Alumni with Band in Egypt

Our band students participated in the trip of a lifetime when they traveled to Egypt during the month of January 2011, near the beginning of the Arab Spring. But many may not know that 20 alumni and friends also participated in the tour. Alumnus and Augustana administrator Brad Heegel '76 led the alumni and friends companion tour that coincided with the student tour.

Here are their stories and pictures from this international trip.  Mary (Eide) Boyd '66

My interest in this trip to Egypt initially was in the massive amount of art and architecture of the Pharonic period. But that and so much more history enriched the trip to Egypt! We felt if we were going to go there, it would be much better done with a group and we have traveled with Augie groups before and have enjoyed the adventure. The students were the added bonus. They were fun, very interested in learning about Egypt and took everything in and devoured each and every experience. Even bad food and upset tummies didn't get them down. Brad had told us that Egyptians were the friendliest people and he was right but they are more than that. They are proud and intelligent, willing to share their time and stories with visiting tourists, and willing to learn from others. We are honored to have been there to shared just a brief moment in their new history and we watch with anticipation the new Egypt as it embraces freedom.

Dianne (Hansen) Schnabel '73

When I was in grade school, I remember reading about the Aswan dam in the Weekly Reader. The article talked about having to move temples because of the new dam. What? How can they do that? That would be amazing to see! And many years later, I was able to accomplish a dream that was rarely thought of over the years. And in addition, I was able to travel with a wonderful group of people who have become my "Egypt" friends. Other than seeing the pyramids, I went with no preconceived ideas. Well, the pyramids were there, along with a country that is truly indescribable! Donkey carts traveling next to tour buses. Pharaonic temples surrounded by satellite dishes. Cruise ships surround by canoes. Lush green vegetation bordered by sand.

And of course, the people. Meeting our guides was like seeing long lost friends. We shared stories, laughs and dreams. Everyone we met was welcoming and interested to know that we were Americans. I felt an undertone of vitality and love of country from the young people we met. It is not surprising that they were able to take a stand and show their passion for change. The Egyptian youth will definitely want a voice in the new government!

When people ask me what was your favorite experience, I answer the entire trip. It's impossible for me to pick out one thing when the three weeks were such a cohesive time. Would I go back? In a heartbeat--I have friends waiting to greet me!

Brad Heegel '76

(excerpt from The Augustana Band in Egypt blog)

We arrived for third stay in Cairo on Wednesday this week via a chartered flight from Aswan. We loved the four-day cruise, and really could have ended the tour there and flown back to the US. Yet when our tour was planned, we wanted to return to Cairo for a final concert and had selected the Concert Hall at the Mubarak Complex for our farewell event. WINGS (our local tour providers) had a full house planned for us, and the Center is a gorgeous place – right in the middle of the Cairo Police Academy which is located near the international airport. The complex is where President Mubarak entertains foreign leaders and is quite opulent.

Returning to Cairo would also allow the students to have the chance to be in the heart of the city (they were previously in Giza, near the Pyramids, and then spent a couple of days closer to, but not in the heart of Cairo). Their last three days would be fun ones – shopping, inexpensive restaurants, the Egyptian Museum nearby - not the most luxurious hotel in the world, but we’d heard that students loved staying there.

Luxury wasn’t at the top of any of our minds when we arrived in Cairo for these last three days. We had been hearing that demonstrations might be starting, and our first indication of that was when our buses were held at the airport by the Tourist Police. After about a 30 minute delay, our driver head out to deliver the “Friends” to their Dokki hotel. Although dusk turned to darkness during our drive into the city, it became apparent that there was a greater police presence than we had seen just last week. Traffic was almost impossible, and soon we knew why. Out our windows, we could see a long line of riot police heading down a street, no doubt toward Tahrir Square. The bus was immediately diverted by the Tourist Police accompanying us, and we headed out towards the Citadel (on the outside of the downtown area). For the next hour, we were led through traffic by a siren-wielding, flashing blue light police car. Impressive, yes, but did anyone move to let us through? No.

For more, go to The Augustana Band in Egypt blog.