Wednesday, May 30, 2007

To kiss a...

Sphynx! In Cairo! Sorry, I'm being immature again, and getting ahead of myself...Let me start again...

The journey from Alexandria to Cairo was 3 hours, as was the journey from Safaga to Luxor, but the drive was more pleasant, not only because the coach was slightly nicer but because the outside air temperature, although still very hot, was a good 10 degrees cooler. Oh, and I brought food.
First stop, pyramids of Giza, all three of them. They're HUGE! You find yourself gazing up and saying "What were they THINKING!" when you see these things. I paid $5 to go into the Great Pyramid (the only one with a preserved, levelled and smooth upper point as you can see in this picture, apparently they'd have all looked like this but they were discovered covered in sand, and the post-excavation revealed only the 'bare bones' of the structures) but once I got down to the entrance, 4ft by 4ft, so-designed so you have to genuflect as you enter, the oppressive air and sheer volume of people gave me an attack of claustrophobia, and I had to chicken out. Apparently it didn't get better once you got inside either, and there was nothing much to see (but maybe people were just trying to make me feel better!)

Here I am, on one of the lower slabs, recovering, in between bouts of harrassment from locals with pyramid paper-weights and camels.

Wait, let's get a better sense of perspective, (and my friend Brandy, just checking I was okay!) That little boy on the left wouldn't go away, the whole time I sat there.

Our guide Zara said their are 110 excavated pyramids now in Egypt, but they could easily find more.

Our 2nd stop, still in the vicinity of the pyramids, was our camel-ride opportunity. What a debacle! We paid $5, and were shown to our camels, then as soon as Zara turned her back we were told they were NOT our camels (but the owners of those camels tried to demand money from us for our even presuming to attempt to mount their said-camels!) and led to different animals, all roped together one in front of the other, and put on to them two-by-two. Not really the "me, alone, like a nomad in the desert, riding a camel past the pyramids" Kodak moment we'd had in mind, but we were thrown into a den of thieves I now realise. Sorry, but it's true. All around us, daylight robbery ensued, for instance there were people who'd been led out into the desert, taken to somewhere they had no idea where they were and then conned into shelling out far more money just so they could get back to safety.

Reader, if you ever ride a camel, be warned, take the advice I was never given, LEAN BACK when they stand up! This is me, with my friend Carla, doing our best not to scream like, well, girls. Then we decided to get cocky about it. Camels smell. And they seem to be bad tempered, but then again so would I be if I were muzzled and forced to walk around the same old dunes all day carrying bewildered, short-changed mugs like us.

Back in the coach, and on to the Sphynx stop. More cuddly-camel sellers, more pyramid paperweight-pushers, but eventually once you've "Lalala"'d your way through and round a corner ("La" means "No" in Egyptian Arabic) you're up pretty close to this beautiful statue. Check out Eric's impersonation, nice! It's every bit as impressive as you want it to be, the hair has remnants even of the different colours of paint it used to be covered with. Um, so yes, I had to try and see how my profile measures up! Not great....
Back on the bus, our group decided to go with the "local Egyptian food" lunch option as opposed to eating at KFC and pizza hut (the two seem to be joined at the hip here, or should that be wing and breast) and we ate buffet-style with a great outdoor view ("see the pyramids across the pile"....of food, get it!). We suffered for it later, and I won't go into nasty details, but at the time it was nice.

Eric bought one of the head-coverings, a dish-dash, for $1 just so he wouldn't get hounded about buying one any more, I reckon it suits him.

I bought a Cartouche on this outing, I just had to. But see, I went with Rebecca instead of Becky, it looks far prettier, more letters, better value for money etc. and I got silver with gold letters. I really like it.
Next, after the jewellery pick-up and another papyrus factory (I'm getting to know the drill here, it's the whole "we help you, you help us" thing, like I need more papyrus!) we had all of 45 minutes in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, now home to all the lovely golden relics of Tutankhamun's tomb, including his mask. Needless to say, it was not enough time.

When we crossed the Nile, I saw the Hilton Hotel, here it is, and I think it's where my Granddad's barracks used to be.

It was really interesting to me how it seems the Greeks even took a leaf out of the Egyptian Book (cameras were not allowed in the museum so I have to describe this without pictoral evidence) because there were many mummies exhibitted, and coffins crafted after the Egyptian style but instead of Eyptian bearded, heavy-on-the-eyeliner masks to cover the faces, a portrait as seen in frescoes of the Renaissance period replaces it. It's like a hybrid mummy, very interesting and slightly bizarre. There are even Egyptian-style masks with very Greek-style features.

Alas, it was time to leave. I bought a book from the museum shop to learn more about my "fuzzy" Egyptian history, which will no doubt transpire throughout these posts, but at least I can say I tried!

Once back at the ship, we turned-tail and headed back out in time to catch this sunset.

We found this market on the pier, Eric as you can see was extremely happy at the prospect of more shopping. Carla tried on a Belly-dancing outfit and we danced for a while with the store-holder, but no purchase was made.

We met up with Mark, and once I'd bought a $4 shawl to make myself decent (while Mark casually talked with a man at the stall about how many camels one might get for Carla!) we headed on foot into downtown Alexandria in search of a Turkish coffee. We're lucky Mark showed up, Carla and I needed our own personal convoy in Alexandria after sundown!

At one point, Carla had her long blonde hair pulled out by a kid. Eric scared them (one boy visibly cowered) but I've never felt so much like an alien in all my life.

We stumbled upon this night-market. I aslo saw this amazing gold jewellery shop. As I told Stacey, one of the things I collect pictures of religiously but never seem to post, is pictures of cats. So, here's one in the night market!
Forget coffee if you're female and it's night time in Alexandria! All the coffee houses were patronised by men, smoking hookah pipes. Not a single woman sat out. I wouldn't have dared, not for all the tea in China....or should that be coffee in Turkey! It was an exerience, and I've done my Intrepid Traveller duty for today, let me tell you.

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