Walk Like an Egyptian

It snowed again yesterday! Yup! So….shall we go for another trip?? It’s 2009 again and we are going to Cairo. Dress lightly because it will be scorching hot and bring a scarf to cover your head in case the sand flies in your face.

November 2009

Cairo!!!

We land in Cairo at 5:30 local time and arrive at the hotel at  7:45, so you can imagine how the traffic is (it’s supposed to take about 35 minutes by car). Along the way we see people crossing the road whenever they can , including mothers with babies in their arms.

Cairo boasts the worse drivers in the world and pedestrians are practically mowed down. Even the bus just slows down without actually stopping and people just jump off. All the cars seem to be old and dented (after seeing how they drive, no need to wonder why), people crowd onto buses, in the cars children are hopping all over the seats, tugging at the wheel (no car seats or seat belts here!). Car roof tops are piled with everything from bread to bicycles to laundry. We pass a beautiful Mosque, with a green neon sign at the top in arabic letters for Allah, (Las Vegas Style) and donkeys and horses join this big mess of traffic. Every other car is honking its horn. There is a donkey tied up to an overpass along the freeway.

Strange sights.

We arrive at the hotel and stop before being allowed to proceed, where a bomb sniffing dog goes around our van before we proceed up to the front entrance (Hmm…maybe we should have had that done BEFORE we got in!). Upon going through the front doors, you need to have your bags also x-rayed, and you walk through a standing x-ray (like at the airport) to ensure you are not carrying any explosive devices or guns. Very interesting. 

It’s hard to believe I’m standing on the ground that is the oldest in civilization.

I wake up in the morning to look out over the Nile River, Beautiful ! Despite the fact that I  see quite a bit of garbage along the shore.

We leave the hotel at 9am with our tour guide Ahmed (every second man seems to be named Ahmed here), We get a lot of city information from Ahmed, on our way to the other side of the Nile in Giza where we plan to see the Pyramids. There are 9 Pyramids in total. 3 large ones and 6 smaller ones (very small in comparison, more like piles of rocks – these were apparently for the Queens, (Go figure!). There are a few groups of school children touring as well, they all stare at us as they walk by. A few of the more outgoing ones call out “How you are?” or “Hi” and giggle. 

I am surprised that the Pyramids are located barely on the outskirts of the city . It takes us only 30 minutes to get here. There are  guards travelling around on camel with guns, supposedly to protect us from unwanted vendors forcing their goods on us. Although it doesn’t seem to stop many of them, if you ask me.

As I stand in the long shadow of the camel I have been provided with and I look out at the heat emanating from the scorching sand I wonder how life must have been 4000 years ago and I marvel at the fact that those same Pyramids are still standing.

Did the workers know that the finished product would still be standing when airplanes, cell phones and computers would rule? Did the men and women know that their clothing and jewelry would inspire the Dior’s, Givenchy’s and Hollywood’s of the 22nd century?

Or, did they just go about their lives, trying to feed their families and provide shelter?

We mount our camels. There are eight of us in total. We make quite a caravan.  Our camel handler is an adorable little cigarette smoking ruffian about 9 years old named Hons.

While looking at the Sphinx, many of us North American ladies are asked if we will pose for pictures with the local Egyptians. I suppose we are as exotic to them, as they are to us.

From there, we arrive at a small market where we see how they transform the papyrus plant in to paper. For lunch, we are treated to a lovely setting outdoors in a market area where we dine on too many dishes to tell you about (the food just keeps coming over here). We have been told numerous times by caring friends not to eat anything unless it is cooked, so we stay away from salads, fruit or any drinks with ice.

We have many leftovers so we pack them up and stop on the road to give them to a woman who has quite a few children with her and then we load up in the van again and visit the Egyptian Museum, where we see all kinds of artifacts and statues that have been discovered to have been created/carved thousands of years ago .  Each one tells it’s own story. It is truly overwhelming. We see King Tut’s tomb, and all of the contents, which is just incredible to see!

We end the day with dinner in a Lebanese Restaurant and tonight’s Shisha is “peach” flavoured!

On the morning of our departure we sneak up to the rooftop pool for a little sunshine.  Even up on the 25th floor, we can still hear the sounds of Cairo drift up (lots of honking of horns, traffic and train sounds). 

On the way to the airport, we are able to drive through some of the streets of Cairo that we had not seen before.  Every corner has something for sale; fruit, Arabic bread, even an area where goats and sheep are sold.  And of course,… lots of men sitting out front of their stores, visiting and smoking shisha.

I am actually going to miss this big crazy city with it’s 27 million (you read right! 27 million inhabitants! ) It is difficult to explain but there is a sort of order in this chaos. A sort of order that only the Egyptians understand.,,,

Most two lane roads are turned in to four  lane roads and while there is much honking there is no sign of aggression! Cars are not only double parked but actually triple parked in some cases and it’s all ok because the drivers leave their mobile phone numbers on their wind shields so if you are parked inside two other rows you just have to call the other drivers and they will come let you out!

There is no designated cross-road for pedestrians to cross the road and that’s ok because  people just step off the curb anywhere right in front of traffic without even looking and by some Egyptian providence no one gets hit! Again the driver is courteous and merely stops to let the person pass by . There is no sign of shouting , popping neck veins or mad shaking  fists which you know would be the case in North America! Everyone seems so tolerant and the Egyptians are SO welcoming and friendly!

We do not feel the pollution or the smell or get ill or experience any of the disasters the travel guides have us looking out for. We even grow quite accustomed to all the bomb detectors in each building we enter.

There are more apartment complexes (all concrete) than the eye can see and every other window has a small steel clothes rack hanging precariously on the window sill and sometimes 20 floors up ! Each has clothes hanging with a few loose pegs. It amazes me! Not only is all the laundry sparkling white in this desert town but I am amazed that the passers- by down below are not walking around with someone’s fallen underwear on their head!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Walk Like an Egyptian

  1. You sure have captured the essence, orderly chaos! I remember fondly the first time I heard the call to prayer at 4am, blasting from speakers outside the hotel. Moving in a way that can only be felt, not described.

    Like

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