5/4/08 – 8:00pm
Egypt was, in a word—Nancy, you are going to be so disappointed—DIRTY! Now, we can tolerate the normal dirt and grime of an average city, but this was so far beyond that it was depressing. The buildings were all half finished, but deciding whether that was halfway going up or halfway coming down was difficult. The buildings that are being built are being done one story at a time, sometimes years apart. So they will finish the first floor and someone will move in, they leave the rebar coming out of the corners for when they are ready to build a second floor. We saw some buildings like this already 5 stories high with rebar coming out of the top and laundry on all of the landings. Other buildings were falling apart. There was brick and rubble as if a bomb had gone off in the city recently, but there was still laundry off of the decks that were remaining. That all would have been bad enough, but I haven’t even gotten to the trash. There was trash everywhere. On the streets, on the sidewalks, in the river. We even saw a little boy on an overpass dumping a bucket of trash onto the highway as we were driving. It was unreal. We both grew up in Detroit before the whole “Keep America Beautiful” campaign went into full swing and this was worse than that.
But did we have a good time? Yes, we did. Are we glad we came? Yes, we are. Would we come back again? Only if someone paid us a lot of money and promised us a 5-star hotel and a personal hovercraft to get around. As bad as the trash was the driving was worse. I have seen some crazy driving. The Arch de Triumph in Paris and the bus rides on the Amalfi coast come to mind, but nothing compares to Egyptian drivers. With no one else on the road they will drive for miles straddling the white line on the freeway. I think if you questioned 1000 drivers in Egypt 90% of them would have no idea what those white things on the freeway are; decorations perhaps. We saw, and were potentially part of, many, near collisions. Then on the way back from Cairo we saw a horrible accident. Our tour guide even told us that she owns a car but won’t drive it. She takes taxis.
So, on to the main attractions. We left Alexandria in a police escorted convoy of about 45 busses (the ship was deserted). It took about 2.5 hours to get to Cairo and our guide (an Egyptologist) kept us informed about everything along the way. When we arrived at the Pyramids of Giza we received the following warnings from our tour guide (we had heard these the night before from our head waiter). Don’t get on a camel (um, OK). They will tell you that it is $1 to ride the camel, then they will walk you away from your group and tell you they want $20 to let you get off of the camel. There was no chance we were getting on a camel anyway, so that point was moot. Our guide also warned us about the sellers asking too much for their stuff. She told us how to say “no, thank you” in Arabic. She told us that the crystal they were selling was really glass. She told us that they would put a hat on our heads and tell us it was a present—nothing is a present, just say “no, thank you” and walk away. As you can see in this picture, Mark, from the Holliday Park group got caught right away (but I don’t think he actually bought it). I was so determined to not get “taken” by these hucksters that I walked out of Egypt with nothing. I thought that our last stop was going to be a normal souvenir shop and I would get everything there. I was wrong. The last stop was an expensive souvenir shop and I got nothing but a magnet for Nancy (sorry, I ruined the surprise).
The pyramids were amazing and massive and beautiful, just as you would expect. I saw some other people climbing up on one of the pyramids so I looked for a spot to climb up too, but everything we saw said “no climbing.” Then we saw this little pile of rocks. Not quite a pyramid but I climbed it anyway. I think this picture is of me clamoring back down after the police officer yelled at me to get down. He was pretty far away and we were gone by the time he got there. Adrienne later saw someone get yelled at, hand the cop a few dollars, and then continue climbing. Sheesh! We ended up walking completely around the Great Pyramid and being offered some souvenirs by a police officer on the other side. We didn’t buy those either.
After being at the base of the pyramids we headed for the “picture” spot where you could see all three pyramids and get some great pictures. We were told to try some funny poses like this one, but we could not quite pull it off with so many people there and a limited amount of time. We did get the Holliday Park group together (I forgot to mention we actually coordinated getting the whole group—albeit smaller than Jan and Gene used to deal with—on the same bus for this tour) for a great picture.
The next stop was the Sphinx. It was unbearably crowded but I muscled my way to the top and got a great picture.
After the Sphinx it was around 1:30pm and we were ready for lunch. We had reservations on a boat on the Nile for lunch. Adrienne and I had a pretty hard time with this part. Mom was so looking forward to being on the Nile. We brought some of her ashes with us (I almost forgot them in the room but grabbed them just before getting on the bus) so we could feel that she was with us. I have felt her with us this entire trip, but this particular spot really brought out the tears. Luckily, there was a spot on deck where we could do this in private.
OK, so how was the Nile? It was a river. A dirty, stinky river running through a dirty, crumbling city. I sure hope our vision of the Nile still exists in Upper Egypt--that’s right, the upper part is at the bottom. Rebecca has a friend actually doing a cruise on the Nile and I am very anxious to hear all about it. I hope there were flamingos and crocodiles and all manner of beautiful things that we did not see.
OK, so how was lunch? Great. I had the beef with some delicious (but unidentified) red sauce, some noodles with an equally delicious (but unidentified) red sauce, and a roll with feta, we both decidedly passed on the “meetbools”. Most of the entertainment was fun—the belly dance and the whirling dervish—but then they put on an Egyptian guy singing American songs. Really, really loudly. With way, way too much reverb. Mixing that with the heavy exhaust fumes we were experiencing and we had headaches leaving that spot.
I thought we were done with attractions at that point, but then we stop at the Mohamed Ali Mosque (no, not that Mohamed Ali a different one). Adrienne and a number of others stayed on the bus for this one, but I hiked up with the group and it was beautiful. I am glad I did.
When we were first on our way to Cairo in the morning, after giving us a lecture for about an hour, our tour guide offered to pre-order t-shirts and jewelry with our names in hieroglyphs. Adrienne and I skipped the jewelry, but we each ordered a t-shirt. It was a great idea. At one checkpoint she just handed off the sheets to a young boy who took it to the factory and then had the items waiting for us at the last stop—the Papyrus Institute. This is the stop where I discovered I would be going home with no Egyptian souvenirs, except my t-shirt, and then they didn’t have my t-shirt. Luckily they made one quickly and I at least had that. Adrienne ordered XXXL and I order XXL. When we looked at them this morning in our room her third X looked like it had been penned in and, sure enough, it was exactly the same size as mine. Oh well.
Anyway, after sitting in traffic due to the accident I mentioned above it was after 9pm when we got back on the boat. We headed right up to dinner where we had to take any tablemates that came along. We did a little happy dance on our way out of the room, saying how lucky we have gotten with our regular tablemates. We saw our dutch family and the Vancouver couple a few times throughout Egypt and it was always fun to exchange a few words and promise to catch up at dinner.
We slept, slept, slept and here we are at 9:30am relaxing by the pool and writing to you.
Thank you great grandpa!!
7 years ago