pyramids and perfumes, getting used to egypt!!

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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Aswan
March 21st 2011
Published: March 22nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Hello all,

I'm actually writing this a day later in Aswan where I've finally had time to catch up with everything!!

We were up early in the morning for a very busy day around Cairo. There are a total of 15 in the group a and a fairly even mix of boys and girls. There's Inge (dutch), Suzanna (Scot), Kim (Aussie), George (Kiwi), Marianna and Joe (English), and then we also met Emma and Jason (Kiwis), Q (South Korea), and Greg, Jason, and Paul (Aussies). We're all mixed between 18-32. A good group so far!!

We had our breakfast of breads and eggs (scrambled/boiled/omelette) with coffee, and then met our tour guide Ishmet and our security man. The police presence is not very evident since the revolution as the people do not trust them and they have lost power, so now basically tourists get hassled a lot longer and more persistantly than before. Everyone wants to make a living!!

We toured the pyramids which were amazing to see, however there were a lot of touts about selling all kings of tat which did take away from the experience somewhat- we could barely walk a few meters in any direction without a small boy pressing postcards into our hands saying they were free (which they weren't!!). We didn't have a lot of hassle and ignoring people definately works, however we did want to have conversations with the locals especially to ask how things were since the revolution. But all we got for our efforts was "you look like an Egyptian queen" or "you look like Shakira"!! Arab men are definately charming but fear not Doug!! We were able to get photos and a background into how the pyramids were built, with a complimentary camel ride thrown in- before we got to go inside the smallest pyramid. Very small and narrow with no signs to tell you where you were or what the rooms were for but at least we can say we've been in one! We were driven down to see the sphinx, and it was here we could see the sprawling suburbs of Cairo backing onto the site of the pyramids.

We were then taken to a perfumery for lunch and a talk on how Egyptians make their perfumes. They harvest flower petals and crush them to release their oils. They mix whatever combinations they want together and put the oils into ceramic jars to leave beneath the desert for three months. This helps any water to leak out through the ceramic and the oils become more concentrated. They can then sell these oil bases onto big perfume companies who mix one part oil to 10 or 20 parts ethanol to make the perfumes in our shops. So we got to sample the bases of Calvin Klein/Dior perfumes. The oil is better for your skin obviously and can be also used in baths and burning for incence. The lunch was amazing, I can't remember what it was called, but it was made up of macoroni, rice, spagetti shapes, lentils, chickpeas, and chilli. Delicious!! Loving middle eastern food so far, if only they had more vegetables. And I'm craving an apple but I can't be sure the water is clean We also had Turkish coffee which was very verry strong with a chocolatey aftertaste.

It then took us almost an hour to drive to the Egyptian museum in the centre of Cairo, which gave us loads of time to people watch. Kim and I had an interesting visit to the toilets at the museum which involved an unexpected bidet!! We were given a tour of the museum including Tutenkamun's treasures which were brilliant. You would really need to know a bit about Egyptian history before going however as there is so many displays and not all laid out in an easy to comprehend style. Apparently it would take at least three months to see every exhibit at the museum if you were to give each one a minute to look at.

We then went back to the hotel to get ready for our overnight train to Aswan. I have to say I really like Oasis Overland's style- we were given the information we needed, Graham speaks to people if we need something organised, and then he lets us get on with the tour with the local people rather than babysit us. It's very relaxed and laidback. Kim, Inge and I went to the local schwarma (local kebab shop) and sat in this time for dinner. I had the chicken schwarma which was served with rice, hummous, yoghurt, salad, vine leaves, a samosa full of cheese, and another roll stuffed with meat. And a bread basket! It was delicious yet again, and when we split the bill it cost us 30 egyptian pounds each including drinks and the tip, which was approx 3GBP each!!

We got our gear ready for the next journey and departed for the 10pm train for Aswan which is about 800km to the south of Cairo.


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22nd March 2011

Hello Orla!
Hi Orla - great to hear your news as you travel around. It all sounds wonderful - take good care of yourself and enjoy! Love Carmel x

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