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 →

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!

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