Kanater Prison

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I woke up early and walked over to the gates of Maadi Community Church where I hopped in a van at 8:15 am. We then embarked on a long drive to Kanater Prison. Every Tuesday a christian group visits the foreigners in this prison. They have found themselves there for Egyptian crimes, visa issues, or they are awaiting to gain refugee status from the UNHCR. This prison is on the outskirts North of downtown Cairo and on the opposite side of the Nile. For obvious reasons I was not allowed to take photos inside or bring any electronics with me but I will say that the prison surprised me. It was a lot nicer than I expected it to be… but then again I think I didn’t know what to expect. There was a lot of waiting and searching before we could go inside. I was patted down all over in a room with a curtain when we first got in, and then again before we went behind the bars. We were also dragging around 50 grocery bags of food and christmas gifts, and so all us were were concerned and occupied with getting this stuff inside for the men. We waited a long time at each checkpoint- maybe an hour each place, and we were transported around the prison by a tractor pulling a large cart. I felt like I was on a disney safari — but in an Egyptian prison. (It was a strange thing to say the least). When we finally were allowed to see the prisoners, we were received in a fenced in waiting room connected to the courtyard. There was more touching, hugs, and shaking hands than I had eveer expected would be allowed. I spoke most of the time with a guy from South Sudan who likes to read history books and has two sisters and a brother still in Sudan. He has been in the prison in Cairo for seven years. When he found out that I was 22 he looked bewildered and started laughing very hard. I still don’t know if he thought I was older or younger. It is funny because just yesterday I was thinking how is so irrelevant for this year. When it was time to go we all sang silent night and it was beautiful. It is a sad time at Christmas for them to be away from their families and locked up in Cairo, but they are all planning on throwing a large party for everyone in the prison on the 25th. On the drive home, the five of us in the van I was in consumed a whole box of chips-a-hoy! This overall was a surreal and strange experience, but something I was glad to see. 


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