Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
72Trip End Ongoing
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On the plane we talked about the months prior, moving from Frankfurt to Istanbul, and about the excitement to see our friends. I looked into the darkness and saw the lights of Cairo, a beacon in the desert. As we touched down, Erin smiled and said, "I'm back in Africa."
From stories that I had heard, I expected total chaos to ensue after leaving the plane
Downtown Cairo was busy. It seemed like New York City inside of Mexico City. We wandered back to the pension after midnight. Families were window shopping, grandparents were strolling with grandchildren, juice stalls were in full production and ice cream stands were dishing out scoops. From our window, in the middle of it all, we heard it carry on throughout the night.
We took tea in the morning then walked to the Nile. It was the first time the Dart or I had seen it. Heather was due in from Amman around one that afternoon. After reaching the Nile our timing began to fail us. Erin and Dart left in a taxi to surprise Heather at the airport. They missed her by fifteen minutes. Hour later after we had reunited we took a taxi to visit the pyramids and see the sunset at Giza. We arrived at ten minutes till four. The pyramids close at four. We watched the sun go down from the second story of a Pizza Hut and read that it was a good idea to book any train tickets several days in advance
Panic began to set in. Thankfully however, we could buy a ticket to Aswan. It was the same train, we would just have to pay the fare to Aswan and get off earlier in Luxor. We walked back to the hotel so that we could freshen up before a nice reunion dinner at a recommended restaurant. We had eaten only a bowl of lintels mixed with pasta and were all quite hungry by that time.
After walking in the wrong direction for a while, we got our bearings. 45 minutes later we arrived at the restaurant. It was closed for remodeling. We were led to two other restaurants, both more expensive than what we wanted to spend. By 10:30 we decided to return to a place close to our hotel. Everyone was growing weary and a bit exasperated after missing so much that day by bad timing.
Le Americaine, Egypt's first fast food chain restaurant. It was open, close, in our price range and served quickly. The food, just about substandard but predictable. Afterwards we decided to return to the pension and retire. As we entered the front door we met a taxi driver who happily agreed to chauffer us to Cairo's main sites the next day
The next morning we woke early, intent to make up for our wasted time the day before. It was the tourist special, served promptly. We began with the Citadel, a former garrison situated on a hill above the city. From there we visited Khan a kilili, a large open-air market. At the outskirts of the market we fell onto a narrow alley where lines of Egyptian people waited for falafel pitas and we filed in the queue. The small pitas were stuffed with lettuce and tomato, a freshly fried falafel pad and topped with a garlic yogurt dressing. They cost around 15 cents each. We ate three each sitting on a small wall on the street. Afterwards we stopped for tea at the edge of the market at a touristy place known for its shady tables. The four teas cost more than the 12 pitas. From the market we crossed town and headed for Giza.
The streets, as per norm, are filled with chaotic order. The lane lines hardly serve as suggestions; in fact there really is not much need for them at all. As with the many third world streets that I have seen there is a severe difference between the right of way, and being dead right. Offensive driving and communication with the horn is how traffic moves. There are stoplights, and sleepy traffic police who signal when to move, but they appear to be more of an annoyance than the law to most of the drivers. I saw only one car in Cairo with out some sort of dent, scrape or bruise on it and we had a good laugh about it with our driver
Many shouting people rushed towards our taxi offering horses and camels as we slowed in proximity to the pyramids. "Hustlers!" our flamboyantly flirtish driver said, shouting something in Arabic and rolling up his window. After negotiation for a little while we found a stable with four horses, a mounted guide, and a boy on a donkey to lead Heather's horse (Her timing was perhaps the worst of all as she had broken her ankle in a soccer game just a week before she left for Jordan, and was stuck in a walking cast.)
We walked along the banks of the Sahara passing squalor and a horse carcass, and then aimed up a long dune to capture a panoramic view of the pyramids. Every so often the horses would trot, then gallop several paces. They knew the route and were used to several riders a day. They were sad specimens, definitely near neglected beasts of burden. We wondered if our supporting the stables meant a better or worse life for them.
At the peak of a dune, beside a displaced camel's leg, we dismounted for a photo op., and then continued towards the pyramids and a view of the setting sun
We completed the evening running errands and packing before the ride to Luxor. At nine we boarded the train, again looking forward to the next nights sleep. After arriving all responsibility would be taken off our shoulders. I suppose that that is what "all inclusive" means, even though I had only seen the phrase in tour pamphlets while quietly teasing the takers. We called it "a vacation from our vacation." No hassle, no hustle, one price to see the major sites along the Nile. After the constant barrage of people looking at us like walking ATM's I didn't mind at all if we would be teased by backpackers or not.