overwhelmed, was the feeling I felt when I first walked through the streets of Cairo. For me, growing up in a relatively small and calm village in the Austrian Alps , Egypt Capital could not be more different from my hometown.

The first days in this bustling city, I spent walking the streets not knowing where to look next. I walked so slow that my sister had to drag me along. Listening to the foreign language and noises in the streets made it difficult for me to find my way through the vast buildings, and the smooth but never-ending traffic flow. Even though I was prepared when I came here, I wasn’t able to imagine how life would be like in Cairo. I was overwhelmed by all the things happening around me but also surprised how friendly the people are, like random strangers in the street would come up and tell us things like “welcome to Egypt,” “where are you from,” “Ahlan”!
After a few days, when the culture shock finally wears off, I began to perceive things differently, finally able to dive into this so distinct culture.

Historical Journey

Today I am looking back at a very special weekend, where we explored the historical part of the million-metropolis, Cairo. We walked on Al-Mu’izz Street, visited the great mosques, old schools, and ancient houses. The flair of this part of the city is fascinating. Entering the sacred halls of the mosques forms a stark contrast to the busy streets, as they are incredibly peaceful, allowing your mind to relax completely. The thick stone walls are responsible for a pleasant temperature inside.

The embellished marble floors and the wood-carved walls captivate the eyes. Wherever your eyes wander, there is something new to be discovered. It is inspiring to think about how many generations these old buildings have outlasted. Listening to the stories of these ancient places takes your mind on a journey through time. I was exhausted. So, my friends and I had a moment of relaxation on the rooftop of a mosque. The view of the city is unbelievable.

Old Cairo

The next day starts with an exploration of the Hanging Church. The impressive Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in Cairo. As the name suggests, the antique building is not just an ordinary house of worship. It was built upon an old gatehouse of the Babylon Fortress, and it lingers peacefully on the remains of the antique Roman building. The inside of the church is beautiful, and the doors are embellished in a picturesque way. I quietly observed as visitors enter and leave through the big door.

While we walked through the church and listened to the tour guide, we stumbled upon a window em-bedded in the floor of the cathedral. This window reminds us of the elevated position of the building. If you look down through the glass window, you could see the remains of the fortress. But there are more things to be discovered, like 100 colorful Icons of saints.
As we left the building, a group of school kids came up to us when they heard us speaking in English; they were excited that they asked to take pictures with us. After this heartwarming encounter, we made our way to a small chapel where the holy family is said to have spent several months. We left the religious complex and was impressed by the beautiful architecture and the diversity of religions.

I am eager to see more of Egypt and to discover places outside of the bustling metropolis. Up till now, my time in Egypt’s capital city has been amazing, and I have gotten used to city life and Cairo’s own pace. I am sure that back in Austria, I will miss Cairo- the city that never sleeps, and that my path will lead me back here. As an Egyptian Taxi driver cited to us: “Once you drink from the Nile, you are destined to return.” Inshallah!

Hannah Stadler is a student studying political science at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. She is doing a 6-week internship in the Arab West Center for Cultural Understanding in Cairo. She is interested in languages, culture , and politics.