Before we started dating, A and I had both applied for a study abroad program in Cairo, Egypt. We had done this separately because we both had in interest in learning further about that part of the world. When we talked about dating, we took this into pretty serious consideration because the program had a no relationship rule. We didn’t know how it would affect us if we were both accepted to the program and had to break off our relationship after 9 months. After praying about it, however, we decided to begin dating and see how God worked things out. I ended up not being accepted to the program and was devastated by the thought of us being apart for 3 ½ months.
We dated for the next 9 months and the relationship became quite serious. Both of us had put off dating for a few years prior to that…just believing that God was calling us to focus on other things and would lead when He brought the right person along. We had talked about marriage before A left for Egypt, but decided that we needed to take the time apart without the commitment of engagement hanging over our heads. When A stated that he couldn’t promise that God wouldn’t turn our world’s upside down with this trip I became nervous…but I agreed that we were being led to have open hands and open hearts as we went into this time. So, we said a tearful goodbye at the airport and he was gone.
The months went by (a very powerful time of growth in my own life that I hope to write about soon) and closer to Thanksgiving than Labor Day, I got word that A wanted me to come to Cairo to spend a week with him there.
I was elated and all of my friends were sure that A would propose during our time there. I got giddy thinking about it until I mentioned it to A in an e-mail (in a joking/nosy sort of way). The next time we talked on the phone (we talked a total of 7 times in that 3 ½ month period) he told me to get the idea out of my head. He said that we had been apart for too long and too much had happened in both of our lives that we needed to talk through and learn through. Until that happened, there would be no ring. I was sad, but saw his point. So I boarded a midnight plane bound for Egypt after one last hug from my dad with no thoughts of diamonds floating around in my head.
After a 10 ½ hour layover in Amsterdam (4 1/2 hours longer than expected due to weather, plane problems, etc.) I crashed the moment my weary body found its seat in the plane. I slept for the whole 4 or 5 hour trip to Cairo – not feeling take-off or landing. It was the most solid chunk of sleep I had gotten in days. Cramming for finals, packing and being way too excited in general had hampered my resting.
In Egypt, I went through the immigration/customs/baggage process (only leaving my passport at one counter – I thought he had slid my passport through and he didn’t, so he ran after me to hand it to me). As the doors flew open and the hot desert air hit me, my eyes locked with A’s and were instantly filled with tears. He looked tired and worried and frustrated.
He was tired and worried and frustrated because I was 6 hours late (by the time I got through the airport and got my bags) and he had no word from me if I had not made the flight, had had trouble, etc. The flowers in his hand were wilty and his cab driver was grumpy, but it didn’t matter.
We hugged and smiled and laughed. We walked to the car where the driver stowed my suitcase before taking off through the quiet streets in the pre-dawn light.
We arrived to the apartment I was staying at (with a friend of A’s) and after putting my suitcase inside, went up to the rooftop to take in the view. The early morning call to prayer sounded, roosters crowed, horns honked, and we were lost in the joy of being reunited as we danced on the rooftop – smiling cheesy grins the whole time.
We went our separate ways after a few minutes to get some sleep. Late the next morning, I came out of the apartment building to find A sitting on the step. He had been up early and been to the bakery and the fruit guy and the yogurt guy and the juice guy...and now a beautiful breakfast was at our disposal. We ate and talked and soaked in the beautiful surroundings (we were in a nice part of Cairo).
After breakfast, we ventured out – heading to A’s favorite park. We sat together as many other couples did, talking and loving each other. The boys playing soccer curiously lost control of their ball whenever it came close to us…giving them the perfect opportunity to practice their English.
We had falafel sandwiches from a street restaurant for lunch, we walked more in the afternoon. We went to a shisha restaurant for supper. I got really sick from my sandwich and enjoyed frantically searching for bathrooms for the rest of the trip.
The details of what we did on which days is a blur now…it is all written down in my journal packed in a box in America somewhere…but here are the highlights.
We went to the pyramids and walked around. We walked out into the desert and sat on a sand dune to watch the sunset. I remember thinking at that point in time that it would be the perfect moment for a proposal, but then remembered that it wasn’t happening. So I just enjoyed the sun setting over the sand and pyramids.
We went to a Coptic chu.rch and I sat in awe through the three hour service, taking in the intricacies of the liturgy, the detailing of the building and the fervor of the worship. We spent that afternoon with some friends A had made – a lovely couple who were doing big things in that country. They lived in the middle of a poor and busy neighborhood. Leaving their house and strolling through the streets was magical. It was there that I bought my favorite headscarf – the ‘old faithful’ one that I still turn to in a pinch to this day.
|Friends we made at the citadel that overlooks the massive city of Cairo.|
We met A’s friends, we explored neighborhoods of Cairo, we rode the subway, we explored different faith communities, we braved traffic and crowds. We shopped, and ate and laughed and fell in love all over again. It was an awesome awesome trip.
The night before we left (December 23) we took a walk on the Corniche by the Nile. This is a romantic place lined with trees filled with Christmas Lights and restaurants. Couples stroll along hand in hand and occupy every bench along the way. The Nile itself is filthy, but the atmosphere is lovely. We walked along holding hands until we came to a sailboat driver who seemed to know A. A greeted him and said that he had been on the boat before with friends. A said he wanted to take a ride on the sailboat and I readily agreed!
He went down to bargain prices while I went to use the bathroom in Chili’s. When we had been settled onto the boat and had taken off, A put his arm around me and I leaned my back against him as we floated down the river. The weather was beautiful, the scenery was gorgeous…it couldn’t have been more perfect.
After a few minutes of soaking it all in, A leaned over and whispered something in Arabic in my ear. I didn’t understand, but recognized the word love, so I thought he was telling me he loved me. He began to sing (in Arabic) and I turned around to face him just as he switched to English. A song about working together in the hard places of the world followed. The chorus basically said, Love Jesus With Me. I began to cry (I do that easily). I remember thinking that maybe he was going to propose, but reminded myself that he said it wouldn’t happen. I remember mentally kicking him because this would be a more than perfect opportunity! Focusing again, he was finishing his song and suddenly was sliding off of his seat and onto one knee. I remember crying and staring at him as he said “in other words, T, I love you, will you marry me?” I laughed and said yes as I threw my arms around him to hug him. We stood up hugging and laughing until the boat driver got too uncomfortable with our PDA and told us to knock it off and sit down!
We spent the rest of the boat ride soaking in the thrill of our happy news – talking about plans and dreams for the future, talking about how A had planned this (he had bought a ring in Egypt and had it engraved by a jeweler there to read Love Jesus With Me in Arabic on the outside), when he had talked to my dad, etc. It was so fun and exciting.
|The sunset on the Nile Rive as A was proposing. Thanks God!|
After leaving the boat we went to a ‘fancy’ restaurant where we ate pasta and oogled at each other. Finally late that night we took the subway back to our neighborhood and said goodnight. We flew home the next night and were married 7 months later. And the rest is a very happy history!
|Celebrating our engagement with pasta!|