Cairo: Bucket List Day

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
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19
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Trip End Oct 26, 2010


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Sunday, October 17, 2010

“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. 

‘Have you found joy in your life?’ 'Has your life brought joy to others?’”


Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), The Bucket List 
 
At the advice of Cosmo magazine, on a little notecard I made a list of "25 Things To Do Before I Die" on July 27,1992, just after turning 22. Number 6 - "Go to Egypt."  Check.

I landed in Egypt around 9am, after my 11:30pm overnight flight from Casablanca was delayed by three hours. I was jacked up to say the least. But my adrenaline was running the show because of three things: 1) my friend Mary Stein was already waiting in our downtown Cairo hotel, 2) I already had two dates proposed by the man sitting next to me on Egypt Air and the money exchange guy at the airport, and 3) pyramids and the Sphinx by noon was the goal. Mission accomplished.

Battling Cairo traffic, I eventually made it to the hotel and was welcomed by a swarm of Egyptian men full of smiles. My dad had been in this hotel twice in the last year and he was clearly one of their all-time favorite customers. After a hundred "salams" and a hotel tour by the cutest Egyptian ever, Mohammad, I found Mary. About three months ago Mary randomly text me asking what I was doing.  When I replied with "Booking my ticket to Egypt, want to come?", she replied, "Yes," and now we are both proud owners of Egyptian Visas. She kicks ass. We both were on no sleep, but we were motivated to hit it, as we only had the one day in Cairo.   

A few minutes later we were whisked away in the "Lady Egypt" van with our guide Alfi to visit yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. He was a pro and knew what we had to accomplish in a few hours; first up: Saqqara. On the 15 mile drive out there you drive through an insanely crowded and dirty city, much like Mexico City or San Paulo. But when you reach the edge of town, it is suddenly an endless brown desert. We more or less had the place to ourselves. It was practically noon, hot as Hades, and there was our first pyramid, The Step Pyramid.

To be honest, most of the Egyptian history tends to go in one ear and out the other. I get very confused by Ramses I and II, there are a ton of gods, the timelines blow my mind, and I tend to tune out when all the names sound the same. But, I am fascinated just the same. Saqqara is the site of the first stone pyramid in Egypt, and it's literally old as dirt, constricted over 3,000 years ago, 2649 BC. My brain can't even process that. You look at the vastness around you and you just know there are treasures everywhere; they find new things to dig up all the time. It's trippy. You can't go in this pyramid, but you can go in a little one next door.  Again, I was on no sleep, Mary's had the Egypt Foder's book for the last month, I basically had heat stoke and I wasn't listening - so I'm not even sure what tomb I went in. I think it was Titi somebody. But I did go down into one where we had to bend over into a 90 degree angle to get to the burial chamber in the middle. It was really wild and we got our first site of true blue hieroglyphics and a sarcophagus.  We were in Egypt, baby.
 
With our first taste of what we came for, we were off to Giza. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. The pyramid is the tomb of the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu; it took 20-years to build this puppy circa 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (480.6 ft) high and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. It's the most well-known of the bunch and sadly, today, the most contrived. When I think of the great pyramids, I think of them in the middle of nowhere in silence. Not so much. They city has built itself up to its footstep and thanks to streets and cars and pollution and tour busses full of stereotypical tourists, it becomes something of a zoo. No matter, we joined them and snapped the obligatory pics. (Also got busted for being somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. Again.) You can climb a bit under the main entrance and get a sense of just how huge this thing is, and it's only one of six right there.  

 A short ride to the back makes you feel like you actually are out there in the middle of nowhere...until you get to the camel ride lot. Yes, more camel riding. I took one for the team because it was Mary's turn. The sham here is $15 for a 15 minute ride and a quintessential photo op. Good enough. The coolest thing about it was as we left we turned and a large group of men, perfectly choreographed, went down on their knees in unison, for afternoon prayer. 

After yet another ridicuous animal ride we headed down to the infamous Sphinx, standing guard. We learned that carvings with animal heads guarded tombs, while statues with human heads guarded temples. It's much smaller than I pictured, but it's obviously quite something and Sphinxy was still doing his job. We battled the crowds and watched the sun set behind the massive pyramids.  The Sphinx, to me, was Egypt. 

We headed out with a parade of young Egyptian girls donning all shades of pink around their heads, who thought we were Britney Spears. Camera phones whipped out and we were the stars now.  Reminded me of India.  

In three hours we saw some of the most impressive things on this planet. When you think about how they were made, when they were made, and who made them, your head can spin. We decide to go with that theme and high tailed in into the city for a night with The Whirling Dervishes... 
 
Pics: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=297438&id=633950714&l=d385ff15ef
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Comments

Dad on

It looks as if nothing much has changed with the pyramids in the last couple of months since Emery & I were there.

Christie Woodard on

I have Egypt on my bucket list as well. I so enjoyed reading your entry as it makes me feel like I was there too! What a wonderful adventure Kristin!!

Room 1 Eagleton on

Hi Kristin,
We love reading your entries and look forward to hearing about each new adventure! Thank you for the beautiful pictures and for educating us with your travels.

Our new favorite word is BALAK!

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