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Women of Egypt

Created date

April 27th, 2010

Earlier this year, 13 women from Maris Grove took the trip of a lifetime a two-week excursion to Egypt. [caption id="attachment_11678" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Some of the 13 Maris Grove residents who went on the Egypt trip gathered around Basim Samir (center), their Egyptologist, in front of Luxor Temple. "]Maris Grove, where they proposed visiting the Land of the Pharaohs to the community s travel department. Trip Coordinator Peggy Fralinger took care of planning all the details; all they had to do was hop on the plane with 11 of their traveling companions.

The first leg

After flying into Cairo, the ladies stayed in a former palace now converted into a Marriott. Though American dishes were offered, they decided to eat the food of the land. I didn t go to Egypt to eat a Philly cheesesteak, jokes Helene Maculaitis. What did she go for? The antiquities, of course, she says. And she found them while exploring the city for five days. Then the group flew from Cairo to Aswan, where they picked up a riverboat for a seven-day cruise up the Nile to Luxor. They stopped at little villages along the way to explore temples, see one of the world s largest libraries, and dip their feet in the Mediterranean Sea. [caption id="attachment_11679" align="alignright" width="280" caption="The group toured the Temple of Hapshetsup at Deir-el-Bahri on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Luxor."][/caption]

Wonders of the land

I thought at first Egypt was just about the pyramids and the Sphinx, and boy did I learn it s so much more! says Helene Maculaitis. According to the group, one of the most fascinating parts of the trip was Old Cairo, also known as Spiritual Cairo. With tour guide Basim Samir, a Coptic Christian, the travelers heard the call to prayer being swept on the wind at Muslim mosques and Coptic Orthodox Christian churches. One of the churches was built on top of a Roman ruin, part of which was still visible, says Margaret Yarosh, who lives atMaris Groveand grew up overseas. During her school days in the United Kingdom and South Africa, history classes focused mostly on the colonies of Great Britain, but she was intrigued by ancient civilizations and the mysterious Nile which flowed upward. She always wanted to flow south on the River Nile, so when she saw there was still space on theMaris Grovetrip, she signed herself and her daughter-in-law up for the adventure; every time she travels, she tries to go with a new family member. [caption id="attachment_11680" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Maris Grove s Margaret Hinderhofer (left) and Director of Human Resources Iman Oklat in front of the Sphinx."][/caption] Samir showed them a cave where Jesus and his family stayed for the first six months of his life. They stood in front of a synagogue on the very spot where the Pharaoh s daughter discovered Moses as he floated on the River Nile. The Nile is known to have changed paths many times over the centuries, and it flowed right there where we stood, Yarosh says. The sense of history was awe-inspiring. Luxor Temple was the largest they saw, and the path between it and Karnak Temple was lined with 100 sphinxes. Dwelling underground, covered by massive amounts of sand, are still thousands of sphinxes and 100 pyramids yet to be unearthed. Archaeologists are now using ultrasound to see what s below the surface. I have to go back when they uncover the rest, Helene Maculaitis says. The women had to creep and crawl their way through a chamber to get to the peak of the largest pyramid. Staring out at the Sphinx and pyramids, Yarosh was moved to silence. I had to stand still facing all that majesty and history and tell myself I was really there; this was not a dream or a TV show, she says. Traveling across the Sahara Desert, even transportation was surreal. At the pyramids in Giza, we rode camels, Kathleen Maculaitis recalls. They smell awful and make funny noises but the ride was smooth and fun. Just the thought of the camels inspired smiles from the ladies as they remembered it. The land became even more clear during the balloon ride, adds Yarosh. As we rose in the balloon above the desert floor, there was a road which was a clear delineation of the green, fertile land and the brown, dry desert.

The warmth of a people

An Egyptian family opened their home so the group got an authentic taste of the culture. The host woman prepared a full Egyptian meal for all 13 travelers and spoke of life in Egypt. Her home consisted of one residence with four other homes stacked above it. It is something of a tradition for the parents to provide homes for their married children, explains Yarosh. So the parents live on the first floor and as each child marries, they build an addition on top of the previous home. After leaving the family, theMaris Groveladies saw both the new and the old as they cruised up the River Nile. On one side of the river, there were hotels, businesses, and storefronts, and on the other side, people waved to us and smiled while they washed their dishes and clothes in the river, their water buffalo next to them, Kathleen Maculaitis says. For fellowMaris Groveresident and Egypt traveler Margaret Hinderhofer, the trip brought to mind the 1958 novel/1963 film The Ugly American. This is what Americans are called in many other countries because they are disliked, she says, but that wasn t the case in Egypt. We were welcomed and treated with warmth throughout.

Keeping history alive

TheMaris Grove group found Egyptians to be a warm people, open and eager to teach Americans about their history and culture. Our Egyptologist [Samir] asked us to go home and tell everyone about the beauty of the land and people. They re very proud of their country, as they should be, Kathleen Maculaitis says. Along with a memorable experience and many pictures,Maris Grove swomen of Egypt brought something else back upon their return. We found a family. Thirteen women went, and we all became great friends, Helene Maculaitis says. Even Iman Oklat, the director of human resources who served as a tour guide for the trip, became one of the girls. Back atMaris Grove, the women got together to share photos, and they are planning to travel together again. In the meantime, recounting memories that are still fresh in their minds and hearts, they are grateful for the opportunity to live a dream so many of them shared.