Welcome to Egypt
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 81 of 151 › view all entries
I don't know where to even begin for this entry. So much has happened in the last few days - lots of sensory overload. If you prefer order over chaos, you may not dig this place, but for some reason I am fascinated by everything from the sights and sounds (lots of car horns) to the sure insanity of everything. I am sure there is some sort of order to it all but I am not privy to it, so I have just surrendered any desire to understand everything/anything and have enjoyed the mayhem. I have also felt comfortable here walking around for the most part. Sure there are stares but most comments I hear are Welcome to Egypt! I think part of this is due to the ever present police on every corner and at every major sight.
So Margaret made it here just fine and as I suspected, we sat up and talked and caught up. Day one we hit the Egyptian Museum, first floor, which houses King Tut and the Royal Mummies along with about another million artifacts. Now I did catch the traveling King Tut exhibit last year in Chicago but the Death Mask and sarcophagi are still here and absolutely stunning. The Royal Mummies were fascinating. Ramses II had amazing fingernails and hair, not bad for having been dead since about 1213 BC. On the plane ride I read Horus magazine in which Dr. Hawass wrote an article about a recent identification of Hatshepsut, a female pharoah that ruled during the 18th Dynasty, and she was in there as well. Apparently she was considered "obese" but we could not tell how that determination was made.
After that we set off to buy our train ticket to Aswan. On the walk over there we made friends with a local guy who was very nice and ended up walking us to the station and up to the counter for tickets. The tourist overnight train is about $60 and the regular train, first class, less than $20, so we opted for the latter. At the counter the guy told our friend that we could just show up Thurs. before it leaves and get tickets. We were skeptical but had no reason to disbelieve. Then our friend walked us all the way back to our hotel, taking us out of our way which got me a little frustrated, but he stopped and bought us fresh juice on the way (mostly because he could finally eat and was starving by then).
That was just day one. Day two we got up about 5:30 a.m. and set off for Saqqara, Dahshur and the Pyramids of Giza. We hired a taxi for the day to save the hassle of finding a cabbie at each sight and haggling over price. First stop was Saqqara, which was nice because we got there when it opened so we were literally the only people there, but on the flip side, that meant all the attention of those trying to make money off tourists were on us.
Anyway, we had a guy that just immediately started showing us around Saqqara, but any gesture they make, such as pointing out something obvious or showing you the way, they expect baksheesh or money for. You are not supposed to take pics inside tombs either, but they took us inside and told us to take photos and then expected money for it.
Between stop one and two our driver pulled over to pick up a hefty bag of fresh dates off some farmers. We sat in the grass and were fed dates by this young gal who laughed when I bit into one that was not quite ready. Oh well. It was fun and neat to see them harvest them and how they dry them out. The drives to the sites were also fun because you go through these crazy streets with lots of cars that share the road with goats and donkeys and camels and geese and bikes/motorbikes and any other transport possible. I could not drive here that is for sure.
So the Great Pyramids of Giza! Wow. That is all. Just wow. All I can come up with. We chilled by the Sphinx and gazed at the pyramids. Their size is overwhelming and I cannot get over the design and how they perfectly constructed them.
We made it back to our hotel, took showers and were out for a nap at that point. Egyptian Museum, Saqqare, Dahshur and the Great Pyramids all in just two days! After we got up we had to figure out how we were going to get out of Cairo on our way to Aswan.
Today we took it easy and walked around Islamic Cairo and then Coptic Cairo. The main bazaar is located in the Islamic part but since Ramadan ends today and the festivities start tomorrow, most of the shops were closed. It will be interesting to see this place after Ramadan. During the day lots of restaurants are closed, and we lucked out running into an American studying at AUC who pointed us in the right direction as far as finding a bar that is serving alcohol during this time.
So what more can I say. This place is like none other. I am literally exhausted between the gang buster sight seeing of places I've been longing to see all of my life and taking in this city and its 21 million people and 2 million cars. The streets are so alive and busy, and you must always be on guard as a pedestrian as it can be life-threatening here. I have already seen two people hit by cars but luckily they only suffered scrapes. The rules of the road seem to be if you are in front, you have the right of way and the lines on the road do not matter nor are there speed limits.