Have arrived in Cairo. Guards here have very large weapons. It is hot and smoggy. We are staying at the Marriott, which used to be a palace. Cool. When we arrived at the Cairo airport, they gave us green pills for cholera at immigration.
At the airport, we quickly found that the taxi driver offered his services as a driver during our stay in Cairo. He pointed out all the hotels on the way to our hotel. We stayed at the Marriott on the Nile. Actually, it sits on an island in the Nile. We were happy to find much needed amenities. A king-sized bed, a wonderful bathroom, air conditioning. We had lunch at the hotel at this western style restaurant, Roy’s Country Kitchen. The waiters wore overalls. Very odd. It was similar to the place we ate at the Amari hotel in Bangkok. Lots of Old West Americana popping up in foreign cities. Good or bad?
Other random things we remembered—In Kenya, the habit of people saying “You’re welcome” before we had a chance to thank them; Fred not quite getting Dmitri’s name and calling him William the whole time; Fred’s Christian gospel music; McFalafel in Cairo and McSalmon in Singapore.
On our first night in Cairo, we went out to Giza to the pyramids to see the light show. The lasers weren’t working and the presentation was pretty hokey, but it was very cool being there. We just love our hotel. It is so comfy. An old palace converted into a hotel. On the way to the pyramids, we saw a sign that read, “Eypt is Center of Civilization.” It was pretty darn cool to see a silhouette of camels in front of the pyramids at dusk.
In the morning, we headed to the Egyptian Museum. Tombs, mummies, sarcophagi. We latched onto a few tour groups and wished we had a guide to tell us what everything was and the significance of it. The Tutankhamen exhibit was especially cool and I saw a dagger that I coveted. We had both recently read River God so that gave a bit of spice to the museum.
Cairo is extremely hot, smoggy, loud, busy, congested, but vibrant. Honking is a central part of the culture.
Attempting to be adventurous, we hopped in a “taxi” (taxis don’t have aircon and “limousines” are taxis with aircon) and went to the Khan El Khalili bazaar. Large, hot, busy. A maze of hawkers, shops, jostling elbows, wheelbarrows, alleyways, tacky tourist goods, genuine antiques, colorful spice markets. Every good to be sold had a specific area in the bazaar and we kept getting turned around and lost in the maze. It was fairly overwhelming. I was in pursuit of the elusive dagger—never did find one that I liked enough to buy. We took a hot taxi back to the cool hotel and later took a long hot walk to dinner and an internet café. We ate dinner in this shopping area where there was a man on stage singing Lionel Ritchie songs.
Our next stop was Memphis where we saw a large statue of Ramses II. There was not much left of the original city. It was unremarkable. We were then taken to this carpet institute that did have beautiful rugs that were outrageously priced. Basically it was a children’s slave shop. There were beautiful hand made (by young kids with small hands) rugs made of cotton, silk, and camel hair. The children earn 2% of the profit from the rugs—all the children split the 2%. The owner was big and fat. It seemed appropriate that he had the girth of success. We left as soon as we could without buying anything.
We were almost ripped off by a ticket seller when we went in the second pyramid and he didn’t want to give Dmitri any change. Going into the pyramid was interesting. It was hot and crowded and we went down this steep shaft. There was not too much to see once we got to the center. Just an old box that a sarcophagus would go in. Nothing to see. Entirely passable and I was so hot and claustrophobic that I just wanted to be outside again.
The guide actually got out of the car at the Sphinx, but told us very little. We passed this wishing pit and he encouraged us to toss some coins down. Dmitri told him, “Egypt has enough of my money.”
We hired a guide to show us around Cairo and the pyramids because we wanted to know a bit more about what we were looking for. Boy, did we end up with the wrong guide. Mr. Jack, the bell captain at the hotel, set us up with Mr. Muhammed and he agreed to take us to Sakkara and Memphis and the pyramids. First he took us to this Coptic church carved into the rocks. We had heard about it from a couple we met at the light show at the pyramids. Apparently it is not well-known but is very cool. It is out past the rubbish heaps where all the garbage from Cairo is taken. Stinky, but an interesting trip. It is also near the quarry of the pyramids on the southeast edge of Cairo. The smell was terrible and there were barefoot children playing who were absolutely filthy. People were literally sorting and sifting through Cairo’s trash. Some Italian Christian had financed and made the church. Rubbish area=disease so we had some idea of the status of Christians in Egypt. Our guide had never been to the rock church and so he couldn’t tell us too much about it.
At Sakkara, we saw a big pyramid and the Temple of Djoser. It is the oldest pyramid. The temple is the first stone building and has 42 columns for the 42 cities of Egypt. It was built in the shape of papyrus and mud and this explains the column shape. It is 5,000 years old. We learned all of this from another group’s guide because our stupid guide sat in the car while we wandered around. There are camera fees at all the attractions which is a rip off and it is ridiculously hot in Egypt.
We went to the Sakkara Restaurant for lunch—taken there by our “guide.” It is overpriced for Cairo but very good. Hummus, kebobs, bread. Very good. We were encouraged to take a picture of the women making the bread and then were charged for it. Seems to be a typical thing in Cairo.
Then we stopped at a papyrus shop in Giza. It was very interesting since we were shown how papyrus is made, but we quickly figured out that our guide was taking us to all the places his buddies ran in the hopes that we would spend money. Anyway, we were shown the lattice work and how to tell real papyrus from banana leaves which are much cheaper and fall apart. We bought some gifts there and were off to the pyramids. They are big; it was hot! Our guide stayed in the car and slept. Bad guide. Lazy ass joker! Ass clown! We were once again ripped off by a guy who said he was security and wanted to show us the pyramids. Thanks, buddy! They’re right there. Dmitri gave him some coins to get him to go away.
This should give you an idea for scale. Those little steps aren’t very little.