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 →

Farewells and fun times!

Hi blog!

These past couple of weeks have likely been two of the most exciting ones of my whole stay in Egypt.

A little background before I unpack why they have been so special: Initially, Nardien and I booked our flights to leave Egypt and head back to Nashville on the 2nd of April. However, I recently changed my flight to leave Egypt on the 10th. Nevertheless, my last week in the office was this week.

Workwise, these two weeks have been incredibly hectic. First, I had to sit down with each group of colleagues heading the different programs, so I could ask them about the prominent aspects of their programs that they would like to have portrayed in the big report. Then, I would create the graphs and charts that they requested, get feedback, rinse, repeat.

I was a couple of days into the second week, my last week, by the time I had finished all of those charts, but then some other smaller tasks sprung up last minute and I had to make sure to leave my last day with everything finished.

Thankfully, I finished them in time, and my last day in the office was incredibly wholesome as they got a small platter of sweets and gifted me a big box of goodies and thoughtful presents. Thankfully, my last day wasn’t incredibly busy for them, so after I finished my last task, I got to sit with them, take pictures, and reminisce about our time together.

The box of goodies that my colleagues kindly gifted me

Outside the office, Nardien and I went and explored parts of Cairo that are next to the Nile- we both love a good view.

Also, Egypt transformed into a whole new country with Ramadan starting. The colorful decorative lights adorn the streets. The roads are empty around 6 pm as everyone rushes home to break their fast. The streets are incredibly lively at night to the point that it’s easy to think it’s 9 pm, but when you look at the clock, you’re hit with the realization that it’s 2 am and all the streets are still flooded with people.

The busy streets and the decorated buildings

Nardien and I took a trip to Siwa, and it has now easily become a core memory of mine. We got to go with this tourist company that takes individuals on budget-friendly trips by booking large groups of people. On the way there, I got to meet so many awesome people that were on the bus with us, whom I hope to stay in contact with. In Siwa, we got to go hiking, sandboarding, and swimming in the famous Siwa oasis. The latter two activities have been on my bucket list since the second I knew I was coming to Egypt, and they were exactly as phenomenal as I had imagined them to be. We also got to go on a desert safari and speak to locals in Siwa. I was fascinated to learn that they have their own dialect which they learn at home when they’re kids, and they learn Arabic later on when they go to school. They also have slightly different customs and cultures. Being in Siwa felt like exploring a different country without ever having to step foot outside of Egypt.

The Siwa Oasis

These are all the adventures for now, but I’ll write again soon as I start packing to head back to Nashville.

Until then,

Ilaria Youssef

Stepping into the Last Month

Hello again!

The last two weeks at the office have been extremely busy. I was tasked with double-checking every number within a 70-page report. It took me the entire two weeks to finish. Although there were data tables on almost every other page, what was most time-consuming in checking the accuracy of these numbers was hunting down and trying to find where each number originated. Additionally, the Excel sheets I was sent, which contained the original data, were in Arabic, while the report was in English. While I have significantly improved my reading, writing, and overall understanding of Arabic, it was still quite a challenge, given that I was dealing with mostly technical terms. Nonetheless, I enjoyed putting my skills to the test, and my colleagues were patient and kind with my excessive questions, ensuring my translations were accurate. On the other hand, BLESS has only recently, within the last few years, started to digitize their files, so I can’t begin to imagine how they managed these lengthy and detail-oriented reports beforehand.

Outside the office, the country is getting ready to celebrate Ramadan, so there are huge pop-up shops everywhere selling Ramadan decorations, making it seem as if the streets themselves are adorned with festive lanterns.

I believe that winter is officially over here, but people are not yet ready to retire their winter clothes that they haven’t had much of a chance to wear yet. The weather has been in the 70s Fahrenheit and has even reached the mid-80s on a few days last week. Since we’re basically back to summer, Nardien and I dined at a cute restaurant on the Nile, enjoying the view, the food, and, of course, the company!

I’ve also met with family members, as I am starting to realize that I will be leaving soon and will miss the cozy feeling of familial love. So, I am trying to soak up every last ounce of it.

I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Sunday service led by the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. It was a special and beautiful service because they were also consecrating the altar of that local church!

A huge pop-up market was held over the weekend, where small businesses go to advertise and sell their products. I always feel inspired walking around and seeing how these people have turned their extraordinary talents and passions into a living. Everything in the indoor market was handmade: food, clothes, bedding, lamp shades, accessories, tableware, and everything in between. It was a wonderful opportunity to support local businesses.

My weekend wasn’t very eventful. Having crossed into the last month of being in Egypt, I spent the last weekend mainly planning my next steps. I’ve been applying for jobs in the U.S. and planning some other travels after Egypt but before I head back to Nashville.

Only a couple of these blogs left to write. What a surreal thought and experience it has been so far.

As always, send prayers my way.

Ilaria Youssef

February Fun!

Hi blog!

The last couple of weeks have been so much fun!

First of all, work has been a little slow because everyone in the office is wrapping up reports for the end of the 2020-2023 phase. My task will be to read through them, ensure all the numbers are correct, and add some data visuals once the writing portion is completed. So, I went around helping my colleagues with some of their other tedious tasks that are simple enough for me to handle without requiring much instruction (since most of them had a lot on their plates anyway). With not much for me to do, I seized the opportunity and requested a couple of days off until the reports are ready for my contribution.

A goal I set for myself at the beginning of this year was to go out and explore a lot more, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been sticking to that goal pretty well throughout February.

Every chance I get, I either walk to a new bakery, discover coffee shops in the area, or maybe even get groceries from a different store. However, I also returned to the Opera House because music is simply healing for the soul, and I couldn’t resist a flute and harp recital. The recital was so angelic and has been one of my favorite concerts to attend so far! I also went to a small art exhibition of a local artist and was mesmerized by their mastery of colors!

The flutist and harpist enchanting the audience with their skills

Fascinating art piece from the gallery

Nardien and I found a delightful restaurant that offers all kinds of board games for customers to enjoy while dining. So, as we had dinner, we engaged in extremely competitive games of backgammon and checkers. At one point, we may have both gotten a little too intense about winning and were definitely the loudest in the place, but thankfully, we both ended up tying, so it’s safe to say that we are still friends.

Nardien accepting defeat at backgammon

For my long weekend during the second week, I traveled to Alexandria to meet one of my closest friends from Nashville, who, by some divine intervention, had to move to Egypt at the start of this year. Having not seen her since October, I just had to take a trip to Alexandria to catch up with her. Alexandria was rainy the whole weekend, so we mainly stayed indoors, but we managed to visit some cute coffee shops, the Greco-Roman Museum, and have dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the beach. I left Alexandria feeling a sense of home and completely recharged.

The view of Alexandria from the rooftop

A small statue in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria

A small update about my broken laptop: There’s no Apple Store in Egypt, and I couldn’t find a way to fix it, so it will remain broken until I return to Nashville. However, thankfully, I think I’ve found a good alternative solution, so I don’t have to wait to post at the office. Hopefully, this will be the last belated post.

That’s all for now, but I’ll write again soon. Until then, please keep me in your prayers!

Ilaria Youssef

January’s Excursions

Hi again!

I can’t believe the first month of 2024 is over and that Nardien and I are officially more than halfway through our time in Egypt. The past three weeks passed so quickly!

The first week:

I went with my siblings on a quick trip to Luxor and Aswan, two cities that hold a significant amount of Egyptian artifacts and temples. It was absolutely mind-blowing to walk around these temples and try to imagine what life was like back then, when they were being built and used as actual temples.

The weather there was in the high 70s, so FaceTiming my parents, who were snowed in in Nashville, while my siblings and I wore short sleeves out and about made them a little jealous.

We also took a short boat ride to spend a couple of hours at the Nubian Village and spend time with the people there. I never knew that people there speak a different language. The people exuded kindness and generosity. I also bought a Nubian galabeya (their traditional garb).

As for the office, I spent this week learning the ins and outs of their online system to set me up for next week’s task, which was to upload all the data entry tools for the field workers to keep track of their progress throughout the year.

The second week:

My siblings, a couple of our cousins, and I took a day trip to Alexandria, where we got to visit a few churches, eat some of Alexandria’s signature foods, and enjoy a nice walk along the sea.

We also visited places in Cairo that we used to frequent as kids. Most places, to my 11-year-old self, seemed huge, but now going back as an adult and seeing that everything is, in fact, of a normal size, was like someone telling me Santa isn’t real. Suddenly, all my childhood memories are slightly altered forever. However, it’s always a delight meeting people who knew our parents and listening to stories about them when they were younger.

We also visited the Grand Egyptian Museum with all of our cousins.

Last week:

Unfortunately, I was sick with a fever for the most part and didn’t go into the office at all, which is why this blog post is late: my laptop is still not fixed, and not being at the office, I didn’t have access to a computer to post from. (Stay tuned for pictures once I finally fix my laptop).

In other news, my siblings left last night, and I spent the last few days hanging out with them and doing any and all last-minute activities they wanted to do before flying back.

It’s also worth mentioning that we drank sugarcane juice every chance we got, because it’s sugarcane season right now, and it’s definitely one of the things I’ll miss the most when I go back to Nashville.

As always, please keep me in your prayers.

Ilaria Youssef

Christmas and New Year’s Travels

Happy New Year!

**Unfortunately, I broke my laptop’s screen, so I haven’t been able to post the blogs I’ve been writing. Bear with me as I post them during my free time from the office computer. I’ll probably have to come back later, once my laptop is fixed, to add pictures. For now, enjoy this blog post I wrote on January 9th.

These past couple of weeks have been thrilling. I traveled to Germany on Christmas weekend and stayed there until the day after New Year’s. I got to see my sister when I landed there, and just being together again was wonderful in itself. We stayed, for the most part, at friends’ apartments and city-hopped throughout the day. I visited Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Dresden, Colmar, Strasbourg, and celebrated New Year’s Eve in Berlin. I made new friends, some of whom live in Egypt, ate delicious foods, and visited multiple Christmas Markets.

A couple of days after my sister and I came back to Egypt, my brother also landed here! With the Youssef siblings reunited, we celebrated Coptic Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on the 7th of January, alongside aunts and cousins whom we haven’t seen since we moved to the U.S. Being surrounded by extended family was the highlight of my holiday season, as I was missing my parents a little extra. When I was a kid, I remember my parents taking me to my aunt’s house on Christmas day, and my siblings and I would run around and play with our cousins, and having that same experience now, as an adult, was such a healing, warm feeling.

Coming back to the office, I found a Christmas gift on my desk, even though I wasn’t involved in the secret Santa game. In addition, some of my colleagues, whom I had befriended and gotten close with, started reminiscing on our time together  over the “last year,” as they put their last touches on their end-of-year reports.

Since the New Year was only a week ago, and I am still in my reflective stage, I am going to share some of my reflections regarding this journey.

  1. Before Germany and meeting up with my siblings, I had found myself stuck in a routine, and I felt like I wasn’t taking full advantage of my time here in Egypt. However, I’ve set a goal for myself to try to go on more excursions on the weekends and to go out and meet new people during the weekdays.
  2. Homesickness, missing my friends, and being in a completely different time zone than all my loved ones is difficult. But I am trying to remind myself that nothing lasts. The hard times will fade away eventually, and so do the good times, so it’s important to cherish the good with the bad.
  3. I want to keep reminding myself that around this time last year Nardien and I were working on the Lumos application and praying that it all works out, so it’s important to be thankful and focus on the now rather than always planning for/ only looking forward to the future.

I didn’t mean to turn the blog into a TED talk, but I am hoping that writing these out helps me remember them often.

I hope you had a blessed holiday season, and I’ll write again soon,

Ilaria Youssef

Secret Santa and the Opera!

Hi blog!

The past couple of weeks haven’t been the easiest, but we got through them, and that’s all that matters!


I’ve been inching a little towards burnout due to a compilation of factors. Winter weather and early sunsets are already a recipe for exhaustion, and my brain is still making a considerable amount of effort to translate everything I come across. Plus, something I hadn’t anticipated is the office-volunteering aspect of it all; when volunteering, most of the time, you interact with the people you’re helping and witness the impact of your work firsthand. However, when volunteering in an office setting, I’m only seeing the data behind the people, so it’s easy to forget that what I’m doing is also making a difference.

On the bright side, as we’re approaching the new year, they are currently ironing out some last-minute fine details of their new 2024-2027 phase, so I’ve been sitting in on a few meetings and getting to see the inner workings/ the administrative side and how decisions are made in an NGO. It’s been a valuable experience, and I even got to share my input from a pure data/statistical perspective and get feedback about my ideas.

The office has been playing a game of Secret Santa, and the way they’re doing it is that each person is supposed to give multiple little gifts leading up to New Years, and then on January 2nd, they’ll give each other a bigger gift. Since I won’t be at the office on the 2nd, because I won’t have time to land and make it in time, I’ve been helping everyone deliver gifts to each other, and some of my colleagues even told me that they wanted certain things, and I’ve been sneakily delivering these requests along to their Secret Santa. Even though I am technically not a part of the game, I feel like I hold so much power because everyone trusts me enough to reveal who their person is.

Cool Experiences/ General Updates:

This is very insignificant, but worth noting: I recently went to get a haircut, and unfortunately, it did not come out how I wanted it at all. In fact, it is comically awful and too short for me to even put up. I have been scouring the internet for tips and tricks on how to deal with it; hopefully, I find a solution soon.

I went to a concert at the opera last week, and I had the absolute best time.  The concert covered much of Fairuz’s, an extraordinary Lebanese singer, discography. There was a live orchestra, and different singers would come out on stage to sing different songs. It was such a magical, music-filled night.

I am so excited to see my sister soon!! It will be a nice, much-needed break to get me back in the groove.

Since this is my last blog post before the 25th, merry Christmas!! I hope you’re surrounded by family and friends, and that your year is ending on a high note!

Ilaria Youssef

Strolls, Bakeries, and Churches

Hello again!

For the past two weeks, as winter and early sunsets have set in, I’ve been intentional about forcing myself to go out a little bit more, even if it’s just for a one-hour stroll in the street. I’ve found myself stuck in a routine, and this helped give me a small push out of it.

Cool experiences:

I went to a park that had this little small festival where people with startup small businesses come and advertise their products. It was so inspiring seeing how these talented people decided to turn their hobbies into businesses, whether it’s woodwork, crocheting, pottery, baking, jewelry making, or anything else in between. One thing I’ve noticed since coming to Cairo is people’s overall work ethic and hustle. So many people in the street find some kind of small thing they can do, and they go out on the street and sell it. For example, there’s a lady that stands by the metro station every day selling homemade sandwiches for people who haven’t eaten breakfast and are on their way to work. There are also “coffee cars,” which are basically people with small cars that makeshift their trunk into a coffee station. It’s honestly incredibly creative and admirable.

The display of a pottery-making small-business

I got to go to this museum-like building in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. They had wax figures of the past two patriarchs in the Coptic Orthodox Church and some artifacts/belongings of people who have greatly impacted the Coptic Orthodox church. I loved seeing a glimpse of the church’s history.

Wax figure of Pope Kyrillos VI, the 116th Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church

I’ve also discovered the beauty of Egyptian bakeries. They sell fresh bread and all kinds of cookies with different fillings. I’ve been indulging and buying different types every time I go so that I can taste all of them. My favorite so far is this bread-like textured cookie filled with cinnamon and honey.


The partner meeting on Monday was very interesting and information-filled. I got to welcome the partners and sign them in, as well as ask them a few questions on video for BLESS’ documentation team. It was extremely cool to talk to these partners, most of whom are from European countries but have been living in Egypt for a few years. I got to bond with some of them as our experiences were somewhat similar: coming from a foreign country and dealing with the small culture shocks that come with living in Egypt.

After the meeting, BLESS had arranged a dinner for the partners, and I was lucky enough to be invited. The dinner was outdoors, so naturally, there were cats, which made for a fun conversation starter. We were also invited on a private tour of some of the ancient churches in the area, and naturally, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I tagged along.

Things have been a little slow in the office ever since, so I’ve been trying to refresh my memory in some coding languages by doing online courses.

Small Updates:

I am so excited to see my sister and go to Germany! But I’m even more excited because my brother also booked tickets to come to Egypt in January, which means that my siblings and I are celebrating Coptic Orthodox Christmas together!

If I am not keeping myself busy, I find myself very homesick. However, it helps when I run into people that used to know my parents or when I get to meet up with some extended family that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Either way, I can’t wait to explore Egypt a little more with my siblings.

December is already looking great, but keep praying for me.

Ilaria Youssef


PS: I wrote this two weeks ago, but unfortunately, I am not posting the blogs as fast as I am writing them. I promise I’ll get back on schedule soon!

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

Becoming a Cairo Local

Hello again!

The past two weeks have been eventful! As usual, I need some sort of structure/list to help break it down, so here we go:

Updates about being a Cairo local:
For the past two weeks, I’ve been slowly transitioning into finally feeling somewhat like a local. After weeks of experimenting with different modes of transportation, I now feel the most comfortable riding the underground metro and even switching between metro lines.

Inside the metro, the names of the stations/ stops are written in both English and Arabic

A mural inside the metro station portraying influential Egyptian people: two of whom are Coptic Saints

A mural inside the Abbassya metro station: portraying the word Abbassya in the Coptic Language and showing a couple of the area’s landmarks

I’ve also started to get in the groove of things: I set up a routine for myself, and I familiarize myself with the areas I am going so that I can feel oriented whenever I go out. I’ve even been asked for directions a couple of times!! (Granted, I was only able to help once, but it’s a satisfying feeling all the same).

Update about work:
I have befriended some of my colleagues, and a couple of them even invited me out after work last week. Meanwhile, the others give me weekly recommendations of must-visit places in Cairo. I am surrounded by kind colleagues, and I feel extremely blessed to have met them. As for the actual work aspect: learning so much about what the NGO does and hearing Arabic 24/7 was very unexpectedly overwhelming in the beginning, but thankfully I’ve gone from the “observing and asking questions” stage to the “trying, being assigned a couple of tasks, and getting feedback” stage. This past week, I had to analyze and create charts portraying BLESS’ most prominent services for a partner meeting coming up later this month. I had the opportunity to work in a team and present my progress in small team meetings along the way. This was such a valuable work experience that I had yet to gain until then, but I’m fortunate to have such a supportive team helping me through it.

Update about my cat phobia:
The last two weeks started out being a bit rocky, with a major phobia freak-out. In short, I now absolutely have to double-check that there’s indoor seating before I go to any cafe. I think it’s calmed down a bit since then. All is good; I know that progress isn’t always linear.

Cool experiences I’ve had so far:
Egypt is full of history as it is full of life. I’ve explored that side of Egypt a little more these past couple of weeks as I visited a few ancient Coptic Orthodox churches. It also turned out that one of my childhood friends spent her summer in Egypt, and thankfully, I found out that she was still here just in time before she left. We got to reconnect and visit the pyramids together. Catching up with my childhood friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years while visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World wasn’t on my bingo card for 2023, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise.

A cavern, inside one of the churches I visited, where the Holy family stayed for three months

I am gradually acclimating to everything, so I am currently in the perfect balance of feeling like a local but not too much so that I can still recognize the magical feeling of living in this city.

I can’t believe I’ve been here for one month already. Keep praying for me so that I can get the most out of this journey!

I’ll write again soon,

Ilaria Youssef

Two Weeks In

Welcome back!

I’ve been in Egypt for a couple of weeks now, and it has already been the experience of a lifetime.

I’m not sure how to begin recounting or processing my journey over these past two weeks, so I’ll put it into a list of things I’ve noticed so far:

  1. Cairo is such a lively city!

In the first week, I was incredibly overstimulated every time I stepped out of the apartment, to the extent that I had to come home and immediately take a nap. The streets always seem to be bustling, and cars are everywhere! Where a car fits, there it shall be. The Egyptian people seem to have black belts in driving, but they also have their own unspoken rules when it comes to roads. For example, the lines on the roads, indicating lanes, are merely a suggestion that is quite often ignored. During rush hour, you can simply stick a finger outside of the car window, and you’d probably be touching another car (although I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home/street). As for the car horn, it seems as though there’s either a secret language behind each beep that I’m unable to decipher yet, or they just enjoy honking the horn for fun.

Crossing the street, on the other hand, should be an Olympic sport. There are pedestrians walking between cars on any given street. I have mastered crossing the smaller streets so far; wish me luck so I can level up.

Additionally, Cairo might be in competition with NYC for the title of “the city that never sleeps.” I can always hear cars beeping and people talking on the street from my bedroom window, even in the middle of the night.

  1. There are animals everywhere.

Mainly stray cats and dogs. (Small update on my phobia: I can walk past a cat in the street, but I can’t seem to sit down to eat in the open air while a cat is roaming around the table. I’m counting it all as progress, though:) However, I’ve also witnessed 2 small chickens walking around in a small side street, heard a rooster crow, and seen some goats. All the animals seem to coexist with each other, the humans, and the cars. I even saw a couple of stray dogs, on separate occasions, look both ways before crossing the street.

  1. Egyptians seem to be genuinely kind people.

From the first day at the BLESS office, all the employees showed me so much compassion and gave me a warm welcome. Many of them even offered me advice, tolerated my capacity to come up with endless questions, and were patient when my Arabic fell a little short. I am already gaining valuable insight into the nonprofit world, and I am excited to be volunteering in an organization that serves so many communities in Egypt.

  1. Egyptian food is glorious.

I have yet to taste one thing that hasn’t been mind-blowingly delicious. From sweets to snacks, to breakfast and dinners, it’s all unmatched.

Overall, Egypt is an absolute dream and I couldn’t be happier to be here. I’ve found myself in the habit of taking several pictures throughout the day, most of which are random, but they’re my way of admiring Cairo’s beauty. Enjoy a photo dump at the end of the blog.

Please keep me in your prayers, and I’ll write to you soon!

Until then,

Ilaria Youssef

A typical Egyptian breakfast

Street view of the Cairo Tower

Statue of Saad Zaghloul in downtown Cairo