Egypt - A UW Alumni Tour Perspective

Pyramids and SphynxAs assistant director for UW Alumni Tours, I occasionally host tours that we sponsor. Our Egypt program is one of our most popular and highly rated tours, and this year I was finally able to experience it myself along with 19 UW travelers! As it happens, our trip Jan. 21– Feb. 6, turned out to be a memorable time to visit Egypt. Below is a short account of a day that would change the course of history in the Middle East.
– Susan Cathcart

Jan. 25, 2011 – Cairo, Egypt

After an active morning of exploring the Pyramids, the Sphinx and then a traditional Egyptian lunch on the river, we find that our tour bus cannot cross the Nile. Police have barricaded the entrance, and our Tour Director Hassan is pleading to the authorities that we HAVE to get back to our hotel on the other side of the river. Twenty intrepid Husky travelers are then directed by Hassan to get off the bus QUICKLY! We are now walking among demonstrators young and old who are also crossing the bridge to gather in Tahrir Square where a general protest is to begin at 2 p.m. The electricity in the air is palatable and we watch the excited and friendly crowd swell and enter the square.

Back at the hotel, the police presence is noticeable and we are told not to leave until the protest is over. UW Professor Jere Bachman, who is living in Cairo, is scheduled to speak to us and I am amazed when he appears in the hotel lobby. All trains had been canceled and roads are being barricaded. Fast forward to midnight, I am awakened by loud pops, sirens and chanting. As I step out onto my balcony overlooking Tahrir Square, I am astounded by the size of the crowd now and the size of the police force. A surreal moment amongst the chaos is the haunting call to prayer being broadcast from the minaret. In a few hours we would leave Cairo, bound for Aswan and continue our truly unique journey through Egypt.

What happened to Egypt and its people in those next 12 days, has been well documented. For us, it was an experience that can only be described as life changing…the ultimate in educational travel. I think my fellow travelers sum it up best:

"Hasson (our tour director) was such a wonderful window into the minds, hopes, and experiences of the Egyptian citizen. Our best to the Egyptian people!"
- Sue and Gene Severson '64

"We came to Egypt as typical American tourists hoping to see the sights and learn more about its history. Instead we experienced a revolution that affected our world view and created an emotional connection with another nation's people. Not a bad vacation by any standard."
- Virginia, '70, and David, '71, Anderson

"In addition to the vast historical treasures we saw of course, the current political unrest we witnessed will be memorable. We look at it as the opportunity of a lifetime!"
- John and Maria Pease

For more firsthand accounts about two weeks that changed the course of Egypt's history, see the below articles, interviews, photos, and even our tour brochure for 2012:

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