2nd Day, Pyramids, Camel rides, Khan el Khallili,
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 2 of 9 › view all entries
April 10th, 2009 – by: Transitory
The air was cool in the morning, as we had left around 7:15AM, and the streets were quiet. Cairo def. seemed to be a night owl's city. Ali drove us quickly but safely thru the streets, occasionally puncturing the silence with little stories about doctors building grand estates overlooking the river, or to a pretty site, and making jokes, esp.
We drove through a modest outlying village near the Step pyramid. We purchased our own tickets, paying the stated prices of 30EGP each + 2EGP for the driver, and re-entered the car. As we approached the pyramid, we started snapping pics of the artificial pyramid ignorantly. Ali laughed and said it was a false pyramid. Then we exited the car, climbed the stairs to approx. the middle part of the pyramid. I looked at the narrow opening, which was low even for my petite size, and it was partially blocked by the worker (guide/officer/whomever ?) sitting in front. I had stupidly carried all my things, the litre of water, camera, tissues, sunscreen, misc. junk etc. instead of leaving it in the car. So I tried to suck it up, hitched up my bag, and climbed down the slanted walk way.
From the stairway, the ceiling jumped up around 15 feet approx. The air was dank, hot, and smelling of ammonia. The lighting dim. Then I stooped down to another narrow passageway, about 4 feet high and walked as quickly as I could muster. There were young tourists' kids there, round 12 or 13 running through quickly, unencumbered by bags, flush with the vitality of youth. I felt achy from carrying my bad and short of air. I took out my water, gulping down quickly, and followed Anny up some creaky wooden stairs. As I caught up with her, we took some more pics, and remarked on the emptiness of the pyramid, as everything had been stripped away and taken to museums.
Anny left, and I lagged behind, trying to carefully make my way down the stairs. My legs gave out from weakness and I tripped, my leg hanging out of the scaffolding, and I dropped my water bottle from the tall height. Luckily, it had not hit the Italian or Spanish tourists that were standing below. An Italian woman helped me up, calling out "Mi Dio" and asking if I was okay. Oyy so graceless!
Then we exited, the climb up as difficult as the climb down. I tried to rush it when I saw the same kids climbing up with amazing speed. When I got out of the pyramid, I inhaled the air and clumsily made my way out down the stairs. I was exhausted.
Then off we departed to the Saqqara pyramid and museum. We paid student prices of 30EGP each and entered the small museum.
Next up, the pyramids of Dashur. There were lots of "guides" about, whom we declined their services, and they eventually left us alone. I skipped in the sand, enjoying the weather, and took a picture of one of the many stray dogs I would see throughout Egypt. A few touts would repeatedly ask us if we wanted to buy various souvenirs but I would say my oft-practiced "La Shukran.
I climbed up some scaffolding around the pyramid that was being restored, Anny took my picture, and we continued walking around for a little bit. There were some impressive columns left over, and some carved cobras in the facade left over. Then we left, weaving our way through tourists, and departed for the pyramids of Giza around 11AM with one brief stop at the Dashur museum so Anny could use the toilet.
While Ali and I were waiting in the car, I lazily reclined in my backseat behind his driver's seat. Ali turned around, adjusted his seat to chat. He asked if I was enjoying the pyramids, and I said I was when he reached out and touched my thigh, rubbing it a bit.
Then, on the way to the 9 pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, Ali offered for us to stop by a papyrus "museum." Although I heard this was a typical schemes, Anny was still curious, and so was I, as I had learned about it in school growing up.
I bought 3 papyrus: depicting the ancient Egyptian Last Judgment, ancient Egyptian Calendar, and a picture of a Pharaoh and his wife for 350EGP. Both of us were lent money by Ali for our purchases. We got a certificate of authenticity but meh who knows? Still very beautiful pictures though...
Ali drove us to one of his contacts at a camel stable. The man introduced himself and his children and invited us to sit down under the fan in the shade. He then drew out the tours he offered in the sand with a stick, drawing out rough maps.
Over the course of the ride, we took in a panoramic view of Cairo, a graveyard round the area, sand, pebbles, a dessicated carcass of a camel with bits of preserved skin, ribs and hooves lying in the sun, and rubbish left behind by tout and tourist.
I spied another traveler/tourist whatever, horseback. He made the horse trot and do pretty tricks, which the horse repaid him by trying to throw him off....They briefly fell into a dune, rose again and the man raced off towards the pyramids. We took our pictures, stopping a few times for cheesy pictures. My camera's shutter was really slow, so the pictures of me jumping up and down had to be deleted...
I was having a good time, though Anny was scared of her camel tossing her off, so we switched camels. The camels were farting the whole time, "Egyptian music," the guide claimed. The whole time the guide kept asking if we were happy, if we were married, how long we were staying.
Later, we made our way to the Sphinx, our guide dropping us by a stone wall. He instructed us to jump down the four feet, Anny gave him a withering glare, and walked around the wall, to the amusement and laughter of the touts selling their wares who witnessed the exchange. They called out "Ni hao ma?" and "Konichiwa" to me. I smiled back and said "Salaam" to them, and they continued laughing. Everything we did or said seemed amusing to them.
Then we walked through a crew setting up for the night time light show in the vicinity of the Sphinx. I took my pictures, frequently sitting down because of the soreness from climbing down the Step pyramid.
I was a bit put off by the wall surrounding the Sphinx, obstructing the view of it's paws, and the stage for the light show at night time, further distracting from the majesty of the Sphinx. But I took my mandatory pictures, and tried to to imagine what it looked like when it was in its full glory, whole, and complete, in a quiet desert, before it became target practice or a magnet for cheesy tourism (which I will acknowledge includes myself).
We walked back through the way we came to the low wall, the guide telling us to climb back over. We ignored him, and the suggestions from the nearby Egyptian men that they would "help us back over," and just walked around the wall.
Then we drove back to our hostel, and since we did not have enough money to pay back Ali, so we went to exchange money. We walked around the neighborhood, back to the same exchange place we had gone to the previous day. Closed. Then, to MISR bank. Closed. So we returned to the hostel, figured out the exchange rate, and paid 180EGP (in USD) for our half a day of being driven around.
I walked around, which turned out to be a 3 hour long walk around the neighborhood. I got to know the area a bit more but I had no luck with anything being open, so I went back to the hostel, after making a quick call to mom for 12EGP at the local phone place. The assistant manager offered to exchange my USD for EGP and his rate was all right, though not as good as at an exchange place, it was fair though. The hostel staff was very helpful.
I fell asleep after the long day. When I woke up later around 9PM, I charged my battery on my MP3 player, and woke up Anny so we could finally get to Khan el Khallili. We asked the front desk about appropriate taxi prices, then we left to walk around for a place to eat in the neighborhood.
As we drove through, I was again charmed by Cairo at night. There were just so much more people, families on the street, as we raced by, they became a blur of swirling colors and images.
Then we stopped at a nearby busy eatery, catered to actual Egyptians with the view of the stove a few feet from the plain tables, plain white tiled floors and fluorescent lighting. We ordered the famous koshary. I piled mine with chili and cumin sauce; I loved the texture of the macaroni, rice, lentils, beans, and the taste of the fried onions.
We each paid 9EGP including sodas, a very economical dinner! and set off to the market, after going through a metal detector. Slowly walking through, I spotted an adorable little Egyptian boy dancing the "Harlem." We slowly walked thru, and were approached quite often to "Come inside, and take a look." Anny danced around prices, and haggled, and ignored sellers to bring down prices. She hated that they would drop prices from 80EGP all the way down to 15EGP.
We browsed to get a feel for prices, frequently running into a boy named Muhammed who was trying to see us bracelets. Ann stated she had no one to buy bracelets for, and he kept saying "You're breakin' my heart."
Then an Egyptian man stopped me in the walkway and said "Look, you've dropped something. My heart." Haha, too funny! I actually looked down, and we both burst out laughing. Later, throughout the trip, it became a running joke that I would play on Ann to see how often she would fall for it, and she would do the same to me.
Eventually after running into Muhammed like 3 times, and him trying him to sell us bracelets, we chatted with him about his age, if his parents knew where he was, if he was in school etc. Such a clever boy for sure! I ended up buying 4 bracelets for 30EGP. We did not know how much things were worth or how to check for quality so it was very much groping around blind about what to haggle for. But I was happy with my purchases and am not going to quibble about a little bit of money.
We vowed to return soon, especially not that we had a feel for general prices. Then took a taxi for 10 EGP back to the hostel.
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