Musings in touristy Cairo

Cairo Travel Blog

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The next day I was to explore the city of Cairo. Starting off with the much heard about – Egyptian Museum. I am not too much of a museum person. And so, when it was first mentioned to me, I wasn’t all that keen on going. But S insisted, and I am glad I went. Three floors of Egyption history and culture.. preserved for the rest of us to cherish. It was just magnificent.

The first floor is dedicated to the three ages of the Egyptian civilization – the old kingdom, the middle kingdom and the new kingdom. So there is art and architecture from each of these eras.. depicting the life and the ways followed by the people.. showing the gradual change of the art forms and the methods of construction..

The second floor houses all the gorgeous coffins and the sundry tools and pots and pans discovered during excavations. The art work on the coffins really makes one stop and look in amazement at what the civilization had achieved so long ago. Intricate patterns symbolizing the life of the person.. the personality of the person.. the beliefs and rituals that went into the burial of the person. And the colors!!! One would imagine that life would have been dull and boring 3000 years ago! But no.. not life in Egypt! The coffins are splashed with yellows and reds.. and in the case of royalty – gold!

The most magnificent part of the floor was the section dedicated to Tutankhamen. All in gold.. Man, he must’ve been quite a stud in his few years alive.. to be buried with such pomp and glory. Three gold coffins.. encased in a box of gold along with the other stuff that he needed in the afterlife.. all buried together in a tomb of gold!

The third level of the museum is the section where the royal mummies are preserved. You know, this whole mummification process is quite astounding. The medical capabilities of the Egyptians thousands of years ago leaves one wondering if over the last 3000 years, we really have made as much progress as mankind is capable of. If the Egyptians were where we believe them to be 4000 years ago, then we should be super humans today! (Well, maybe we already are… I guess its all a matter of perception).
One thing that is really irritating about the touristy sites in Egypt is that the motive, very plainly, is to extract as much as possible from the visitors. I am not talking about the hawkers and the guides that swarm these sites. What irritated me was the official ticketing system.

To get up close and personal with the Pyamids… or in other words, to be walking in the vicinity of the Pyramids, you have to buy an entrance ticket (60 L.E ~ 500 Rupees). Then, to enter the Pyramids, you need to buy another ticket! (100 L.E ~ 900 Rupees). If that was not bad enough, even in the museum, the main ticket does not grant you entry to the third floor which houses the royal mummies. You have to shell out another 100 odd bucks (Egyptian Pounds – L.E) for that. Its ridiculous.

And oh, while we are at ridiculous, why is it that in the Arabic nation of Egypt, which lies in the continent of Africa, people only talk in terms of US Dollars???!! It is infuriating because the guides and hawkers don’t seem to realize that there is a possibility that a tourist is not from the land of the rich and famous where people earn in dollars. They don’t seem to realize that “a couple of dollars” is a lot of rupees! And not something I, as a poor Indian, will part with very willingly!

Anyways, I digress.. Where was I? Ah, the museum! So, the museum really was a marvelous experience. A treasure trove of the relics of the glorious days of Egypt. Its hard to imagine a civilization so old and yet so advanced.. so …civilized!

One thing that really hit me when I landed in the country was the lack of usage of English in the country.. even among the educated. It is only recently that schools have started making English a compulsory language. Otherwise, the use of the language was restricted to the tourist hot spots. This is the first time I have ever been in a place where I have been unable to communicate. And so, it was quite a shocker! I felt empathetic towards the westerners who come to India. They must really have such a tough time! I know that the penetration of the usage of English is way higher in India than it is in Egypt. But still, I know how it feels to not be able to get your point across! Its quite a helpless feeling.. especially if you’re on your own and don’t have a lot of dollars to hand around! ;)

I finally picked up some words and phrases in Arabic to help me get around. Knowing Egyptian people in Egypt is such a life saver!! :D .. A definite recommendation - learn the numbers.. 1 to 10! Really helps if you're into budget travel like buses and micro buses :)
reikunboy says:
love the blog I know its a year a way but I'm already planning my trip to Egypt so expect a lot more smiles from me.
Posted on: Dec 10, 2010
anupa_rk says:
The museum was an absolute marvel. And I am glad you went and saw the mummies too!!
Posted on: Sep 20, 2010
pukdam says:
I loved the museum! Weird enough we were told by our guide not to see the mummies, that it was nothing special - but we did anyway, and I don't know what the heck he was talking about! I was astonished, I had never seen a real mummie before and was so happy and surprised to see how well preserved they were!! Hair and nails still in tact :) I think thats so amazing!
Posted on: Sep 20, 2010
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