Friday, January 11, 2008

Final thoughts...

Every Muslim we have been in conversation with has denounced violence, fanaticism, radicalism, fundamentalism, etc. These people range from our tour guide to some Kuwaiti women we randomly talked to in a coffeehouse, to a businessman. They feel that Muslims have been misperceived. But it also seems that the misperception is bi-directional: many Muslims also seem to think that many Americans believe that all Muslims are like the violent fanatics. It is an interesting and difficult obstacle that lies between reconciliation between these two faith groups.

Hospitality has been quite an issue here, but never wholly good or bad. There have been times when I have felt very welcomed by the people here, both individually and as a larger society. Yet with all of the hassling to get you to buy goods, all of the tourist traps, it seems like this is not authentic hospitality. It seems as if they are being nice enough to you to get you to buy something, or pay more, or eat in their restaurant. I do not want to say that this is the culture, but it seems to be prevalent in areas where tourists this a byproduct of tourism? I'm not sure.

Some of my favorite moments have come unexpectedly: conversations that just happen between myself and others, or that I am able to witness between two other people; meals shared with large groups, or privately with a few close friends; the random beauty that I have been privileged to see here in this place. Although these moments were not on an itinerary, but they should be...or maybe they shouldn't. Part of the beauty of these moments comes from the very fact that they are unexpected, surprising, serendipitous. To me, this says that we should not get so caught up in the plans and the schedule, but remain open to the possibilities that can surprise you.

Finally, this trip has been amazing. Thanks to everyone that has made this possible, whether it is by donations, fundraising, planning, or simply driving us to the airport. It has truly been the trip of a lifetime, but I hope that it does not stop at that. I would love to come back to Egypt, to revisit and continue to explore the country further. And I hope that many others will be able to appreciate its beauty and learn from this culture and from the encounters we have had here.


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