My journey to “Egypt” through AIESEC started on the 25th of April from the Bandaranayake International Airport at Katunayake. Even though I’ve travelled a lot before, this was my first time travelling alone and therefore, it was quite a challenge for me.
The flight to Egypt was really amazing. Since I was the only teenage girl in the entire plane, I attracted a lot of attention. I made friends with a person who works for the Royal Security of the Sultan of Oman. Upon arriving at the airport in Egypt, I tried to locate my buddies from AIESEC. Finally I met 2 boys, “Gallad” (my buddy) and “Sawaaf” who welcomed me to their country and I was really happy to finally meet them whom I contacted for days through online.
We got into a car and they took me to “KHAN KHALILI”, which is the oldest street in Cairo. I was really surprised and excited as everything was very shiny and colorful. They had papyrus, souvenirs, clothes etc. I was introduced to 3 Indian and 2 Romanian interns. They were all very nice people and eventually we had dinner together. We had “CUSHERINE”, which is a traditional food in Egypt, mixed with rice, noodles, macaroni, garlic and chili sauce. Then we went to a café where we had “SHISHA”, a traditional smoke which uses dried fruit for smoking. I was having it for the first time in my life, so I found it a little uncomfortable at first and found it difficult to even stand upright. But I liked it. Everybody was a little excited, but it was fun, and from that day on, they called me “Shisha girl“.
I stayed at the TMA building, the NGO where I worked as a volunteer. It was a rural area but I really experienced the original Egyptian culture there. I loved those poor people whom were rich in good values and qualities. Everybody was so nice to me. “Fairooz” and “Hayem” was working with me and sometimes Hayem cooked me fish since I loved to eat fish more than meat. “Mukhaelith”, the lady who cleaned the building, treated me like her own daughter after I gave her some medicine for her illness. “Haleem”, the helper in TMA, was my guardian. I was addicted to “AYISH and BABAGANNOOG” another local food, so whenever I say “aizaayish o babagannog“(I need ayish and babagannoog), Haleem brings me them. During my free time, I often went with him to visit the street market. Sometimes I had shisha at TMA, but the flavor Haleem used was very strong, so I got high all the time and slept like a dead horse till late morning.
I had a single unforgettable day of my life during my stay there. At TMA, they had sheep, and I used to love them so much and was always cuddling them. One morning, Hayem asked me to come outside and so I did. There was this sheep, and I started to cuddle him. Suddenly, there came a man with a big knife. I didn’t know the purpose of it all until then. I screamed and begged him to stop, but it was an order from Dr. May. I closed my ears and ran away crying. I had never felt so helpless in my whole life before. After sometime, I saw that man’s legs covered in red. One minute, I was cuddling the sheep and the next minute he was gone. I couldn’t bear it. It was a real cultural shock and I had to admit it. I couldn’t eat anything for the whole day and I couldn’t eat meat after that for several days.
I used to ride horses since I love them. I especially rode donkeys and camels since I can’t have that chance in Sri Lanka. One day I visited a local wedding. It was so colorful and the music was so loud. Everybody was dancing traditional dances and I also joined them to dance.
Once I had to go for a company seminar representing TMA. Everybody who was present in the occasion was older people and I was the only girl with a fashionable dress, and I felt like sitting with “left brained” giants. After they found out that I’m a fashion design student they were surprised and one entrepreneur came to me and invited me to join his fashion projects. After the meeting, I went home with him by taxi and was talking all the way back. He was a very kind person and he told me and I quote that “you are a very good person and your country will be proud of you” which I really light a spark on me.
During my stay in Egypt, I did not forget to visit the pyramids. It was an awesome and unbelievable experience. Once I went inside a pyramid I felt I was witnessing the amazing history of the world. It’s very hard to explain that feeling.
“Maged”, an AIESECer and a good friend of mine, took me to the “TAHREER SQUARE”, which was famous for the big protest, and afterwards, we went to visit “ZAMALICK”, an area populated by tourists.
I went to the citadel, castle and military museum with “Asfoor” and “Bowo”. They were really nice. The castle was really big and decorated. Bowo bought me “SHAWARMA” since I said I wanted to taste it the Egyptian way. I went to “FALOOKA” on the Nile River and stayed there for a few days with some of my friends. There were Brazilian, Tunisian, Chinese and Indian girls. All of them were so nice to me and we were like sisters. It was so amazing.
Our AIESEC coordinator “Garhi” took me to “MAADI”, a green city, and we had shisha and played some old Egyptian games. He was a really nice person and a good friend. He even took me to the “Cairo Hill” where I could see the whole city. It was really beautiful and we had shisha and as usual I got high. My second buddy “Saied” took me to a place where we had “FUCKFUCKEENA”, another Egyptian food. When I heard the food’s name for the first time I was laughing out loud. I loved to make him angry since he is usually bad-tempered. But he was a really good friend too
I went on a 2-day trip to the black and white desert on an invitation from “Mostafa”. It was awesome. We had lunch in a cabana in the middle of the desert. While we were heading to the deep desert, we had a flat tire. It was so exciting and I felt like I was in a movie. But the drivers fixed it quickly and we camped in the white desert. We had barbecue and shisha in the night and slept in sleeping bags. I was watching the sky for a shooting star and I waked up to see the sun rise in the desert. It was so beautiful. I was lucky enough to see a small yellow sandstorm while I was at TMA. It was yet another exciting moment for me.
I went to the “SUKHNA” beach and swam with the jellyfish. It was really nice. Often, we were dancing to AIESEC songs in the middle of the highway. It was really fun. I went to a café call “Zenab Katon”. It is one of the oldest cafés in the area, and was built in the past by a prostitute for her customers, but nowadays, is used as a tourist attraction.
I learnt a lot of things during my internship. Cultural differences and how to be flexible towards them, which is probably the most important lesson of them all. I got to share experiences with different people. Sometimes it was so hard to bear some things that I felt so disappointed and lost while dealing with them. But what is more important to me is the happier moments I had. I enjoyed myself a lot and learnt new things while making lots of new friends. Mistakes can happen anywhere and what I feel we should give it a chance and see. I really want to go back to Egypt. Life is full of experiences and Egypt was one of the best in my life. Thank you AIESEC!!!
By Dhanushika Welagedara
Return EP of AIESEC CS