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Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True)A True Life Adventure
By Randi D. Ward
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Randi D. Ward
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Beginning of a Love Affair with Misr
In order to understand how and when my love and passion for this amazing and now at times turbulent country began, I must describe my first encounter with Egypt. My husband Bill and I traveled to Egypt in July 1996. I had always dreamed of going there to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx nearby, the Egyptian Museum, and the majestic Nile River. Our trip included visits to these magnificent places plus others in Cairo and Giza with a side trip to the beautiful Mediterranean city of Alexandria and then followed by an unbelievable five night Nile River cruise with stops along the way at Aswan Dam, Kom Ombo, and finally the Upper Egypt city of Luxor.
It was on this cruise that I had my first significant relationship with an Egyptian citizen named Hassan Awad Mahmood, a twenty-four year old young man from the Aswan/Kom Ombo area. This highly intelligent young man was just beginning his career as a tour guide and director. His love and enthusiasm for his beloved Misr were extremely contagious. For many hours during those enjoyable and fascinating five days, Hassan and I would chat about his country, its history, and its amazing antiquities; he taught me to love his every word and to love this land, its people, and their culture.
This was also my first real exposure to Islam and a really devout Muslim. Hassan was one of the finest young men I had ever met. His heart was pure, his faith was so strong, and his character was beyond question. We talked about many topics related to both of our faiths-his Islam and my Christianity. We decided at the end of these discussions that even with our many cultural differences and our different religious beliefs that we still had much in common. Our moral values, our family values, and our hopes and dreams for the future were so similar. We bonded very quickly and became close friends during this short span of time.
During our stop at the Aswan Dam, I became very ill from the intense heat. That day the temperature rose to 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and I suffered a mild heat stroke. I do not remember too much about this experience, except that Hassan immediately recognized my medical emergency and came to my rescue nursing me back to health until I could get back to the air conditioned cruise ship inconveniently docked in the Nile River behind two other cruise ships. After a short rest, I recovered enough to enjoy the evening meal and festivities on the ship, including dancing to both Arabic and American music until late that night, thanks to the care of my sweet friend. What had been a scary afternoon turned into a memorable evening.
At the end of the trip we said goodbye to each other on the tour bus. We had spent the day touring the lovely city of Luxor. Hassan walked off the bus and waved goodbye. We were transported back to the cruise ship to wait for transportation to the airport and our short flight back to Cairo and then the much longer flight later that night to Atlanta. We promised to stay in contact, but for the next fourteen years we had no contact.
On the flight home I once again had brief contacts with some more Egyptians. I met two Egyptian Olympians headed for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in my home of Atlanta. One was a runner and the other one was a rifleman. I shared with them how much I had enjoyed my trip to their country. I wish I could remember their names. I tried to locate this information when I got home but was unsuccessful. The rifleman lived along the Red Sea. The romantic way in which he described this beautiful area made me start dreaming of returning to Egypt to witness the wonder of this region.
I arrived home and resumed my life in Georgia, but I never forgot the brief encounter with these Egyptian athletes and the amazing friendship I had formed with Hassan, this sweet young Egyptian who had been so kind to me. I also could not forget how peaceful and calm I would feel when I thought about my first adventure to this great land.
In August 2010, I found an old wallet and to my great surprise found an old business card Hassan had given me. Without the slightest hesitation, I googled his full name on the net and instantly found that he was on Facebook. I quickly wrote him a message and requested him as a Facebook friend. My message simply said, "This is Randi Ward. I was on a cruise with you in July 1996 and had such a wonderful time. I am wondering if you remember me. If so, I would like to reconnect with you and hope you will accept my Facebook friend request." I did not have to wait long for a reply. Within a couple of hours, Hassan responded indicating that he remembered me well and had oft en wondered where I was and what I was doing now. So after fourteen years our friendship has resumed, and Hassan remains one of my best friends today despite our twenty-two year age difference.
I once again became so entranced with Egypt and was drawn to this country like a gigantic magnet. I started researching other ways to connect myself with Egypt and found a Facebook site for Egyptologists and archaeologists. Everything was written in Arabic, but I did not care because it still made me feel happy to be a part of this organization. Because of this, I started getting Facebook friend requests from members of this group. Some of these Egyptians have become close friends that I will cherish for a lifetime. Some friends are archaeologists, some are artists, and some are people just like me who love and admire ancient Egyptian artifacts. My dream now was to return to Egypt to see my dear friend Hassan after so many years and to meet these new friends face to face, not just on Skype and yahoo videos which were, of course, very enjoyable but still not the real thing.
But then in January 2011 Egypt revolted against the tyrannic rule of President Mubarak after the successful revolution in Tunisia. Facebook became instrumental in organizing this revolution. It began a few days before my husband Bill and I got home from a safari in Kenya. Being isolated from television or news during this time in Kenya, I did not hear about this until my arrival in the USA. My fear for my Egyptian friends became intense, but I was now unable to contact them via Facebook or via telephone because both the internet and phone service in Egypt had been shut down by the government there. Thus, I was glued to CNN and Fox News for hours every day watching the events in Tahrir Square and hoping and praying that my friends were safe and that this revolution would end soon and successfully for these amazingly courageous young protesters.
For days I had no connection with people that had become close to me, and then one day I was able to contact a few of them via the telephone, and then later their internet was restored. Only one friend had been hurt, and his shop had been destroyed. This was such sad news to me because Khaled Elmahy is such an incredible sculptor and had been so extremely successful before the revolution. Now he was left with nothing.
One momentous and historic day will be remembered forever though. This day brought happiness back for my friends there and for me, too. I was chatting with three Egyptian friends at the same time that CNN announced that President Mubarak had agreed to step down as the leader of Egypt. I watched the excited crowds in the square and joyously celebrated with my friends online. It was a very emotional experience for me. My joy for these people overwhelmed me. I actually felt as if I was there in the square with people with whom I now felt such a strange and sometimes confusing connection. I decided that when it was safe and when things settled down in Egypt that I had to go there to meet these people and to be a part of this new democracy they now so hoped to create. I did not know how or when I could make this happen, but I have always believed anything is possible so I knew I would find a way to get there. As I have already stated, BELIEVE is my favorite word in the entire English language. It has always motivated me to be able to do what might seem to others to be the impossible. This word has guided my life for many years now.
Chapter TwoA Surprising Invitation
I was now determined to go to Egypt, and amazingly an opportunity to do that happened. A new Facebook friend named Mona and I bonded quickly, and she invited me to come to her wedding in May. This idea was so enticing to me, and even though I did not know her very well yet, she seemed very sincere about her invitation. She even insisted that I would stay with her in her home until the wedding. So part of my problem on how to finance this expensive trip seemed to be solved. I would have free lodging and get the wonderful chance to live with an Egyptian family and attend the Egyptian wedding of my new friend.
Surprisingly, I also discovered that her fiancé was actually living in the USA and going to a university about an hour away from my home here in Georgia. I connected with Joe, too, and we also became friends. The wedding was scheduled for the end of May, but Joe wanted me to fly over with him in early May after he completed his university exams. I agreed because Mona also wanted me to help her with her last minute wedding preparation. This excited me so much because I am a great planner so I felt I could really help them and be a beneficial part of this loving event.
In March Joe and I bought our tickets online at the same time and even got seat assignments so we could sit together. The tickets were not cheap, but I still decided I must do this. I was so driven to go to this wedding, and I also dreamed of meeting those other Facebook friends that had become a part of my online life. Thus, my dream to go to Egypt was set in motion and was going to become a reality.
May 4, 2011, the long awaited day of my departure arrived to my great excitement. I was packed and ready to go. I had had my nails done the day before and was getting ready to go to a last minute hair salon appointment. I decided to print my boarding pass before I left for the salon. The day would become very upsetting! To my shock and dismay, I could not find my itinerary and could not check in. I soon realized that for some bizarre and horrible reason Delta Airlines had cancelled my reservation even though I had paid for this trip weeks in advance. They had not contacted me of this dreadful news. I spent the next four hours speaking to several Delta Airline representatives trying to resolve this problem with many tears in my eyes and with great frustration. The first representatives were not helpful at all and kept blaming me for something I had not done. My money had been refunded to my credit card, but since I had not received the latest credit card monthly statement, I was not aware of this. Also I kept getting disconnected from the airlines and had to keep calling back only to be put on hold for many minutes at times.
It was only after almost four hours of being so upset and so discouraged that I finally reached a very kind and helpful woman who was able and willing to help me with this horrible mistake that had been done to me. I had discovered that Joe's ticket had been affected too, but he was able to resolve his problem fairly easily. However, mine was more complicated. Only one of his flights had been cancelled-his flight from Atlanta to Paris. He was able to rebook on a new flight to Paris. However, since all of my flights had been cancelled, there were no longer any seats left on the flight from Paris to Cairo, except for one first class seat which the airline absolutely refused to give me unless I was willing to pay the additional $7000 fee. I argued that I should be given this upgrade for free since the mistake had been theirs. The helpful woman agreed, but she could not get her manager to agree with this. So another plan had to be found. Together we finally found another itinerary available, but I would now be flying from Atlanta to Amsterdam and then on to Cairo and would also have to pay an additional $100 more than the original ticket price. The only good news was that this new itinerary was really bett er than the original one, but I would now not be flying with Joe and would arrive six hours earlier than his Paris flight to Cairo. I would fly to Amsterdam and then on to Cairo. This would mean I would sit in a strange airport by myself for many hours. Not something I was looking forward to doing! Also my flight would leave in four hours so I had to hurry now to get to the airport which would take about forty-five minutes to reach. Since I needed to be at the airport three hours before the flight, this meant I had to cancel my hair appointment, quickly wash and style my hair, do the last minute packing of cosmetics, etc. and head for the airport.
My nerves were on edge now. This day that should have been so happy had become a nightmare. However, at least I did have flights now so I was grateful for this. My supportive husband Bill drove me to the airport, and I arrived mentally and emotionally exhausted, but I was still convinced that I had to make this trip to Egypt. Getting through security was easy, and I was now sitting at the gate waiting for my 5:28 p.m. flight to depart in a few hours. I forced myself to relax and began to imagine the great adventure I hoped to begin soon.
Two Facebook friends I had contacted at the last minute before leaving my house volunteered to pick me up at the airport. Joe and I decided that I would stay at a hotel that night instead of waiting for his flight, and then I would go to Mona's house the next day. This seemed to be a reasonable and good plan.
The two flights to Cairo were long but problem free. My next problem occurred when I arrived at Cairo International Airport on that Thursday afternoon. My two friends Mohamed and Amir Ali who were also brothers could not find me. I did not have a phone, but finally three really kind Egyptian men who worked at the rental car desk and who had been watching me recognized how concerned I was becoming and finally came to my rescue. One of these helpful men called Amr and directed him to me. This took four hours of waiting in the airport though so my stress was back again. Still I did not regret being here even though I was so completely exhausted physically as well as emotionally and could not wait to get to the hotel to rest. I have never been able to sleep on an airplane so I had been awake for over twenty-four hours.
It took over an hour to get to my hotel in Giza, the Cataract Pyramids Resort on Sakkara Road. Once there I checked in, left my sweet friends, and my luggage and I were driven to my room in a motorized cart by one of the helpful porters at the hotel. The room had a queen sized bed with luxurious Egyptian cotton linens and comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. There was a sunken sitting area with a couch, two chairs, a floor lamp, and a coffee table. Sliding double doors led out to a large balcony overlooking a magnificent swimming pool surrounded with majestic, tall palm trees and beautifully manicured landscape. There were two desks—one with great lighting that I knew I would use to apply my makeup. The television was in a perfect location to watch from my bed or the sitting area. The bathroom was large, very modern, and well-equipped with a nice bathtub. I always prefer baths over showers so I was very pleased to see this. My room and this hotel were so private and exquisite-like a fantasy world. I fell in love with this place immediately.
After unpacking only the necessary items to get ready for bed, I went out on the balcony for a few minutes to marvel at the moonlight glowing on this beautiful scene. This would be the first of many nights to sit on my balcony. Many nights I would watch wedding processions dancing down the long outdoor corridor leading to a beautifully decorated building used for special events at the hotel. It always made me smile to think about the young couples celebrating their love these nights and beginning their lives together.
At this time Egypt was calm, and the people, such as these young newlyweds, were so full of hope and were trying to recover from their revolution and were anxiously but still patiently waiting for a new government to be formed. The military was currently in charge, and the general public seemed pleased about this. Mubarak was gone so I could feel the hope for a better future and the joy in the hearts of the Egyptian people and my new friends. I felt very safe and secure even though I did not really know very many people yet and was alone in a city of eighteen million.
Extremely tired but very happy, I climbed into my luxurious, comfortable bed. I had no problems falling asleep quickly in my lovely room at this gorgeous five star hotel.
Excerpted from Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True) by Randi D. Ward Copyright © 2012 by Randi D. Ward. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsDedication and Heart Felt Appreciation....................ix
Introduction-Reflections Before I Begin My Love Story of Egypt....................xv
Chapter 1-The Beginning of a Love Affair with Misr....................1
Chapter 2-A Surprising Invitation....................5
Chapter 3-A Problem That Led to My First Great Egyptian Adventure....................10
Chapter 4-The Beginning of Beautiful Friendships....................16
Chapter 5-My Humorous Moment as a Star....................30
Chapter 6-Randi, the Wedding Crasher!!....................34
Chapter 7-A Chance for a New Life Opportunity....................38
Chapter 8-Getting Ready for the Greatest Experience of My Life....................40
Chapter 9-Getting Settled in My New Homes....................43
Chapter 10-Modaressa Randi Begins Once More....................48
Chapter 11-The Most Rewarding Experience in My Career....................52
Chapter 12-Mohamed, Heba, and Egyptian Family Hospitality....................63
Chapter 13-Pyramids, Camels, Koshary, the Nile, and So Much More....................66
Chapter 14-Acts of Kindness....................70
Chapter 15-Awesome Days at the Culture Wheel Chinese Festival and More....................76
Chapter 16-An Inspirational Day with My Hejab....................86
Chapter 17-Too Close to the Revolution....................91
Chapter 18-First Year Celebration of Independence Day....................96
Chapter 19-A Fun Day as an Egyptian University Student!!....................103
Chapter 20-A Very Special Couple – A Love Story....................106
Chapter 21-"Let Me Entertain You"....................110
Chapter 22-Good Times with New Friends and Reunions with Old Friends....................114
Chapter 23-Egyptian Art Through the Creative Eyes of Mohamed Farghaly....................126
Chapter 24-My Personal Physician and Friend Emo....................133
Chapter 25-Final Return To My Oasis Paradise....................140
Chapter 26-Honorable Mentions....................149
Chapter 27-Islam, As I See It!!....................156
Chapter 28-My Last Days in Egypt....................159
Sources Cited in My Book....................164