The land of the Pharaohs
Trip Start Oct 31, 2006
18Trip End May 2007
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Eygpt was incredible...the 5-day nile cruise was spectacular. The temples and pyramids were unbelievable. Standing admist the towering stone structures you can't believe that [wo]man actually built such treasures. We tried to learn some hieroglyphics, even bought a few books, but it was pretty challenging.
During the cruise we ended up on our day tours with a group of older jordanian women--5 friends on a 14 day egyptian tour
After the cruise, we spent a few days in Cairo. We stayed at the Nile Hilton, the first US hotel in Cairo where many foreign leaders once stayed
We had a private tour one day in Cairo where we visited the Pyramids at Giza. Cheops is the biggest of the three. To see these in person was out of this world. Amazing! We also visited the Citadel of Salah-al Din and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. Our guide Ola was a young woman who personified the modern Muslim woman. She has lived overseas on an off over the last 15 years and spent a lot of time with us talking about life in Egypt as a young modern women, everything from clothing (abaya, hijab, nigab--the head scarf debate), prayer, fasting, abiding by the 5 pillars of Islam, Muslim marriages, etc...it was a brief but insightful glimpse into Muslim culture. We finished our day at the incredible Egyptian Museum. That evening we strolled around the Zamalek-a trendy upscale neighborhood where we had dinner at La Bodega. We loved this restaurant! On our last morning, we headed to Khan a Khalili, the famed Egyptian bazaar with its tiny hookah smoke-filled alleyways. We left empty-handed, but not for want of trying. We haggled hard for a silver, engraved plate from a store where Hillary Clinton once visited. Apparently, a store owner feels he or she can command high prices with a signed letter and photo with a former US President or his spouse. The celebrity factor if you will. We saw this in many places, including the papyrus-making store we visited in Luxor with their photo and letter from President Carter
In spite of the smog, pollution and traffic we would have loved to spend more time in Cairo. It's a city whose landscape is dotted with satellite dishes and minarets. From our perspective, it turned out to be a fascinating and modern city with a cool blend of bookstores, good restaurants and cultural venues. We even caught a movie at the Cairo International Film Festival. Getting there though, was a near death experience with the cab driver. But hey, who needs headlights at night anyway. Better to save that car battery juice for things like the purple neon light strip flashing above the back seat of the car, right?
The people we met in Cairo were friendly and open. Whether at the pyramids of Giza or the Mosque, we had fantastic conversation with our guide (talked a lot about Islam and women in islamic societies and cultures) and met plenty of highschool students who wanted to practice their english with us and have their photo taken...but not with us, with themselves. Of course, we were happy to oblige.