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 →

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

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