Middle East Wrap Up
Trip Start Apr 09, 2006
148Trip End Jun 09, 2007
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I felt much better after making the decision to stop trying for the Russian visa - more relaxed and looking forward to getting out of Cairo. I haven't spent this much time in a single location since leaving home and I'm ready for change! This morning changed the mood back to pissy as it took 3.5 hours at the Aeroflot offices to get a refund on my ticket to Moscow. They had never issued a refund on A) a ticket purchased on a credit card, or B) a ticket purchased on aeroflot.com. Never...in the history of Aeroflot in Egypt. They say everything is in order for the refund now and that it should hit my account in 3-4 weeks. Somehow I'm not too confident.
So, I've made other plans. I arrive in Athens early Saturday morning and will spend a day or so there before heading out to the Greek Isles. I deserve it, right? Who cares if it's pricey. ;-)
The Middle East - Highlights
*The Syrian People were the most open, generous, hospitable lot that I've run across in all my days. Despite being American, I was welcomed with countless rounds of tea, conversation and smokes. I can't say how many times someone went out of their way to offer me assistance in any number of ways - without wanting or expecting anything in return other than "shukran"...."thank you".
*Of all the ancient Roman cities I've seen, and there have been many on my little tour, Palmyra was the most striking. The desert has preserved more of the site and you really get a feel for the vastness of the ancient city.
*Krak des Chevaliers was a fairyland castle in the skies that little girls dream about. A definite must-see IMO.
*The Blue Cruise in Turkey was too much fun. It really felt like a vacation - the other travellers on the boat were a hoot and the scenery was outstanding. The blue of the Med is a color permanently burned into my brain.
*Abu Simbel was the most impressive thing I saw in Egypt. The Pyramids were great in their own way, but the inside of Abu Simbel was so well-preserved and such a...statement from a lost time. To think that they moved it in the 60s to save it from rising waters is unbelievable.
*Petra, with its huge structures carved from the rock face itself was a site. The walk through the narrow siq and emerging in front of the mighty Treasury reminded me of the first time I saw Indiana Jones do it as a kid.
*This sounds a bit crazy, but I'm going to miss the cheap and tasty street food from the Middle East. Shawerma, kebabs, kosheri, fuul, humus....mmmm mmmm good! It was a rare occasion that I spent more than $3-4 USD on a meal.
*I'm getting accustomed to using a bidet. Many western-style toilets here have a small pipe that has been added so you can give yourself a small squirt when you're done with your business. Why didn't I try this before? Water + toilet paper MUST be more effective than dry toilet paper, right?
*As a whole, the Middle East is quite inexpensive. My US Dollars go a long way here.
The Middle East - Lowlights
*I found the Egyptian people to be increasingly frustrating. I can't recount the number of times - each day - that someone lied to my face or tried to rip me off. Perhaps if I had visited the Western Oases, away from the more tourist-y areas I would feel different. I can't recommend an extended visit to Egypt...I would even consider a package tour to limit my interaction with the locals! ~~~GASP..the horror~~~
*Let's be honest, the Middle East is one fuckin' polluted, dirty place. It's sad that Arab culture seems not to value cleanliness. I'm not referring to personal hygiene (although in many cases I guess I am). There is rubbish EVERYWHERE. The roadsides are COVERED with plastic bags and trash. People toss....anything...on the ground without giving it a second thought. Locals actually admonished me for trying to find a bin for my cigarette butt.
*It was sad to see the poverty and general living conditions of many of the people throughout the region. There seems to be little-to-no assistance for much of the population who live a very hard life.
Ma'a salama Middle East.....ciao Europe!