Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Republic of Egypt

- Immigration is not that straight forward, you have to purchase a visa on arrival, but there are no signs to do so, it is at a money exchange desk
- People, especially women were constantly arguing with the Immigration Officers, and quite loudly
- I am staying the leafy suburb of Maadi, which is every nice
- Cairo is more of a desert than I expected. It is very rocky, which makes it quite interesting
- Egyptians keep Cairo very clean
- Egyptians seem to be very curious, and often ask questions about your origins

Around the City

Being in Egypt has been fantastic! When I arrived, my friend Kahled had organized a taxi pickup for me at the airport. After being in transit for many hours, it was so nice not to have to organize any transportation. I was staying at a friend of a friend’s home, the Besch’s. They have been living in Egypt for about three years as US government workers. Fortunately for me, they have a very large, air-conditioned apartment in the leafy Cairo suburb of Maadi. The family was off to the beach for the long US holiday weekend, so I spent most of the time alone in their home. My first evening, I was very tired, because of the lack of sleep, so it was a nice steak dinner and then off to bed.

The next day I explored Maadi and the nearby Nile River. During the evening I met up with my friend Kahled to explore the downtown area as well as the XXXXXXX Bazaar. There were heaps of shops selling about everything in this outdoor mall. I even saw one many try to sell us a hairbrush, as we both have a significant amount of hair on our head. It was busy, yet manageable and I enjoyed walking through the city.

Giza and Egyptian Museum

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Egypt is the Sphinx and Pyramids. I met Kahled very early on Friday morning to beat the heat and delayed crowds (Friday is a holy day for Muslims). The pyramids and Sphinx do not disappoint! They are large, worn, and quite special. I was also amazed by how close they are to the city; they are close to the central part of Cairo, and very easy to get to. As the morning became midday there were busloads of tourists coming into the general area. There are constant inquiries from horse and camel owners for pictures or rides on the animals. There are small children and adults that offer momentous for purchase. There are plenty of Egyptians willing to take your photo or give you a tour of the area, for a price of course. It really is a very special place, I am so happy I went!

I am often skeptical of a museum. I have been to many around the world, but the Egyptian Museum is known to be one of the BEST! It was very good as well. For me, it was most interesting to see artifacts from as early as 3000 BC, much further in the past than I can comprehend. I also, don’t believe I have ever seen such old things. There are two pieces that stand out for me. First, the mummy exhibits are both interesting and expansive. When I was walking the halls of the museum, there were hundreds of these wrapped up ancient people. There are small children, women, men, and even a few of the royal families. The artwork and skill to mummify someone is very interesting and special. Parts of the exhibit were the tombs constructed when these people passed away. Some are huge, with plenty of room for the other things that are buried upon death. The second most interesting item was the exhibit about King Tutankhamun. He was only 19 when he died, but has become a very popular ruler since his tomb was discovered in the 1920’s. I have seen pictures of the various coffins used (there were at least 3), and of course the very famous mask was on display. King Tutankhamun was not there, as he remains buried in Luxor, at least according to the information from the museum.

Mosques/Islamic Cairo

The plan on Saturday was to go to the various mosques and Islamic Cairo on my last full day in the country, but those plans were sidetracked. I woke up on Saturday and was vomiting. I must have had something that didn’t like me. So I spent the day resting, doing laundry, and watching old episodes of The Cosby Show. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see those parts of the city, but I had to keep my strength for the rest of the trip. The good news is that I was feeling much better on Saturday night before my early Sunday morning flight to Croatia.

Thank You
First, I want to give a big THANK You to the Besch family for letting me crash their house, use the washer and dryer, eat and drink food and beverages, and providing excellent hospitality. Second, Kahled, for everything you did for me. The SIM card, airport pickup, bargaining, and friendship. I appreciate it so much.

I am planning to be back in Egypt, there is so much more to see, it is amazing.

There are only a few photos and a short video from Egypt. I forgot the camera one day, had it on the second day (but the museum restricts video/photo), and was sick my last full day. I did get Giza and the Sphinx, as they are the most important to me!

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