Tag Archives: life update

Gradumacation! A Long Overdue Update on the Elusive Laura

It’s been a good long time since I’ve posted anything here;  the past several months have seen the finishing of my thesis (al hamdulilah),  graduation from my MA program in Sustainable International Development (again, al hamdulilah),  and returning from Cairo to the US (equal parts al hamdulilah and sadface).  It has, as you might imagine, been an intense period of time, during which my blogging rather got away from me. Blame the thesis.

Now that I’m back in the US and more or less situated in DC,  I’ll be blogging more often. There will be material from my adventures stateside (never fear, being in the US doesn’t reduce my adventure factor), as well as retroactive posts on all the experiences I had during my last few months in Egypt that I didn’t get around to blogging about in real time. I’ll also be working to integrate my blog with my photography website–expect new photos to appear on both, alongside the stories of where and how those pictures were taken.

Watch this space!

A Long Overdue Update from Luxor

Hello everyone,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog. Experiences in Egypt have come thick and fast, and it’s been nearly impossible to find the time to process it all, let alone blog about it. I’m going to make an attempt tonight, and hopefully work backwards over the course of the next month or so to write about everything I’ve been doing lately that’s made me too busy to write.

I’m in Luxor right now, in Upper or Southern Egypt.  Upper Egypt is called so because of its elevation, because it is the area from which the Nile flows, towards the low lands and the Mediterranean to the North.  It is my third day here. I arrived by felucca  (small traditional sailboat) from Aswan, and saw the glories of the Karnak and Luxor temples on my first day. The second day, I got up at crazy o’clock in the morning and went for my first-ever hot air balloon ride, watching the sun rise over the horizon from above the Nile and the many temples down below. After the balloon ride, I went to the valley of the kings, where I saw  the tombs of Ramses I, Ramses III, and Sety II on my regular ticket. Then I paid the extra to see the tombs of Tutankhamen and Ramses VI (it’s worth the extra cost). After the kings, we saw the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman to ever rule Egypt as a Pharaoh, and the Colossi of Memnon (yes, they’re big).  After all that, the group that I had joined briefly to get from Aswan to Luxor departed for Cairo, and I was here on my own.

I’ve had a couple of meetings with people about projects in the area, though I haven’t seen any yet.  The people I’ve met individually through recommendations of other contacts have been lovely. But what I’ve discovered about Luxor is that it lives and breathes by tourism alone, and it’s bleeding its tourists dry. It is impossible to walk alone here without being harassed. In Cairo and Aswan, the harassment is limited to just a few areas—the main tourist areas, if you will. In Luxor, the town has nothing besides tourist areas. Which means no place is safe from harassment, if you’re female and alone.

Take this afternoon. My agenda as I planned it:

  1. Go to the bookstore.
  2. Stop at a jewelry shop.
  3. Take a walk for some fresh air and exercise.
  4. Stop by a café to do some work and relax.

My afternoon as it actually happened?

  1. Start walking to the bookstore.
  2. Refuse the advances of multiple taxi and caleche drivers who alternately ask where I’m going, offer to take me wherever they think I’m going, tell me how beautiful I am, tell me they’re single,  and after about ten iterations of “no, no thank you, no, I’m not interested, no, no, and no,” they leave with a hopeful, “maybe later,” that indicates that they’ll remember me for the next time they see me walking and harass me again.
  3. Go to the bookstore. No hassle here, because they know they have things that foreigners want and will buy without convincing. Spend a very pleasant time and buy a new journal and a pocket phrasebook.
  4. Stop by the jewelry shop next door. Ascertain that I don’t see anything I want in about 2 minutes, stick around for another 5 minutes convincing the shopkeeper that I really are going to leave without buying anything because I really don’t see anything I like.
  5. Start to take a walk.
  6. Feel elated after 3 minutes with only a few minor comments to herald my passage.
  7. Get approached out of nowhere by a guy asking me what I think of Luxor, who does not appreciate the irony with which I say, “It would be a great town without the hassle.” He starts walking beside me down the street (without any invitation on my part).
  8. Face the dilemma: let him follow me down the road and be annoyed by his talk, or lose him with difficulty and risk (almost inevitably) being followed by someone worse? Either way I lose.
  9.  Choose the lesser of two evils—he hasn’t said anything overtly sexual yet, and if he follows me at least he’ll keep the other guys away.
  10. Skip the coffee shop (because then he will want to come in  and keep talking) and go back to the hotel (a good place to ditch someone–now he knows where I live, but at least he can’t get inside).


Afternoons like this one are really pretty mild. No one groped me, proposed marriage to me, made indecent sexual advances to me, or ripped me off. All in all, I can count the afternoon as a relative success, since at least I got what I wanted at the bookstore.

That said, afternoons like this one are indicative of a larger problem. People come to Egypt for the pyramids and temples, for the desert and the Nile and the experience of being someplace exotic and new. But very few people, having been to Egypt once, have any desire to go back, and it’s largely due to the  harassment. The first time I traveled to Egypt, I had no intention of ever returning. The pyramids and the Nile were nice, but I’d been groped, harassed, and propositioned so many times during my 7-day visit that I couldn’t wait to leave.  I like Egypt much better the second time around because I’m not always in the touristy areas where these occurrences are common. But the fact that these things happen often to tourists is an enormous shame.

Egypt has much to offer a traveler.  It’s an amazing, beautiful, and unique country with the potential to do truly great things. But this one unavoidable inconvenience repels repeat business and keeps people away. Egypt needs its tourists–they’re the basis of the entire economy. It needs to treat them well when they arrive.





A Brief Update, With Promises of More

I haven’t posted in quite a while, largely because I’ve been moving around a lot and juggling about a million things. This past month has contained experiences about which I could (and might still) write innumerable blog posts. But because I am human and have limited time, here’s the quick and dirty rundown of the events of the past month.

In the past month, I have:

1. Gone to Costa Rica and attended the Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference. This  involved my first-ever trip to Latin America, my first professional conference, both daytime and nighttime hikes in the famous Cloud Forest of Monteverde, and my first encounter with an insect longer than  my forearm.

2. Moved out of my apartment in Waltham, MA and moved everything that I own into storage. It involved a UHaul cargo van, a lot of boxes, and a lot of stress. ‘Nuff said.

3. Visited the Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley. This involved an Appalachian storyteller, whitewater kayaking, a trip to the Natural Bridge,  and a three-hour sales pitch in which the resort staff tried to convince us that we wanted to buy a time share (we didn’t).

4. Traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida to visit family. This involved lots of seafood, visits to quaint teashops, and spending good times with friends.

5. Returned to my erstwhile home of DC, where I’m currently putting the final touches in place for my imminent journey to Cairo, Egypt. This involves lots of reading, lots of logistics, and lots of distracting myself with friends and aerial classes.

Further updates will doubtless be forthcoming as I work out more of the last-minute details and consequently have more time on my hands.