Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I am going to Egypt, alone

A lot of people have asked me recently why I'm going to Egypt by myself.  It's a Muslim country with increasingly conservative thinking and behavior.  I, on the other hand, am a five-foot-two-inch, 95 pound, blue-eyed, semi-blonde, diplomatically challenged, female American scientist with a solid background in heavy metal, extensive goat-roping experience and a strong affinity for nice wine and single-malt Scotch.  Doesn't seem like quite the fit, does it? here's the deal.  Here are the real reasons I'm going to Egypt by myself:

1) I'm nuts.
2) I'm a loser who couldn't get anyone to go with me (just kidding, Mom!)
3) OK...the real reasons. 

First of all, I'm writing a book.  It is partially set in Egypt.  Some of you have read it (at least, the part that's done) and the rest of you will, if you are interested.  So part of my reason for going alone is that I will be doing book-related research that, frankly, nobody else will have any reason to waste their precious vacation time on.  To bring someone with me would mean dragging that poor soul along on such missions as looking for swastikas and concentric squares embedded in the architecture of Coptic Cairo, and walking through Khan al Khalili with an iPhone to determine whether or not it is physically possible to emerge with said iPhone still on one's person.  And even I am not quite so egocentric as to subject another person to these scenarios.

One of my other reasons for going alone is, well, pretty egocentric.  I want to see Egypt through the eyes of my protagonist.  Her name is Katrina Stone, and if you, for whatever reason, continue to follow this blog (boredom? morbid curiosity? unadulterated masochism?) you will hear of her often. 

To be fair, I have stacked the deck a bit in my own favor relative to Katrina.  I have learned a little bit of Arabic; she speaks zero.  I have studied up on Middle Eastern etiquette.  This will all be new to her.  But Katrina is much smarter than I am, so these things should all even out.

Anyway, she will be there, alone.  Thus, so will I.  When I get into trouble, and I'm sure I will get into trouble, I only hope I have the presence of mind to ask myself, "What would Katrina do?" and then act accordingly.  Assuming that I will eventually make it home, I'm taking a gamble that this will make for fantastic literature.

If not, my backup plan is to just hijack my little cousin Elise's extensive network of Facebook contacts and sell the book through sheer overexposure, in case the story and the writing suck.  We'll see about that part.

My third reason for going alone is a little different, and I sincerely hope others can gain something from it.  When I was scouring the Internet to develop a baseline for expectations, I got a lot of mixed messages.  Some suggested that it's a terrible idea for any woman to go to Egypt alone under any circumstances, and that I'll basically be relentlessly assaulted from the moment I arrive at the airport until the moment I return to the airport.  Others said point blank that it's perfectly safe as long as you are smart about it.  We'll see.  So my goal here is to offer other women who may be thinking of embarking upon a similar adventure some modern-day insight, for whatever it's worth.  Right now, it's October 4, 2010.  I leave San Diego October 15.  Here goes.

So I've decided to make every effort to maintain an ongoing blog about these travels for three reasons. 1) To keep friends and family who have shown interest up to date on where I am, where I'm going and what I'm doing. 2) On a personal note, to maintain a sense of having company through vicarious "conversations," in English, with people I know, and 3) In hopes that if these blogs abruptly stop coming in, others will think twice about taking a similar vacation.  And that one of you will do me a favor and call my embassy.

To be continued...

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