CAIRO MUSEUM AND DINNER WITH EGYPTIAN FRIENDS
Trip Start Dec 09, 2005
25Trip End Jan 01, 2006
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After getting up and preparing ourselves to leave for the day on our journey through Cairo, we figured we had better stop off and take advantage of the large buffet style breakfast. And I must say large. A little bit of everything was there for us to partake in and that we did. Since we would be doing a lot of walking, Anita and I did not feel guilty having to taste a little bit of everything that was being offered. Of course, I did not have a problem filling my plate. Anita held her own I must say.
We found out that the hotel offered a morning briefing on the many sights and tours offered during our stay so we decided before heading out we would stop by and see if anything would pique our interest. I'm glad we did because we've heard some stories of how folks waste so much time trying to find things to do and end up spending lot of money and seeing very little. There was even a one-hour lecture given by one of the local Egyptologist who briefed us on 7,000 years of Egyptian history in 45 minutes. We decided that the best way to maximize our travel experience was to connect with several tours offered and try to see whatever we could afterward on our own.
Joining a tour group to The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (or Cairo Museum, as it is often referred to), we had the opportunity to walk through the massive halls of this very old building and explore thousands year-old artifacts that took our collective breath away. From Egyptian and Greek stone statues to sarcophagus (Egyptian coffins) to alabaster stone carvings. But the piece de resistance was, of course, the treasures of King Tutankhamen (better known as King Tut) - oh, by the way, he is at home in Luxor, despite the fact that some of his treasures are touring the U.S. These artifacts were fascinating, and the stories behind the discoveries were equally amazing. We were able to view the actual chariots, gloves, jewelry and masks of King Tut, as well as his burial coffins, his royal bed, the golden throne on which he ruled and several other items, all made of wood and covered in a thin layer of 24 carat gold. The Cairo Museum is a busy place, attracting thousands of tourists, students, artists and other interested parties each day, and our visit was truly memorable.
Afterwards, we took a brief stroll down a nearby street flanking the Nile River. Not surprisingly, there was lots of debris floating near the shoreline of this ancient waterway. Several floating restaurants cruise the Nile daily, offering visitors the chance to experience this wonder while dining casually. The streets of the city are heavily congested with cars, vans, buses, taxis, bicyclers and pedestrians. I have no idea how they keep from killing each other because there are no traffic signals in sight - not one! But they all manage to keep the traffic moving without too much confusion. I'm sure the locals are used to it, but I wouldn't suggest (nor ever try) driving in Cairo.
During our walk, we passed several street vendors selling all sorts of wares and gift items, but one such peddler was so persistent that he followed us almost the entire way back to the hotel. Being the softy that I am, I decided to entertain his proposals to purchase the Egyptian papyrus with ancient hieroglyphic symbols and other drawings. Despite Anita's resistance, I stopped and talked with Ali, who insisted that he only needed about $40 US to get back home to his family - 6 sons and a wife. To make a long story short, I negotiated him down from $10 per papyrus paper to $4 each, and it was a hard bargain, but well worth the experience.
But as of yet, nothing has compared with our experience tonight. One of the tours featured an invitation to dine with a local family, and we couldn't resist the opportunity. We rode with the group on the bus through the still crowded Cairo streets, into what is known as the Engineers District (can't recall the Egyptian word for it). The upper middle class neighborhood had many shops lining the streets, along with the many apartment buildings, all dingy from vehicle exhaust. We arrived at our hosts' apartment building, rode the 3-person elevator to the sixth floor, climbed a short set of stairs and entered a surprisingly beautiful apartment, modestly decorated with blue and gold furniture, Egyptian carpets and hand-carved wooden tables with marble tops. Anita and I were both really impressed with the hospitality of the family - Assem, a retired Police General, his wife Amira, and their recently married daughter, Eman, who was an excellent hostess to the 13 American guests. We dined on an extensive buffet of Egyptian delicacies, all of which were delicious - eggplant, chicken/vegetable stir fry, pasta and cheese with chicken, lamb meatballs, and seasoned rice wrapped in spinach among other dishes. We drank hibiscus juice and had dessert of banana and jelly with walnuts and a pastry filled with nuts, coconut and honey served with hot tea. Everything was exquisitely prepared. We had the chance to chat with the family and learn a lot about everyday life in Cairo.
So now we prepare for our journey tomorrow to visit some of the most recognizable Egyptian attractions. Seeing that we have a long day planned for tomorrow, we decided to get this travelogue off and get a good night's sleep. Still haven't worked out all the bugs on uploading pictures, however more to come, Stay tuned in.