Room with a view

Trip Start Apr 13, 2008
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Trip End May 02, 2008


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Flag of Egypt  , Cairo,
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

15 April
Well, I was sitting here looking across at the Pyramids as I wrote this. It is 6am and the sun was just coming up.  I had been for a walk. The hotel was empty apart from the hotel security people and the Tourist Police.  What a 24 hours it had been.  The contrast between Seoul and Cairo, Seoul was new and modern and Cairo was not.  Our travel agent met us at the airport and took us to the hotel.  He made it very easy for us.  He arranged our entry visas and dealt with customs - a few words in Arabic and we were through.  He also tried to up-sell on the trip, as he could arrange everything for us, at a cost.  This was not what we wanted to do so we resisted.  It was about 10:30 last night when we landed.  Outside there was a bus (7m - 20 seater) and just for us.  It was an interesting drive through the city with so much to see:
-  People (lots) fishing off the bridge as we crossed the Nile
-  Dad, mum, and kids(2) all on the same motorbike, with no helmets
-  People cooking on the side of the road
-  And, then there was the driving. 
-  Everyone just uses the horn and there appears to be few rules
-  Fast travelling drivers, down to donkeys pulling carts all on the same roads.
 
Sitting there I could just see over the wall to the road.  There was a big roundabout (3 lanes with cars 5 wide and horns sounding every couple of seconds.
 
Janine and the kids were still asleep.  I can't get my head around it but there was something in the Air (smog?).  However I could not smell any fumes.  The Hotel was dated but the service was good and the bed is very soft and comfortable.

After breakfast we arranged for a hotel taxi driver, Khalel, to take us to the Pyramids and the Sphinx.  It cost 130 Egyptian pounds (LE), including tip.  He drove us through the back streets (rat running) to get us there as quick as possible.  At the Pyramids there were a lot of Tourist Police.  The security checks were different, bags placed on the table and you walked through the metal detectors.  After we set off the metal detector we collected our bag (unchecked) and moved on.
 
It was amazing to be there.  I felt just like I did when I was at the Acropolis, 18 years ago, very surreal.  It was so exciting and I hoped that the kids felt the same.  It was hard to explain how big the Great Pyramid is.  You feel dwarfed as it stretches above you.
 
We went inside the 2nd pyramid (of Khafre).  We started at ground level and went down at about a 45 degree angle.  The tunnel was about a metre high and just wide enough for two people to squeeze pass each other.  The tunnel then levelled out, goes along, and then up at 45 degrees, expanded into the burial chamber.  There were no drawings or inscriptions on the walls which were just smooth.  It was hot and difficult to breath in the tunnel with two continuous lines of people, one entering and one exiting. 
In the burial chamber Mikayla was directed by the local guide (unsolicited) using sign language about the chamber and the sarcophagus in the far end.  This cost me a small tip of a couple of dollars.  Once outside it felt cool as sweat was running off me.  Going inside a pyramid was one of the things I wanted to do on the trip and it was only day one.

After being in the 2nd pyramid we travelled to the outlook in the desert which was where you looked back on the pyramids and could also go for a camel ride.  We did not ride (something to do later in the trip), but we did take the opportunity for photos. Khalel took a photo of Mikayla with her hand on the top the pyramid.  Then down to the Sphinx.  The Sphinx was not what I thought it would be, you drive down on the road, from the pyramids, and just fall onto it.  The Sphinx is almost hidden by the surrounding stone.  
 
However, when approaching from the front it is impressive, if you do not look back at Pizza Hutt and the other shops.  The Sphinx was higher than it looks and is in a sunken hollow.  The Sphinx was covered with sand and has been dug out.  What else remains buried in Egypt?  Standing at the back, next to the hind quarters, it is quite a drop to the bottom.  I found the carving on the head fascinating and I think that it was even more impressive than the pyramids. Walking back to the Taxi, Khalel had told me that he had a surprise for the kids, a papyrus factory.  I discussed this with Janine about whether to go or not, however he had parked outside.  So, it was papyrus making and the kids then bought some.  Afterwards Alex thought it was one of the highlights of the day.  The Taxi cost 110LE plus 20LE tip.  This compared to the guided trip offered last night for $US120 (approx 600LE).

After a swim in the hotel pool and lunch we checked out and were picked up for another trip through Cairo.  We there off to the Pharaonic Village.  On the way I saw some Riot Police.  I had not told Janine that I had read in the paper (on the net) that there had been protesting and demonstrations in Cairo.  I told her once we were on the plane heading home.  The Pharaonic Village is an historical re-enactment of ancient Egypt.  I thought that the staff were not that engaged and only going through the motions.  However it provided a nice introduction to the things we would see in the rest of the trip.  Also, again, the kids liked it.
 
From there it was to the Giza train station to wait for the overnight train to Aswan.  We sat in the station café for about 3 hours.  The kids were great Mikayla, just looked around at the sights and Alex watched Dr Who on the I-Pod.  Janine put on her Egyptian cotton long sleeve shit as she felt uncomfortable at the men looking her up and down.  There was an interesting mix of people at the station, tourists like us, businessmen going home, and Arabs in full dress.  The guide had arranged for a porter to collect us from the café and take us to the train (costing me 10LE).  The porter got excited when ever I stood up to look at trains (not ours) when they stopped.  The train was ok, the bed as short, it was noisy, and the food was worse than airline food
 
I still hated trains.
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