The story so far...part 1!

Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
Trip End Nov 14, 2009

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Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello everyone!

I have been trying unsuccessfully for days to find a computer with internet fast enough to load the editing tool necessary to post an entry on this thing.

So i guess you all want an update on what's happening with me and my ultra glamorous jet setting lifestyle. I'm in Egypt and have been since the 20th of September-you do the math because i have no idea what day it is.

First day was, predictably, a bit of a nightmare. Cairo airport is a shit hole. Baggage claim is full of piles of rubbish. The second you walk out of customs the leeches trying to get you to take their taxi/go to their hotel or whatever start harassing you. I was expecting this. I was also expecting the guy who was supposed to privately transfer me to my hotel to not turn up, which he didn't. So i called the emergency contact which we were supposed to call on such an occassion and they barely spoke english and i regret to say that i got very impatient with him and was very rude. After about 20 minutes of unproductive arguing, he put me on the phone to some American guy from the company and he said that my transfer guy wasn't supposed to be there until 3 because apparently thats the time my travel agent had told them my flight would get in. Then he says 'oh, it also says you were supposed to arrive yesterday'. Hmm, so that means that if i arrived yesterday at 3, i'd still be stuffed because they obviously didn't even attempt to pick me up at the time they were allegedly given any way.

Any way i ended up having to get a taxi to the hotel and was prepared to be ripped off so i said to the guy straight up-10 pounds which i now know is grossly underpaying him (the from the airport to Dokki where my hotel was is usually about 100 pounds...). Of course the guy looked mortified so we stopped and bargained and i was stubborn even though i had no idea what he should be paid i just decided 10 was a good number. Eventually we settled on 20 pounds. His name was Mostafa and he was crazy and loud and i liked him. He said to me 'gameela' which means beautiful in Egyptian Arabic and indicated my face which was the beginning of my experience of being hit on by Egyptian men young and old alike. He wasn't creepy though, just funny. He asked me if i was his friend and i assured him that he was. When i got in the car i couldn't see any seat belts so i asked him where they were and he replied "this is Egypt not Italy" (for some reason he thought i was Italian even after i told him numerous times that i was Australian.) Any how, when we finally arrived at the hotel which was in this dodgy little street; i said ok here is 20 pounds and he said "No, 20 DOLLARS" and i said "No, 20 pounds" and he said "No! 20 dollars!!!!" and i said "NO, POUNDS!!" and we continued like this for at least 5 minutes when a guy from the hotel said to just give him the 75 pounds he was requesting because it is normal fare. I ended up just giving him that but i was annoyed even though it turns out i got an amazingly good deal.

Any how, hotel was a shit hole. The door didn't close properly which was very worrying and it had a beautiful view of a waterless pool full of rubbish and old cigarette butts. Classy. I spent a bit of time in my room watching bad Egyptian soap operas featuring women who need to scrape their make up off of an evening after showering. I ventured downstairs to have an older man who worked there show me the restaurant etc. He introduced himself as Shehadie and he seemed ok, awkward but friendly. I was hungry so i ordered some mousaka and some of the younger guys that worked there started to take an interest in me as well so i was showered with all this attention (more 'gameela' and this time 'i love you, white queen' which is interesting) and Shehadie gave me one of the fake flowers which i just thought was cute at this point and quite amusing. They all wanted photos with me so i allowed them but then they started getting more intense and wanting more photos and kissing my hand and kissing me on the cheek and putting their arm around me so i started to get uncomfortable so i said no to them and left but i remembered they knew my room number and i was alone in a room with a bad door. I heard a knock on the door and it was Shehadie and he said something which sounded like 'amil' but turned out he was asking for my email and i just said no and said good bye. I got worried that i'd given the other guys the wrong impression so i went downstairs to try and set the record straight but they had no idea what i was getting at because their english wasn't good so i just confused them and they continued hitting on me. All night i was freaking out that they would try something like coming into my room so i created a barrier with my luggage and had a little cry, as you do when something like that happens on your first night in an unfamiliar country. All night i got calls on the phone and i'd answer and no one would say anything so i ended up talking the phone off the hook. Needless to say, i slept with the light on.

I'm happy to say that that experience was the worst thing that's happened to me the whole time i've been here and i'm glad it happened because now i know what the limits are when interacting with men here. You need to be friendly but firm enough to cut it short of what may be mistaken for flirtation. Eye contact with men you don't know needs to be avoided.

Any how, i was a bit shaken up but i forced myself to leave the hotel the next day and see Cairo. So I got a taxi to Khan El Khalili bazaar in what's known as Islamic Cairo. I went at 6:30am because i couldn't sleep and i needed to get out of the hotel so when i got there it was very dull, there was nothing happening and it took about 2 seconds for a sales guy to start with the 'gameela-blue eyes! i like you!' crap but this time i knew how to get rid of him and much to my delight i got to use the phrase "ishmee" which means go away. I said it wrong though so he laughed at me and corrected at me but then when i said it again and continued to walk and ignore him, he left. Long story short, i got lost and 2 old men took about 25 minutes out of their day to take me where i wanted to go and they didn't even ask for money aka baksheesh which is very unusual. It was very kind of them and they were hilarious so i didn't care so much when they said gameela and i love you etc. I decided to go across the road to the famous Al Azhar mosque but felt a little intimidated because there were no clear signs saying if it was ok to enter at that point etc and i didn't want to offend or intrude so instead i went to a local eatery called Gad which sells lots of nice, cheap Egyptian food so i bought Fuul with eggplant and Hummus with Egyptian bread which was beautiful and probably only a couple of dollars or so in Australian dollars. It filled me up until dinner too.

After that i got really, really lost and ended up walking through this cute little village and laughing with the locals at my complete lack of Arabic communication skills. I had to ask for directions to Al Azhar park about a million times before i found it (after, literally about 2 hours of wandering the city and walking with the crowds along highways).

Al Azhar park is a popular and vast, beautiful park built on what used to be essentially a centuries old rubbish dump inhabitated by drug dealers and homeless people. I sat in the shade there for a while and it was really nice. There were lots of couples and families there. A couple of kids said hi to me and asked where i was from and welcomed me to Egypt which is very sweet but as i have discovered, not unusual. Egyptians can be very intense but they are also very friendly and have a great sense of humour. I think Australians and Egyptians have a lot more in common than the average person would ever think. It was in Al Azhar park that i heard the muezzin (call to prayer) for the first time. It sounded soooo eerie and actually really comical because there were so many going at once (there is pretty much a masgid/mosque on every block) and the effect was hilarious.

The next day i went to Coptic Cairo which is the Christian quarter of Cairo via the metro which i was very impressed with because of its relative cleanliness and efficiency. Cityrail take note! Any way it was really great blah blah blah.

I'm so behind on my posts and i'm now in upper Egypt (South of Egypt down towards Sudan) in Luxor where it is incredibly effing hot. Like i am talking 42 degrees hot. It's insane. So i'm really not in the mood to give a thorough description from here onwards. I'll quickly skim over things now.

Day tour started i met Sharon who was to be my room mate for the tour and we hit it off right away so that's all good. I can't be bothered writing any more. I am melting.

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