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Published: February 21st 2010
Day 64: Friday, January 29, 2010.
Per the Contiki Egypt brochure: "First to Sakkara to see the oldest pyramid in the world - the Step Pyramid. We continue on to the Citadel, Alabaster Mosque, Sultan Husan Mosque and time to shop in the bazaar. A chance to join us for a Light and Sound show at the Pyramids on our final evening together."
We got into Cairo around 5am. I said goodbye to my nightly roommate, Kate from Minnesota, and the group took off to the hotel. We got our rooms and Sherif told us to be back in the lobby at 7:30am. Long enough to take a shower and get the train funk off of me. That is, if there had been any hot water. I left the shower running for 5 minutes and kept checking it, still ice cold. Looks like people will have to put up with me being smelly today.
First up is the Citadel of Salah Al-Din
which is also called the Muhammad Ali Mosque
- no, not the boxer. Now, let me take a traveling moment to brag about the many many many churches and cathedrals and temples I have been in whilst on my journey.
This, hands down, was the one I could have stared at forever. I think it was the chandelier and lights hanging that really did it for me- it was just a beautiful place. Sherif explained to us what the different objects and text in the room were and also there is the tomb of Muhammad Ali
. We have time to wander on our own and take a few more shots here and there while we wander back to the bus. Julie and I talk on the way back to the bus and she tells me what all I missed by not going to the village. Sounds like it was even more of an eye opener into the Egyptian life.
We then head over to the Mosque of Sultan Hassan
. Another amazing mosque (though Aly still has my vote- guess it's more of a formal mosque though) and Sherif tries to give us insight into the Muslim
community. He showed us where the head of the Muslim community (forgot the title name) used to sit and would listen to everyone's grievances and concerns. I say "used to" because now there are so many people that he has an office somewhere where he takes emails and calls
and also has a weekly television show where you call in and speak to him. Sherif shows us how they must be pure before going into the mosque and where they bathe their feet, face, hands. On Fridays, they are to go to Mosque 5 times a day and each time they must be in clean clothes and having just showered. He said that some women complained about washing their hair 5 times a day, so some mosques allow for them to just wet the back of their head in the mosque fountain, and that that counts. Not mocking it AT ALL but I would like to point out that you may not want to place your feet in the fountain basin where they wash, because they also blow their nose into it to make sure they are completely clean (we won't go into detail about how they then need to go into the bathroom and clean there as well.) We've all noticed as we travel thru-ought the country that many men have a bruise on their forehead. This is because of the constant praying where they touch their forehead to the ground. Sherif then leads us over to the
mosque area and explains how they read the Quran and how they prey- each move has a purpose and meaning. He explains to us that women are kept separate in the mosque, not because they are considered inferior, but because they are a distraction and also for their own privacy. He does have a valid point that, with all the bending over that takes place, a man might start thinking about something other than Allah. Still, can't say it sits right with me. Good thing it's not my culture then, right?
We get back on the bus and head out of town to the Imhotep Museum & Saqqara
, aka the Step Pyramid
. Poor Imhotep, thanks to Brendan Frasier and Hollywood we instantly picture a bad (albeit hot) immortal priest/mummy. Ends up he was one of Egypt's top architects. Hooray for Hollywood! This area is where the first pyramids (that they know of) were built. We were able to see the progression of the first one (which was basically a pile of rocks) to the second (pile of clay) to the third- the Step Pyramid. Very "Three Little Pigs", you may now huff and you may now puff. After that, they perfected the smooth
Moi and the step pyramid
and the barterer's and haggler's and donkey's... oh my.
pyramid which is the ones you see the pictures of (and the ones we visited our first day in Cairo.) We wander thru a tomb of a princess that had amazing artwork on it (no pictures allowed), thru some of the ruins, stopped to appreciate the step pyramid, and then back on the bus. We also had a security guy with our group (not sure if for the pyramids protection or our own, I'm guessing the later though). This poor guy had to keep hanging back since Julie and I were the slow ones of group and taking a million pictures. He'd be looking at us, then strain his neck to see where the rest of the group went, then back at us. Probably still has whiplash.
After that we head back to Cairo and stop at one more bazaar before ending our Cairo experience. Okay, this is it for me- I'm not going to be walked on again. I am woman, hear me roar, blah blah blah. So, myself, Julie and Kirstie start walking thru the bazaar and it's the normal onslaught of vendors. One of them asks what we're looking for and, having told her ahead of
(sing with me now, "How bizarre...")
time I wanted a t-shirt and a scarf, Julie says "a t-shirt". Holy crap, the amount of vendors tripled in size and suddenly they were everywhere trying to get us to go into their stall. I told Julie "abort abort- i can't do this" and we got the hell out of there. Another block down my heart rate has slowed again and I decide to just go for it. So, I walk into one stall and they don't have the one scarf i've been eyeing and seeing everywhere else. Figures. I then walk across the street to another stall, tell him what I'm looking for, and he has it! He then takes out a lighter and holds it to the scarf to prove something, I don't know what. I tell him that that is great, but I hadn't planned on setting myself on fire so it was pointless to me. I also mention I want a t-shirt and only see a few. He asks me to follow him to his other shop, and he starts going up a winding, stone staircase. Oh God. I look at Julie & Kirstie and they have a look on their face that says "Well,
Can't decide if I want to sing that to the tune of "Hammer Time" or "Peanut Butter Jelly Time". Hard decisions in life.
we sure as hell don't want to go up there but we're not going to leave you." Aw, thanks girls. At least we'll all be buried together. We get to the top of the stairs and sure enough, there's his other store. I go in and look thru the t-shirts and one I pull out has the eye of Horus with "tpygE" under it. Yup, they did the transfer backwards. I hand this one to the guy and tell him he might want to get his money back. I find another t-shirt that is okay and start haggling over the price for that and the flame retardant scarf. I give one price, he gives another, I say my original price again. He comes back with "my name is not Ali Baba" and tries to justify his price. I tell him I've heard that line already (a lot of vendors say it) and stick with my price. To and fro to and fro until he agrees with my 3rd offer of 150 Egyptian pounds. I walk out of there feeling pretty damn good about myself and ready to take on the world. Later on, we run into other tour members and
I show one girl my (flame resistant apparently) scarf. She got the exact same one at a previous bazaar along with two others to give as gifts. For the three, she paid 50 Egyptian Pounds. DOH! Guess I didn't do as good as I thought. Oh well, still works out to be about $30 US, and I like my scarf. The t-shirt, however, saddens me. Julie and Kirstie roll their eyes when I tell them that I have now fallen in love with the retarded "tpygE" shirt and I want that one. However, we can't find the stall again, so I don't get my special shirt, just a stupid one that spells Egypt correctly. We sit at a cafe and have a Pepsi before getting back on the bus and going to the hotel. There we say goodbye to Sherif as he is taking off to enjoy his first time off since September. Not even one day off since then- damn! He was a good tour guide and new friend, sorry to see him go. Especially since we reallllllllly could have used him that night instead of the jerks we ended up getting.
We rested at the hotel for
a couple of hours (finally got a hot shower) then we gathered in the lobby again to get on the bus that would take us to the Laser & Light Show at the Pyramids
. Again, all of us had heard that it sucked, but it still sounded like a fun way to spend our last night together/in Cairo. We get on the bus and a couple of minute later a cop shows up. He and the driver and tour guide (don't remember their names at all) have a heated discussion and the tour guide gets out and goes into the hotel. Then, he comes out and stands in front of the bus talking to the cop. The impression we got was that the bus had been parked in front of the hotel for too long and the cop was saying "move along." However, we were still 4 people short. The bus driver starts yelling at the tour guide and inching the bus forward as a hint to move and get going. The tour guide says something to the driver, goes back into the hotel, and the bus driver pulls into the traffic and starts driving. At this point, the scared tourists speak up and ask what's
Julie & Sherif crashed out on a lobby couch
She sensed my evil lurking and woke up a split second before the picture was taken.
going on? We don't have our tickets- does he have them? He replies "There is a problem." Well no shit Egyptian Sherlock. He pulls over the next block over and I guess that was the game plan, to move ahead and wait for the stragglers. The tour guide shows up with the 4 late ones (you know who you are!) and they all get on board. Then, the bus driver and tour guide continue to have a heated discussion while the bus driver does the typical Cairo driving (which means, it'll scare you shitless.) I've hit the "11" on my patience meter and I was sitting there glaring at them both and about to explode when Julie saw the lovely look in my eye and talked me down. There are days when I really miss being on my meds.
We get to the pyramids and shuffle off to what we hope/think is the right line because our fill in tour guide is useless and just stands back and watches us. We finally get thru security (this time they check your bags and everything) and pick a row of seats to sit in and wait. The show soon starts, and
it is boring enough that I give myself permission to take a nap halfway thru it. The lighting on the pyramids is cool, but the narration voices are over the top. They are all British voices and to hear a British voice boom "I am the Sphinx" delivered a la James Earl Jones is funny. I was giggling thru the first couple of minutes and doing my own version of Mystery Science Theater but I got the impression my remarks weren't being appreciated so I shut my mouth. It has huge potential to be a cool show, it's very much not there yet (sorry to those of you that tried to warn me). We finish the show and as we're heading back to the bus, Julie and I see a KFC. We're tempted to run in and grab some fried goodness but we're willing to be the bus wouldn't wait for us. So, we just walk back with the crowd and as we get near the bus, we see it start to inch forward. I really hate this driver. We jog over to it and pound on the sides and he lets us in. The tour guide then stands up
Clock that has never worked at Mohamed Aly Mosque
I think the French gave it to them as a "thank you" for something gift. Broken from the start- way to go France!
and asks "Are we all here?" Dude, we don't know- do a head count, that's what Sherif did. Sherif- where are you?! Just then we see one more of our gang and yell at the driver to stop inching forward and we grab the last of our group. Geez.
Back at the hotel, a few of the group are wanting to go out and continue to party but the rest of us are happy getting dinner at the hotel and saying goodbye to Cairo in the safety of its walls. Matt, who was sick enough that he stayed at the hotel all day, joins us for dinner and dares to try some bread. Ah, Egypt, you have blessed another one of us with your stomach bug. After dinner, we say goodbye to Julie (who is leaving on the 6:30 am airport shuttle in the morning) and Matt and I head down to snag some Internet time. His shuttle leaves at 1am, so not sure if he is even going to bother going to bed. I play on the net for about an hour, say goodbye to Matt (and warn him that I will be visiting LA and will kidnap
his ass and take him to Zankou and a Cemetery movie) and head to bed. My flight doesn't leave until 7 pm Saturday night but I'm catching the 2 pm shuttle to the airport. So, I can pack tomorrow.
Egypt was amazing and the experience of a lifetime. However, I cannot wait to get the hell out.
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