First Stop: Cairo
Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
29Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
I noticed subtle differences immediately after boarding the plane. I had read many scary stories about flying Egypt Air, but they were considered the safest way to Egypt and it was a direct flight. There were only about five native English speakers onboard, but the safety instructions were in English. The instructions were played on a small television screen that had something wrong with the tracking and it was barely audible. "Please move your chair and tray table to the upright and locked position," and no one moved, no flight attendant checked, no one cared. The flight journey consisted of traditional food trays, but they were foreign foods that were unidentifiable. We ate the soft cheese, rolls, and cake and felt we were safe. They played three English movies 3/4 of the way through. At the end of the flight they showed the last part of the first movie. I'm sure I will never know why Scarlet Johansson was yelling at the teddy bear in The Nanny Diaries or if Cuba Gooding Jr
Arriving in Cairo
We arrived in Cairo dazed after three nights without sleep. Customs didn't give a hard time and barely looked at our passports, but argued endlessly with the returning Egyptians. They put a visa in the form of a sticker. The sticker's main purpose is to make sure you don't purchase more than your allotment from the Duty Free Store. The people in line were very nice and one of them offered to let us call our friend to let him know that we landed.
The airport is not too far away from Ian's apartment and no one in their right mind drives in Cairo, so we partook in the custom of taking the taxi to our new home. Needless to say, driving in Cairo, whether you are the driver or a passenger, is not for the faint hearted. Traffic laws are more like suggestions (drivers do recieve tickets for their traffic violations in one lump sum at the end of the year). The taxi driver never committed himself to a specific lane and ignored all traffic lights. All cars in Cairo have large dents and scratches especially the taxis. A vehicle is deemed in good working condition as long as the horn works
First stop: Café
A favourite pass time in Egypt is going to cafés. In fact this is the first thing we did. We got "take away" (The term for take away in Arabic is "take away.") food and sat in a café and then from there we went to another café and then to dinner. The food here is mainly carbohydrates so a few hours after a decent size meal, you feel hungry again.
Cairo has one main garden called Al-Azhar Park. It has one of the most spectacular views in Cairo, but the smog makes it difficult for anywhere to be a spectacular view. We watched the sun set from a café in the park. The café had the worst service I have ever experienced. We were there for four hours against our will. The food was very good, but each person's dish came one at a time and Jesse's never came at all
Next to Al-Azhar Park is a very popular mosque and religious school called Al-Azhar Mosque. There are rumours that certain important relatives of a prophet were buried here, but people have told me that they are really buried in Iraq. There are still large celebrations to commemorate them. We were fortunate to be invited to a Sufi Dance where a group of Sufi Muslims performed a special dance with music to praise Allah. It was an amazing thing to see. There was a group of musicians who danced and played the drums and small symbols and a few musicians who were stationary who played some type of string instrument with a bow and a read instrument that looked similar to a clarinet and there was a vocalist
An Egyptian man trying to sell us abalone shell boxes who spoke English moderately well was who invited us to the Sufi Dancing. When he did this, he explained that we needed to be at the Mosque by 7pm and it would start at 7pm plus one hour. It turns out the show didn't start until 8:30pm, so we had some time to kill. When all else fails, sit in a café. So we did where we met Bob. He explained that his real name was not Bob, but because when he was younger he really enjoyed listening to Bob Marley, everyone started calling him Bob (I'm sure it has nothing to do with smoking hash). He explained he was studying to be an English teacher and spent an hour giving us an Arabic lesson. He talked Jesse into getting his shoes cleaned at the high price of 5 pounds (this should never cost more than 1 pound) and then brought us our bill of 75 pounds for our few drinks!! This, I'm sure, was a special white person price and cost us 15 American dollars. We sucked it up and went on our way. Malesh.
Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids were not very far out of town. In fact the pyramids are no longer out of town. Cairo has grown so much it is now all the way to the desert. My friend Ian warned us that the taxi driver would try to scam us by taking us to his friend's horse or camel stable for a very good price. This did happen and we declined and he let us out to walk to the gate ourselves from the stable
We picked a good day for the pyramids being overcast. I can only imagine what it would feel like in the middle of summer without a cloud in sight. It was a nice moderate temperature the day we went and the pyramids are more spectacular in person than any picture could capture. There are 3 large pyramids and 6 small ones. The large ones were for kings and the smaller ones all contain royalty. Over thousands of years, different cultures have torn them apart and attempted to tare them down, but they only seem to be able to make small dents. The pyramids used to be covered in a smoothed out lime stone/marble that could be seen gleaming from many miles away. The Roman Empire tore most of the white limestone off to build something else, but still some remains at the top probably because it was too hard to remove. Next to each pyramid there are huge piles of stone that one was part of the structure and many stones have been removed, but the pyramid still looks barely scratched by what would have destroyed all other structures. Jesse and I were able to crawl in to one of the large pyramids. When I say crawl, I mean crawl. The passages were not built for people to walk around in. The passage was less than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. In the burial room, you could stand up with no problems. The artwork has long since decayed, but there is some resemblance of what were once pictures and carvings on the wall. There was no air being circulated, so staying inside the pyramid for more than a few minutes was not an option. They guards confiscated our camera before we entered the pyramid, so the only picture we have is us coming out of the pyramid. You can almost tell in the picture how happy we are to be breathing fresh air.