiting next week. Nonetheless, when we came into the church, all I saw was white looking figures and pictures. People were asking take pictures with some of us. And when I walked into a shop near the church, I met the owner and one of the workers there. It was funny because as soon as I walked in, Sall, the worker pointed to my skin and said "We love your skin. You are so beautiful." I was thanking him and the owner asked to take a picture with me. I ended up buying a dung beetle keychain from the store. Right before I left, the worker asked to take a picture with me. We left and people continued to stare at us and try to sell us things.
We ended the day on a boat going across the Nile River. The lecture was next and after that dinner.
Saturday, August 6th
I feel like Rev Run right now. I know y’all remember when he used to give some word of advice at the end of “Run’s House” in his tub and just relax.
I don’t have any advice to offer but I can share some knowledge.
We left Cairo this morning at 10:35a.m. and got on the plane to go to the city of Luxor. We landed and it only took about 50 minutes but I went to sleep so it went by fast. We placed our bags on the bus and before we got on the bus, everyone was staring at us. But it wasn’t like how the people in Cairo were staring at us…they stared at us as if they have never seen black people in real life.
We didn’t go to our hotel. Instead, we went to the Karnak Temple. It was amazing. We listened to Hala and Dr. Beatty give background history. This temple complex has 2,000 years of Kemetic history and scholars say there were over 90,000 priests working in this complex. And exactly how Dr. Beatty explained to us that the Ancient Egyptians’ buildings were synonymous to their characters at Dashur applied in the same context at Karnak. Before we entered, there were pylons at the entrance. One represents the eastern horizon and the other represents the western horizon and the opening between the two represents the sun. It is interesting how the original shape of the two formed into an Egyptian hieroglyph.
The highlight of my day was at the White Chapel. We poured libations for our ancestors and Dr. Carr mentioned those who have recently died and will never get the chance to come to Kemet. Black people who died for our rights in the struggle. And at that moment I began to cry. He said Trayvon Martin. We all replied, Ashe. Sandra Bland. Ashe. Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. Ashe. Martin Luther King Jr. Ashe. Theophile Obenga. Ashe. Kwame Nkrumah. Ashe. I thought about how blessed I truly am to be in Kemet. This is when it sinked in. My purpose of being here. My obligations that I have to my own community locally and globally.
We went back around and translated many of the hieroglyphs. My favorite glyphs deal with offerings and I can tell that Ancient Egyptians very giving people, because most of the offerings were given in plural amounts. We could tell this by seeing 3 strokes under or above the glyphs.
I saw the stories of Queen Hatshepsut and how she really was a king and wanted to be displayed as a king. Her obelisks are the longest and biggest in the world. I love her. And I love the respect that the people had for her.
The next place we went to was very interesting. But it had to do with the people.
As we walked in we received more stares. This time, everybody wanted pictures with us. It was as if they were more excited about us than they were with the temple. I took pictures with a mother and her children. I didn’t mind, because I knew it was out of curiosity and again, the fact that they have probably never seen black people before in their life. This fascination amazes me as much as it amazes them.
Before we got to our new hotel, we stopped at a papyrus shop and a man showed us how to make real papyrus, while explaining how the Ancient Egyptians made it. I bought my mom a papyrus for 115 L.E. It’s really beautiful.
We ended the day at the hotel with dinner and no evening lecture. Tomorrow we have an earlier start.
Sunday, August 7th
We are currently at the Valley of the Kings. I learned today that Ramses II had over 150 children. His children's tomb is the largest tomb in the Valley of the Kings and it’s basically a family mausoleum. The first tomb that we are going inside is that of King Tut Ankh Amun’s (King Tutankhamun). Three tombs were found in the the sarcophagus: the outermost gilded wood, the 2nd was inlaid with colored glass and semiprecious stones, and the innermost was of solid gold. King Tutankhamun has the smallest tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
I finally got to see King Tutankhamun. After years of hearing his name. After years of seeing the mini version that my mom bought, I finally got to see this King and the innermost gold coffin that he was placed in.
I remember seeing the scene of King Tutankhamun being given to Osiris and I recall Dr. Beatty saying in our Hieroglyphs class that it was strange for Ay to give another to Osiris. One scene was very interesting to me because it showed the gates or doors that the deceased have to go through. And I counted 24. 24 hours in a day. Each glyph had a curved beard, which means that person became a god.
I am now standing in Djehutymes III’s tomb. Many of these tombs weren’t completed, so many of the glyphs are outlined. But it’s strange because I find the outlined glyphs more aesthetic than finished glyphs. Of course the completed glyphs are beautiful, but seeing the foundation of what the Ancient Egyptians placed in these tombs, before the finished process is a sight to see. I am loving every moment of this. I keep asking questions and I won’t stop.
Again, I saw the 24 gates leading to a different god this time: Horus.
I have now been through 4 tombs, those of King Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Djehutymes III, and Merenptah (the god Ptah loves). Next up is the workers’ tombs.
We are at the tombs of Anherka and Inherka. These two were chiefs of the workmen. I saw scenes from the Book of the Dead and the Book of the Gates (which I recognized in Merenptah’s tomb), and scenes showing the underworld. One of the tombs looked very well-preserved. One of the Egyptian men who worked inside of the tomb was trying to explain some of the glyphs but I really wasn’t trying to listen to him. Plus, majority of us have learned Egyptian Hieroglyphs, so we were figuring it out on our own.
The last temple that we are visiting today is that of the last great kings of Ancient Kemet. Afterwards, Hala decided to take us to an Egyptian jewelry store that sells real gold and silver. I ended up buying a silver Nefertiti necklace and a silver ring with a cartouche that reads ankh, udja, seneb on it in hieroglyphs for my mother. The man who I was working with was very nice to me and he gave me a dung beetle pendant for free. My 3rd free object today.
We ended the day at the Luxor Museum. We had our evening lecture and Dr. Watkins was leading the discussion on women in Ancient Egypt. Dr. Beatty and Dr. Carr said it was only right that we discuss women in Ancient Egypt, especially after seeing Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. Today was very productive, to say the least. Tomorrow should be interesting.
Monday, August 8th
Today’s trip was tiring for the most part. We drove about 3 hours from Luxor to Abedju or what the Greeks call “Abydos”. Many people believed that it was the capitol at one point during the pre-dynastic period. Scholars also say that this is the place where Isis found the pieces of her husband. This all happened within the story of Isis and Osiris (Usir and Aset), Set and Sehkmet.
Hala and Dr. Beatty really wanted to show us the scene of Usir and Aset making the seed of Hrw or “Horus”.
Usir and Aset: Abedju Temple
We are now at the temple of Dendara which is dedicated to the goddess of Hathor. The goddess of love, dance, music, and healing, just to name a few attributes.
We sat down in a mini movie theater like room and watched a clip that was shown on the National Geographic Channel on Egypt. I was watching the history and background that it was giving on Dendara but I stopped listening when I saw a white woman come across the screen. And then I saw a white man cross the screen. But then again, I wasn’t surprised.
We saw early signs of Christianity in this temple. And we saw signs of Egyptian Hieroglyphs within Christianity. For example, the ankh which is the symbol of life in hieroglyphs is extremely related in appearance to the cross.
We ended the day with another visit to the jewelry store. I bought Nogoye a bracelet that has the eye of Horus, Aminata a chain and an ankh pendant, and Diarra a chain for her dung beetle pendant (the dung beetle represents “new beginnings”). We had dinner at the hotel and then our lecture.
Layla West, better known as Layla West the first, presented a lecture titled “Literature in KMT and the Stakes of Recovery”. So far, tonight’s lecture was my favorite. Layla’s 3 main topics were literature, recovery, and the stakes. Her presentation and the knowledge in which she possesses is beautiful, but the responses among the group were even more beautiful. I continue to tell people that I am not an emotional person but my 2 trips continue to bring out every single emotion that you could imagine. And just as I did in Senegal when I met my sisters and brother for the first time, I began to cry but I didn’t want anybody to see me so I hid my emotions. Ariel said something that resonated with me and at first she had a hard time trying to get the words out but then she finally said “When you don’t have money, you can’t do anything.”
It’s crazy because I’m getting filled with emotions as I’m typing on Mikaela’s laptop. And I can’t hold them in. All of the places that I have been and all of the accomplishments that I have made took a lot of hard work. And I remember the nights when I used to ask God why is this happening to me? And why can’t I get myself out of the position that I am stuck in? But then I finally realized my problem. And my problem was I didn’t have faith.
Layla posed the question and asked if we had a sense of urgency for recovery. Recovering who we are as black people or rediscovering who we are as black people. I have faith in this systematic, broken-down, capitalist, poverty filled society that I was born into. But sometimes it’s really hard trying to figure everything out when it seems like everything and everyone is against you. Or when it seems like everyone is looking at you not to fail. But this fear is what literally breaks those chains and if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone who has an urgency to recover themselves and help others, it would be this:
The first solution is to read. To read more on what you know and read what you don’t know. And don’t be afraid to read what you don’t know. Ask questions. Do not be afraid to question anything that people feel uncomfortable about. I believe God gave us a mouth to use and we are supposed to use it wisely and effectively. Read all and question all.
Tuesday, August 9th
So I didn't mention this earlier, but we have been going further south of Egypt. We went from Cairo to Luxor to Aswan and many other places in between. Hala told us that the next few temples that we will be visiting are of the Greek and Roman invasion in Kemet: Dendara, Edfu Horus, Komombo, and Philae.
The Komombo Temple stood out to me because it is dedicated to Horus and Sobek.
It's intriguing to me how "scholars" say that Sobek, the god of strength and virility who was revered and seen as a protection to the people, was an evil god. And scholars continue to say that Sobek is viewed as satanic, which didn't sit well with me at all.
"The power of the culture is what you do. The power of faith is what you believe."
-Dr. Mario Beatty
The Ancient Egyptians revered their gods. Every single god. Whether it be a god of love, a god of strength, or a god of chaos; all gods were highly respected. I believe in balance and I also believe in the good and the bad, but imposing a Western idea on a culture completely different from the West is idiotic. So my question is how can a highly revered god, who was in tune with the cosmos and nature and the people and the pyramids and the temples, be viewed as a devil or satanic.
It's a contradiction.
After we visited the temples we went back to the hotel to have dinner and our lecture. Lecture tonight was filled with emotion, but for me, I was confused.
Wednesday, August 10th
I woke up this morning around 6a.m. and my eyes opened up to see the most beautiful landscape that one could imagine.
We headed off to Philae Temple and once we arrived on the other side of the island, all I could see was my family. The people of Aswan are so beautiful. Not only in color or hair texture or style, but it's in the way they move. It is in the way they presented their goods. No force. No dire need to be assertive or rushed. And many of them are Nubian. This is the first connection I feel that I had with the people living today in Kemet .
We got on the boat to take us to the temple and as I was getting on, a little boy was greeting us. I looked up at him and I saw his beautiful, sunkissed skin that reminded me so much of myself and my family, blood related and Howard. He made me smile on the outside and within. His name is Amur. He is 13 years-old and he drove the boat that we were on to take us to the temple.
Amur and I
As we got off, Hala explained to us how this temple is the last temple in the Greco-Roman period in Kemet. To be honest,the further we moved into the Greco-Roman takeover, the more confusing the hieroglyphs looked and honestly I became uninterested. It was like a disconnect in some of the temples. At this point, I would take pictures of the scenes that stood out to me.
I did learn that this temple is for Aset: the most powerful goddess in Kemet. Her name means the throne. She holds the highest title and to the Ancient Egyptians, Aset was the mother of God and the mother of divinity.
With the days continuing and the trip almost over, I have to be honest with myself and to whomever is reading my blog: I feel stuck.
I feel stuck because everything that I have taken in from this trip has changed me. Spiritually. Intellectually. Holistically. When you take out all that you know and re-learn in the way that our ancestors did, or when you perceive the way they perceived the earth, the gods, their women, their buildings and pyramids, you then start to look at your community differently. You look at how you view scholarship, gender, race, skin color, rituals differently.
"If you can't elevate women in you cosmology, you can't elevate women in your reality."
-Dr. Mario Beatty
A chief from a Nubian village in Aswan came to our lecture to speak to us about what is going on in his community, history of the Nubians and he answered any question that we presented to him. Someone in t he group asked Farouk (chief elder) what could we do as youth in our communities to help out and he said:
"Steer forward, study, get your political position in the state. A real one, powerful. With you, the policy of the United States will be changed."
Young Nubian boys in Aswan
Thursday, August 11th
We got a later wake-up call this morning. It was supposed to be at 6:30a.m. but someone called me at 6:00a.m. and said "Allo, this is your wake-up call." Nonetheless, the extra sleep was appreciated. Today we are flying to Abu Simbel!
The two temples of Abu Simbel consist of Nefertari and Ramses II. These two great temples were aesthetically appealing as soon as we got off the bus and walked about 10 minutes to curve around the water and finally see it for our own eyes.
Ramses' II Temple at Abu Simbel
Nefertari's Temple at Abu Simbel featuring Jasmine
We got right back on the plane from Abu Simbel back to Aswan, since we were only going to Abu Simbel for the two temples. We got off the plane in Aswan and took a bus back to the main area across from our hotel. Some of us got food at McDonald's and others just picked up snacks near the area. I don't eat McDonald's anymore, so I went straight to the snacks. We had to get back to the bus soon because after we were going to the Nubian Museum.
Before we walked into the museum, I had hoped that it would not be your average "white people came and helped re-discover a village that was forgotten for thousands of years(this was placed in the museum) and with the help of a few village inhabitants helped the world to know about these long lost and forgotten ethnic groups." museum. However, that is exactly what it turned out to be. But hope is always necessary, especially for black people entering spaces such as the Nubian Museum in Aswan, Egypt.
I managed to get one picture while I was actually reading some the nonsense that was written on the walls and I want you all to carefully read what this says:
Writings inside of the Nubian Museum
I would give my take on this but honestly, I would be deciphering every single line typed on this paper. But one thing that I do want to point out is how Westerners come to other places and assume that they are doing these places a "favor". For one, who asked these people to come in and complete these missions? Secondly, the subtitle was misguiding because it portrayed the museum as if it were "looking through their eyes", the eyes of the Nubians but of course it was not. Last, the museum was put together extremely poorly, some of the figures of the animated Nubians didn't have any captions up at all. Then, it was explained to us that the museum was basically "put together". Aside from the Nubian museum, today was overall a good learning experience.
We had dinner once we got back to the hotel and lecture. The broad topic during the lecture was how we felt when we visited the museum. For today's post, I will leave you with two quotes, one from Dr. Carruthers and the other from Dr. Beatty.
"The museum is a site of intellectual warfare."
-Dr. Jacob Carruthers
"Being human doesn't equal white."
-Dr. Mario Beatty
Friday, August 12th
We sailed from Movenpick Resort to the Aswan Princes' Tombs. We climbed up a lot of steep stairs from the bottom to get to the top and we visited all 4 tombs. As I was walking from the 2nd tomb to the 3rd tomb, I looked straight down at my blue flip flops. In my peripheral vision, I could see the Nile River but it appeared as if I were going in a circle with it. To me, it felt as if life or ankh in Kemetic terms is continuous, even after your body is physically deceased. However, spiritually and when it comes to the Ka of my soul(spirit), I will live in harmony with all living beings . It was the strangest feeling but I loved it. After the nobles' tombs, we visited a Nubian village on Elephantine Island.
It was so beautiful. The school was filled with different shades of blue and shined so bright as we walked in. We walked over to the school to be greeted by chief elder Farouk, the elder from the other night and water and pop. Rogi got up and asked Hala if it was okay to play football with the young boys. She said yes. And right after Rogi, a storm of us went to the football field and played wit the students.
Sometimes, Westerns come to Africa and believe that they are doing African people a service by coming to villages, holding a little African baby and taking a picture for Facebook. This is what I viewed in Senegal and a little bit in Egypt. Especially when we met a young girl from the village who didn't want to take any pictures with any of us. Imagine how many people visit this island? And imagine how many people, white or black or yellow walk up to her and tell her multiple times that she is beautiful and take pictures with her and her younger sister?
As a black person, I never liked seeing this happen. Now, place a group of black students and professors in the same place with a different context and purpose for coming. This is what chief elder Farouk calls "union, knowledge and power." Our purpose for visiting the Nubian villages, or what I believe what is our purpose, is to re-discover our culture through those who look like us. Re-discovering includes educating all for the greater good, because we have to love our black children. Re-discovering includes taking a trip to Egypt, visiting over 30 sites and meeting hundreds of people from northern to southern Egypt regardless if the people are my color, or lighter or darker. Re-discovering includes donating $500 and school supplies to the Nubian school, because in order to learn, we must know thyselves. And we learn ourselves by teaching the babies first.
Mikaela, young Nubian boys from Elephantine Island and I
This cycle allows us to be connected with each other whether you are in Harlem, New York or Dakar, Senegal. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, we are all connected to each other whether one likes it or not. When one fails, the entire community fails.
We went to the next Nubian village and I could hear the Arabic prayers being played on a loud speaker. The breeze came by and it suddenly felt like I was in Senegal and never left spiritually. It made me miss Senegal so much. But hearing the prayer calls also made me appreciate physical life and the spirit and soul of my body. I feel content here, just as I did in Senegal.
Tonight's celebration was beautiful. We celebrated Reya's birthday and danced and sung for her. Dr. Beatty gave his last few words and ever day I realize more and more how much of an impact that Dr. Carr, Dr. Beatty, and Dr. Watkins have on me.
"How do we view the purpose of what we are learning?"
-Dr. Mario Beatty
Well, how do you view it?
Saturday, August 13th
We're leaving Movenpick Resorts today and Aswan. I looked at the pink flowers that sprung out on the trees. For some reason, I always find myself staring at the trees here. All of them are so beautiful. Pleasing to my eyes and my eyes only. Aswan is beautiful. I didn't want to leave. Waking up to the Nile River every morning was a privilege for me, yet people are blessed to wake up to the Nile River every day of their lives'.
I remember yesterday when we left the oldest Nubian village on Elephantine Island, 2 boys who we played football with threw their shirts off and jumped into the Nile River. They grabbed on to the boat and held on as long as they could and said goodbye to us. They let go and continued to swim in the Nile. The young boys on this island wake up every morning to the Nile River and for me it was a blessing just to swim in it. The Nile River was an oasis and I didn't want to leave. The river, along with Aswan itself has taught me so much in these last few days that I will never forget.
Nyle staring into the Nile River
We checked in our bags, walked through security and went to our gate. I sat by myself because I wasn't feeling well. Everyone told me it was allergies but I will continue to say that I don't have allergies. Rogi sat with me and we talked about our trip and how we're both getting emotional about leaving Egypt. We haven't left yet but knowing that we're leaving tomorrow hasn't resonated within me yet. She began to cry. And I listened to everything she told me. Her purpose for coming to Egypt, how she only wants to bring back feelings that will keep her hopeful, passionate, and excited for the future-any other thoughts are unnecessary. Soon after, I began to cry. The spiritual connections that we felt in these 2 weeks is something that I cannot explain in a blog. I can barely explain it when I talk to my mother about my experience. But I know that it has changed me forever. This blessing has been incredible in ways that I cannot manifest into words but rather emotions, which is why we sat at that table at gate 4 and cried together.
We got on the plane and headed back to Cairo.
We got our bags off the bus and received our room keys. Coming back to the social environment in Cairo threw me off but nonetheless, the spaces that we create in each city create positive atmospheres wherever we go.
After dinner, we didn't have a room to have our summation lecture so we went near the poolside to talk. A few of us ordered drinks and one by one, each of us gave our reflections on our trip to Egypt.
I purposely didn't raise my hand to speak because I knew I was going to cry. Somehow, it ended up on me and before I could muster up not even one word, I started sobbing. This entire trip I've been reading Malidoma Some's Ritual Power, Healing and Community and there's a part in his first chapter that stood out to me and reads:
"The only place where abundance is warranted is in nature. A person who wastes is a person who insults the gods. In light of the waste encountered in the modern world, one wonders if anyone knows that there is a world outside of this abundance where people are aware of priorities other than materialism."
My trip to Egypt has truly made me realize that there is a world outside of the modern world where materialistic things aren't prioritized over humanity. I saw it. I could feel it. We read and heard the hieroglyphs and translations from Dr. Beatty and Dr. Carr's mouths. And knowing that the Ancient Egyptians lived beyond a materialistic world, and knowing that Kemet is where humanity began so these have to be my people, I know that there is a world outside of the modern world that values character, morals, justice, scholarship, just to name a few, over things. Unnecessary, non-valuable materialistic things. That world is innately within black people. It's hidden deep inside of us. Maybe we have to visit Kemet to pull it out or maybe we have to take Egyptian Hieroglyphs to realize it but I do know that this world exists. I saw it with my own 2 eyes as I journeyed on and completed my first, but not last, trip to Egypt.
Sunday, August 14th
I was listening to Yanni's "Santorini" and looked outside of the window at the Egyptian flag as we drove away from the hotel's entrance. I said so long to one of the seven wonders of the world, the great pyramids of Giza. I said so long to Hala, our amazing tour guide for these past 2 weeks. And I said so long to Egypt, until next time.
"If we want true and real liberation, we have to stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of others." -Dr. Mario Beatty