Ilaria Youssef
Ilaria Youssef
Cairo, Egypt 2023-2024
I was born in Egypt and moved to the U.S. when I was 11 years old. Now, I am going back to Cairo, Egypt to volunteer as a data analyst with BLESSEgypt for six months! Come along with me as I give back to the community that raised me. Read More About Ilaria →

Almost Christmas!

**I wrote this blog two weekends ago, but the site was down, and I didn’t get a chance to post it afterwards, so just pretend I posted it then;)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Egypt doesn’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, obviously, so I honestly completely forgot about it until I started receiving “Happy Thanksgiving” texts. Nonetheless, I forced a big group of my coworkers to go out to dinner after work on Thursday, so I’m counting that as my Thanksgiving dinner. The weather here is still relatively warm, which helped me forget that we’re almost in December! Although most Egyptians are walking around with sweaters and coats, the temperatures are still in the high 60’s (Fahrenheit), so basically, it’s Nashville’s nice fall weather.

Cool adventures:

A couple of weekends ago, I got to take a day trip to the Red Sea to an area called “Al-‘Ain al-Sokhna.” It was a little less than a two-hour drive, and it was absolutely worth it. The water was definitely cold, but the sun made a quick dip in the water bearable. Seeing the sea and the desert intersect was mesmerizing. On the way back, I got to pass through a road between two mountains, and, in general, seeing the contrast between the beach, the desert, and the city made me truly appreciate Egypt’s beauty that much more!

The view of the beach meeting a little desert mountain

Driving through the desert

I also got to visit a church called St. MaryCoptic Orthodox Church in El-Zeitoun and hear stories about the people who witnessed St. Mary’s apparition there. Quick recap of the history/stories I heard: St. Mary started to appear, as a luminous figure at the top of the church’s domes, in 1968 and her apparitions continued for 3 years. People would come from everywhere, and they would shut down the church’s street, setting up camp all night until she appeared again. It was a great phenomenon, and some people in the crowds were even cured of their ailments whenever she would appear. Being at the church and hearing eyewitness accounts of these events was such a marvelous experience. Unfortunately, I went at night so my pictures don’t do it justice, but hopefully, I get to visit it again soon in the daylight.

St Mary’s church in El-Zeitoun

Volunteering Updates:

I’ve finally fallen into the groove of things at the office. However, since the big partner meeting is coming up on Monday, they’ve also been assigning me a bunch of documents, videos with subtitles, and PowerPoint presentations to double-check the English grammar and translate anything if needed. BLESS is kind of in a transitional period between phase 2 and phase 3 of their strategic planning. So far, I’ve been working on assignments pertaining to the 2020-2023 phase, so I don’t have much of an understanding of what’ll happen after the new year. However, my team has been invited to attend the meeting, so I’m excited to learn all about the new phase and to spend an entire day hearing mostly English.

Other good news:

My sister booked plane tickets to come to Egypt for January!! She’s stopping by Germany first, so I’m gonna take a couple of extra days off and go spend Christmas and New Year’s with her in Germany! I’m so excited to see her, and I’ve been learning German on Duolingo in my free time so I’m not totally lost when I get there.

Since Egyptians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they’ve jumped right into the Christmas spirit. There are seasonal stores set up that are dedicated solely for Christmas shopping, and they go ALL out. I can’t wait for the weather to get cold and to wear ugly Christmas sweaters once December hits!

The decorations outside of a Christmas store

The inside of the store

Hopefully, I’ll be drinking hot cocoa as I’m writing my next blog.

Until then,

Ilaria Youssef

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