Egypt and Jordan for 18 days? Umm, yes please. I was lucky enough to travel to Egypt and Jordan earlier in the month. On this trip I was reminded of how small the world becomes when you travel. You start to see the similarities of places you have been before. As they say in Vietnam, “Same same but different.”
We started in Egypt and had an amazing guide, Mudi. He shared a bit about himself during the tour. It was apparent that the things that mattered most to him were his family and his country. He shared the historical context of different sites, and how they affected him as a citizen of Egypt.
Mudi joked about Egypt’s only Queen Hatshepsut being his fiancé. He loved what she accomplished for the Egyptian people. She died in 1458 B.C. This reminded me of the love folks from all over the world have for Princess Diana, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ, and Moses. The impacts of these historic figures touch every one of us, much like the Queen touched the people of Egypt.
Before going on this trip, I was told by multiple people that it is not safe to travel to the Middle East. I will not downplay the troubles that are ongoing for these countries. I will however mention the 19 mass shootings that have occurred across the U.S. in 2019. At this point it might be safer to visit the Middle East versus going to Walmart. And I do not say that flippantly.
I felt safe the whole time.
Mudi shared many of the norms of society for men and women in Egypt. The are very defined and held sacred. The people of Egypt have found a way to honor their traditions, which are sacred. Religious, political, and family traditions are honored. For example, we asked when the young girls started wearing their head scarves or hijabs. Mudi explained that it is when the young lady becomes a woman (beginning to menstruate). The young woman can decide if she wants to wear a hijab or head scarf at that time. He explained that this was something the young girls looked forward to doing.
On our felucca ride on the Nile, Mudi helped the young man (who was the grandson of the captain) to move the sails. They had to pull ropes to raise and lower the sails. The grandson was thin enough that he did not have the weight to raise and lower the sails by himself. Team work at its best. There were no questions or indecision on the part of Mudi to jump in and help. He just did it because the young man needed help. This reminds me of the spirit of our communities and how we step up to do what’s right and help each other.
This is what travel does to you. It makes the world smaller when you connect with people on a personal level. It makes you realize our similarities up close and personal. Same same but different.
On to Jordan
In Jordan, we met our new guide, Ayman. This man is a walking encyclopedia of Jordan, the Middle East, and all world religions. I thought I was well educated on the Catholic faith from 13 years of Catholic schools. Yep, that’s right. Kindergarten through high school were all spent learning about my faith. Ayman put me to shame.
I was humbled by the knowledge Ayman has. He is a member of one of the Bedouin tribes. He shared stories about the history and traditions of these nomadic people. One piece that stuck with me is how they are there for each other, no matter what. He shared that when his mother passed away, the tribe members all came to pay their respects. Some traveled for days to make this trip to honor his mother and to be there to support him in his time of grief. This is so similar to how death is handled in my mom’s huge Irish family. Everyone gathers for the good ‘ole Irish wake. There may be a bit more drinking involved, but the sentiment of celebrating the one who has passed is the same. Same same but different.
Ayman showed us Jordan in a way that inspired us. The stories were about the people behind the history of this beautiful country. And yes, all people across the globe and throughout history are basically the same. Yes, we have our differences, but the focus is on living a happy, healthy life. It’s about children and grandchildren having an even better life than the last generation. This sounds like the American dream we all heard about from previous generations that immigrated to the United States. Hopefully, we will able to make this dream a reality for more people coming into the U.S. now and in the future.
It was interesting to me that Ayman shared stories and tied it to the experiences in other country’s. We had folks from England, Ireland, U.S., Pakistan, and Germany so he had some good stuff to work with! Each time he shared a story we saw the similarities to our own lives and cultures.
All in all, the trip was amazing and eye opening. I know people around the world are different in so many ways. But we are also very similar. Same same but different.
This is what travel does to you. It makes the world smaller while expanding your mind, emotions, and perspectives.