The Cairo American College is located just outside the city of Cairo

Ask students at Cairo American College in Egypt about their country, and they may be as likely to tell you about the osprey they saw flying in the Sinai Desert or the coral reefs of the Red Sea as the Temple of Dendera or the Great Pyramid. Many people focus on what is preserved from Egypt's ancient past, but students at this K–12 school are working to save the future, too.

Through their ecology program, the school's eighth graders have written pamphlets about the birds in the Sinai so that people will take better care of the environment there. They have also raised money through a recycling program to acquire 31 Egyptian tortoises, which are threatened with extinction. The school has started a breeding program in hopes of saving the tortoises.

CAC, as the students' school is known, is located in a suburb of Cairo, one of the world's largest and most historic cities and the capital of Egypt. The students live in the midst of one of the world's oldest civilizations, with the pyramids, grand tombs, and temples of ancient Egypt nearby. But the Egypt of today offers both the possibilities and the problems of modern life. These students and their families are better off financially than many people in Egypt, where there are a large number of poor families. During Egypt's mild weather from October to May especially, the students love to go scuba diving in the Red Sea, swim, play sports such as baseball and soccer, and see the sights in Egypt.

However, when terrorists exploded bombs in Luxor, an ancient place visited by many tourists just south along the Nile from Cairo, it frightened many people in Egypt. Their country is usually very peaceful. The bombing was a horrible reminder of the terrible hatreds that have lasted hundreds of years in the Middle East region — between Muslims and Jews, and between moderate people of these religions and people of their same faith who want war and violence. Still Cairo remains a safe city for kids to live in, where students can walk to school without parents having to watch them. There is relatively little crime for a very large city. Many credit this fact to the strong Islamic faith held by many Egyptians and its laws about behavior. However, some Muslims who hold extreme views oppose any Western-style culture in the city and the country's democratic laws. They want Islamic rules to apply to all aspects of society and government in Egypt.

The Middle East strife may seem a bit removed inside the walls of Cairo American College. First founded in 1945 to educate American children living in Egypt, the school is in some ways like a mini-United Nations. While many of its students are still Americans whose families work and live in Egypt, there are more than 50 nationalities represented among the student body. About 15 percent of the students are Egyptians. Kids get to know and make friends with other kids from all over the globe, right at their school. "It is great to see how well they get along," says Peter Coyle, the school's director of technology.

Daily Life

  • Popular foods in Egypt include flat bread, vegetable stews, and a special brown bean dish called ful medanes.
  • Family life is very important in Egypt. Most people have large families, and most Egyptian young men and women live with their parents until they marry.
  • The vast majority of Egypt's people are Muslim. The religion of Islam was first introduced here in the seventh century. Some Egyptians are also Coptic Christians.
  • In big cities such as Cairo, most people wear Western-style clothes. However in rural areas, traditional clothing is popular. There, many men wear a long, full skirt, called a galabiyah, over pants. Women who dress traditionally often wear long robes and cover their hair with a veil.
  • All children in Egypt are supposed to go to school for at least six years, but many poor children cannot afford to stay that long. This means that the literacy rate (the number of people who can read) is relatively low; about 63 percent of males and 39 percent of females can read.
  • Kids under 15 years of age make up almost 40 percent of Egypt's population. In the United States, only 22 percent of the population is under 15.
  • If you travel into the scorching Egyptian desert, you should be careful to cover your head and neck, and take these supplies: water, food, hat, sunglasses, and salt tablets to fight dehydration.

Write about it:
With all the news coming from the Middle East, can you think of why it might be hard living in Egypt as a kid today?