Cairo next few days action packed....

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
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Trip End Apr 15, 2010


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Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feb 4th/5th Cairo

Our next couple of days were a slight contrast from the first in Cairo….busy but with much more down time for the boys…well a huge amount of swimming (if you can call 4 hours in the hotel pool 'down time'!!)

We were up quite early and headed, with Mostafa, to the main Egyptian Museum – once again the traffic was hideous with everyone jockeying and honking for a route…. We passed through Liberty Sq where a huge monument recognised the liberty of Women in 1908 – George recited the ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine’ cliché!!! (wasn’t ‘obey’ in our marriage vows??) - Women do have a voice in Egypt!!!

Unfortunately inside the Museum you can’t take pictures so you’ll be pleased to know we have limited photos – the main feature for us was the Tutankhamun exhibit which Thomas and Wils had some interest following a visit to the Tutankhamun ‘02’ exhibition in London.

The museum was very busy and the Japanese, German and various other groups all followed their guides quietly with their earplugs listening to their commentary – thank goodness we had Mostafa and two loud boys….at least it kept it real…

Skip this if you don’t’ want the detail on Tutankhamun….and maybe the story about how he died…

The exhibition read ‘Tutankhamun 1361bc – 1352bc’ – a long time ago!

Tutankhamun became King at just 9 years old (unbelievable that in ancient Egypt Thomas could be the King right now!! - William has to wait a couple more years), and ruled for short time – apparently a Priest called Ay pulled the strings whilst Tutankhamun was young. When Tutankhamun was 12 he ruled properly but mysteriously died between the age17-19 – no one is exactly sure. The story goes that Ay (the priest) was unhappy to lose the ‘power’ when King Tut (first name terms now) ruled, and allegedly killed him – was he murdered?? Never proved…Ay’s wife is apparently meant to have poisoned Tutankhamun’s wife as she died shortly after him. As King Tut had no offspring Ay was assigned to the throne; Because King Tut died so young there was no time to build a huge, luxurious status driven tomb; therefore Ay gave him his tomb which was relatively small with just 4 chambers and only one was decorated (we are going to see this in Luxor on Sunday). Apart from being famous for being a very young King, he is more famous for the 3500 artefacts found in his tomb when it was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 after 6 years of looking. As we wandered round the museum many of these amazing items were on display. We saw the gold figure painted sarcophaguses which formed the outer layers of the tomb,(which were placed in glass cases) right down to the mummification and solid gold ‘mask’ which was placed on King Tut’s mummy (His wrapped body not his Mum!!). Mummification couldn’t take longer than 3 months and included 20 days of rituals. Mostafa explained the whole process of mummification which the boys were very interested in as it was pretty gory.

We all asked about the curse of Tutankhamun – was it true? After all 8 workers who went into tomb died shortly after. Mostafa once again gave us a very credible answer – It was believed the mummies would come alive and kill if disturbed. The curse of Tutankhamun apparently is traced back to the tomb not being finished. On Mummification, all the moisture is removed from the mummy and then sealed into the mummy casket and sarcophaguses. It is believed Tutankhamun’s mummy was placed into a room with wet paint and sealed. Over the next few thousand years the mummy absorbed the moisture from the paint and decomposed. The toxic air is believed to have been inhaled by the first workers who entered the tomb. The 9th person into the tomb apparently didn’t die because the toxic air had dispersed. Lord Carnarvon died one year after the discovery in mysterious circumstances but Lord Carter died 17 years after…..

End of history lesson…..

We enjoyed the museum and for the most part Thomas and Wils were fairly attentive until they needed lunch; but before we could eat we visited the perfumery!!

You can imagine the boys when George said we were going to perfumery – "no way – that’s for girls". We did however go, and the boys once again loved trying all the different aftershaves and asking the man to get more and more out – we had a great laugh comparing fragrances. George tried some local make up which made her look like she’d been 10 rounds with Mike Tyson (see pics). Inevitably we bought some odours - Tutankhamun for Wils, Omar el Sharif (wasn’t he a British actor??) for Thomas and we bought some Aloe Vera for Granny – of course. Lunch beckoned and Angel, our driver did a great job as we once again crawled through chaotic honking Cairo traffic in our tour van to have lunch in a local café near the bazaar.  By the toilet in the cafe, up some stairs above the cooking stove and behind the curtain, 5 men were snoring loudly fast asleep – it was a very upmarket establishment!!. Health and safety would have a field day!! We left Mostafa momentarily and ventured into the hectic narrow alleyways of the bazaar - the constant stream of stalls holders tried to sell us anything we remotely glanced at. Their merchandise filled every square inch of wall space with everything you could think of relating to Egypt. We didn’t last long before we headed back to the cafe…Lunch was a typical sandwich of meat and the local cattery had let all its wild inmates out to harass us as the crumbs tumbled to the floor. Thomas and Wils were highly amused by the cats and had good fun trying to catch them. We watched the busy Egyptians pass by in the street – one guy cycled by carrying a huge load of bread balanced on his head – one way to use his loaf!! (see pic)

The wail of the Azan started again and this was George’s chance to venture back into the bazaar with the boys to try her bartering skills….I waited for about 30 minutes and was becoming a little concerned, until I saw the boys come round the corner… they had succeeded in buying two small figures for 20 Egyptian pounds after being cornered in a shop by three large men. George said the men were a limit intimidating so bought the figurines….lucky to get out with just two small pieces!!!

Next we had a go on the tall smoky thing – sheesha – the water pipe – Apple flavour was ok but we both agreed not for us after George couldn’t suck hard enough to make the water bubble. Mostafa happily smoked during our café visit – around 80% of ‘smokers’ smoke sheesha in Egypt.

Over lunch we learnt Mostafa is about to get engaged after meeting his fiancé just a couple of weeks ago. He had to ask her father for permission to ‘date’ her for 6 months – which is trial to see if they’re compatible. We also learnt fine Egyptian cotton (which we hold in high esteem) only came from Egypt after 1830 when Muhammad al Pasha brought cotton to Egypt from India.

The boys were now wearing thin with all the history and desperately needed some activity – once again the snail-paced traffic crawled us back to the hotel where the boys jumped into the steaming pool (and stayed there for the next couple of hours). The outside temp was around 65 degrees and George and I wrapped up like a couple of oldies in our jumpers watching the boys. I was persuaded by them to go in as it was the first hot thermal pools in Switzerland. The pool was not quite as warm at Saillon, however, stayed in and we shrivelled enjoying the warmth of the pool.

That evening, we discovered right next to our hotel is the biggest mall in the Middle East – City Stars mall. This was such a contrast to the ancient historical sites we visited in the last two days but our Western origins got the better of us and we had a big burger to celebrate our achievements and learning of the last few days. It seemed all the rich young kids of Cairo congregate in the mall, which stays open to around midnight, attracted by the modern brands which have now become part of Egyptian life alongside some of the most ancient history on the planet.

Next day - more swimming and a very none-Egyptian lunch at Wagamamas in the mall. More swimming in the afternoon in the tropical pool and off to dinner on a boat on the Nile. It was Friday night and traffic was worse than ever – it took 30 minutes to go 100 yards outside our hotel and the boys were very impatient. Nonetheless, we persevered and boarded The Maxim Boat on the Nile. (Did you know the Nile is the longest River in the world at 6690km long??).

On the boat we were shown to our table and right in front of us was a full blown wedding reception. About 200 family guests and a rather eclectic bunch of uninvited guests sat waiting to be served dinner. The boat left the mooring and the party really got going. The Egyptian band, with their keyboard, drums and bongos, played the equivalent of 80’s pop and everybody clapped and cheered along. The happy couple were bombarded by photo-hungry snappers wanting to get their picture and even George managed to take a few dodgy shots. (The only problem for them will when they get home and see they have some pale looking travellers in the background of their pictures as our table was right behind the married couple).  The formal bit came when the couple had their first dance and the belly dancer (big lass and fairly curvaceous) seemed intent on making the bride jealous as she cavorted with the groom. All friendly stuff and the whole family formed a massive circle and danced round the couple. We really felt like gatecrashers…

Next a spinning man appeared – he wore a huge ‘dress’ which he swivelled faster and faster like a spinning top (he must have been so dizzy and we thought he might take off) above his head. The boat lights went out and the hundred lights on his ‘skirt’ lit up forming a continuous beam as he kept spinning round. Wow, everyone was so impressed. The boys attention was caught for a few moments as this man kept spinning – the couple next to us had their picture taken by the official photographer – with the ‘spinning dress man’ but later, when they were presented with their photo, they discovered I was in the background (looking moronic). Things were really hotting up now – the cutting of the cake. Once again cameras poised as the couple cut the ornate gateaux. What excitement!!

Thomas and Wils were bushed after the 4 hours swimming today, a wedding and a ‘spinning dressed man’ who nearly took off, the boat docked after the two hour cruise and we were happy to arrive back to the hotel and go to bed.

Next stop tomorrow was a short flight south to Luxor (Thebes named Luxor by the Greeks) where the boys were having none of the ancient monuments and just wanted to swim in the warm sunshine– maybe the were monumneted-ou??t!!

More from a slightly warmer Luxor soon,

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Comments

Billy on

Seems to me Clive is always saying "Suck Harder".....

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