This picture is the view from our balcony of our apartment on the 6th floor. Notice all the satellite dishes?
Here's me in my "hijab," which literally means "curtain" in Arabic. All Muslim women cover their heads and most skin, but we only had to do this to go to the mosque.
Yesterday we visited a mosque for the Friday noon prayers. It was a very interesting experience. The girls in the group all had to wear scarves covering our heads, and so the walk from the villa to the mosque was filled with stares and strange looks from the locals. Once there, the women and men were separated, with the women in a smaller, air-conditioned room upstairs and the men overflowing on mats outside the mosque. We watched from the back as women came in, with all manners of coverings on, and then went about their prayers. Islamic prayers are an intense expression of community, with everyone having to stand in a straight line and do the same obligatory prayers all together. In the morning we had done devotions out of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, so the liturgical expression felt similar. We had a very interesting discussion afterward that began with simple observations and ended with deep theological comments on the state of the Christian church in America and the validity of Islam. Wow. Deep topics for only 3 days of knowing each other.
Today we explored the neighborhood a little more, and practiced buying things, taking a taxi, asking for directions, and exchanging money. I feel more comfortable already. Egyptians are extremely hospitable, and generally very friendly to us. They love President Obama, so if they think we are from America we hear cheers of "Obama!" as we walk through the streets. Tonight we were a little more "touristy" and took a boat out on the Nile and then went to a big bazaar (or market) frequented by foreigners. Tomorrow we have to go downtown to get our visa extensions, and we'll also practice using the subway system.
I'm eager to get into a regular schedule, but I am enjoying getting to know all these new people and all the viewpoints and backgrounds they represent. Thanks for all your support from home! Love you all and miss you!