Trip Start Aug 27, 2006
14Trip End Dec 07, 2006
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Egypt is like being on acid. I'm not saying I've done acid, I never have, but with that said, Egypt is a similar experience. There's a Mitch Hedberg joke I'm constantly reminded of while here. "Acid is my favorite drug, man. Because of acid, I now know that butter is way better than margarine. I saw through the bullshit."
And in Egypt, you have to see through the bullshit.
Even right now, I'm traveling from Sharm El Sheik to Alexandria on a bus designed for midgets on a road designed by drunken sadists with a driver who very well may be on acid; but looking outside right now there's a full bright moon and this is the land of the f***ing pyramids, so whatever conditions I must endure are trivial in comparison.
Like anywhere else, Egypt is divided into the real and the fašade. Particularly in SES, there was the Egypt portrayed-a tacky, plastered, 'I went to Egypt and all I brought back was this damn t-shirt (but it's okay, because I've been to Egypt and you, being a dumb slob probably have not)." And then there's the real Egypt, which curiously enough was also defined by a cheesy t-shirt. It has a huge, grinning shark on it and read, "Send more tourists. The last ones tasted great." That's typical of such tourist traps-there's the part you can buy into or the part you can see past and discover for yourself. There are two options, you can either, 1) Walk around with your nose turned up and eyes glazed over and look ever so proud in your Speedo and look like a complete ass (like many Russians there do-miniskirts and tube tops aren't appropriate most places, but especially not mosques) or you can, 2) Walk with your nose to the ground, eyes roving around from side to side, making a complete ass out of yourself. There's no getting around the making an ass out of yourself, but it's how you make an ass out of yourself that's important. The second option shows that you are a legitimate, heart-warming, down to Earth ass who is not above making an ass out of himself/herself. There's a distinct difference between willingly and knowingly making an ass out of oneself and just plain old being an ass. With that said, I made an ass out of myself all the time; and the Egyptians, being a jovial people, laughed at me. In SES, I made more friends and felt more welcome than in any other place I have ever been to and all this in just 36 hours (mostly in the last 24 when I embraced my time there as a sort of lucid, quasi-euphoric acid-like experience). I'm not trying to say I'm not a tourist or above tourism or something like that. I have blue eyes and curly hair-both novelties just about anywhere I go. I went snorkeling in the Red Sea and got suckered into buying a hookah and yes, I went on a 'captivating, exciting and totally unique glass boat tour' (which is probably the most touristy thing ever) and sat and stared at my feet with all the other fat, white, hairy tourists; who all looked a little confused and strangely content with having paid actual money to sit and stare unblinkingly (lest they miss any of the sand or garbage that was strewn on the ocean floor) at a 5' x 6' hole in the floor.
My time spent in Egypt was divided into three parts: the Cairo part, the Sharm El Sheik part and my day in Alexandria.
Cairo, thousands of years later, is still dominated by the pyramids. Life seems to revolve around them even today. You can see them from most places in the city, and our hotel had views of them. The pyramids for me have been the most impressive things I've ever seen. They're more impressive than the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal...the first time I actually truly saw them was just before sunrise on my second day in Cairo and it was one of those moment in life when you're thinking to yourself, "I can't believe I'm standing here at this moment seeing what I am seeing." They had an awe inspiring, bone chilling, other worldly, brain twisting aura about them. We spent the entire morning there, watching the sunrise over the pyramids and wandering around the what once were tombs for the former laborers and some of the over 10,000 architects who worked on the project.
I'll admit that I haven't seen too many sunrises in my life, but the one over the pyramids was without a doubt the most dramatic I have seen. The sunset was even better. We were on a bus coming over a bridge heading straight towards the sun and it hung low in the sky all giant and red and fake like out of a movie. The dust and haze over the city highlighted distinct rays and they worked their way through and around a rouge cloud, the only one in the sky that had the audacity of placing itself just above the sun. Rays shot down towards the city, too and around the pyramids. The desert, like open water, contorts distances, and from our view, looking out across the sand it looked like the sun was dipping over the very edge of the earth, the very end of the world. I can definitely see why Egyptians worshiped the sun-it's just so much more dramatic there.
The moon was also absurd. I don't know what it is with Egypt and these celestial orbs, but the moon, the sun, the stars; everything seemed brighter and more impressive in the darkness and solitude of the desert. The moon seemed so close, like you could reach out and almost, almost grab it. I don't know if it was the solitude, or the sheer distance from home, or maybe it's the sheer distance I've traveled, but something in the way the moon hung in the sky, the redness of the sun, the vast expanses of land...something seems different. More tangible?
I met many people in Egypt who claimed 'We'd be friends forever.' That was a phrase they liked to use. Some of them had a surprising grasp of English, a shoe shiner I met, a small shop owner, waiters...I've realized that if you have to know one language in the world, English is by far the way to go. If it's not the first language of people, it has got to be at least the second...for some Egyptians I met it was the third or fourth. Pretty much everyone knows how to say 'Hello' in English. If you asked me how to say hello in Croatian or Turkish or Arabic, I would have no idea.
I'm cutting this post off now. There's lots more to say about the subject of Egypt, but I'm tired...a little restless. Egypt was great. Egypt was good. The people were nice. The food was good. If there's anything I forgot, I'll add it in later. Tomorrow I'm going to Croatia and hopefully before I step off the ship I'll have my Turkey post up. So, for the sake of my brain and memory, I'm going to stop writing about Egypt, I'm going to spit out my memories of Turkey tomorrow and then I'll focus on post war torn Croatia.
Oh, also I played soccer twice in Egypt with locals...finally! The second time was amazing. About every kid in the neighborhood ages four to twenty came and we played on a small dirt field 4 v 4 with about 80 or 90 kids ringed around the field. They were all chanting my name and the name of the SAS girl I was with. We won 10-9 and then as we were leaving all the little kids we clustered around us with pens and notepads and they asked us for out autographs and to sign their arms and t-shirts. It was probably the same situation that celebrities feel everyday so it was cool to feel like somebody famous for about 20 minutes...I don't think I could stand any more than that.