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Published: February 19th 2016
We left Alexandria after three days and made the journey south to Cairo. It was delightfully uneventful as we motored down the wide and not crowded toll road. That alone was different, as so far our brief experiences in Lebanon and Egypt were far too many cars and far too few roads to accommodate them. Part of the reason for the somewhat empty toll road was that there was a two-lane highway to our right that all the trucks were driving on. This road did not have a toll. We wished that this was the case in the States.
Now Cairo is one of the most densely populated capital cities in the world with 17 million people, ranking tenth, just behind New York City and the traffic certainly proved it. As we rode into the city we glanced to the left and got a faint glimpse of two pyramids off in the distance in the afternoon haze. There was the mini-moment when you finally realize “ holy crap….we are really in Egypt!” Not only that, but we were getting close to our much anticipated rendezvous with BV Chef after many months of planning. We were becoming quite giddy
We arrived in the afternoon, checked in to our hotel and decided to chill out the rest of the day as we crafted our plan to be up early to greet Brendan in the hotel lobby after his 24-hour voyage across the planet. We talked exactly regarding about how early to get up, shower and be in the lobby in plenty of time based on his arrival time, clearing customs and taking a taxi to the hotel. It was the perfect plan. We had the timing estimate. We even had his flight numbers and were able to track him as he crossed the Atlantic on his way to London and then Cairo.
We awoke early and checked to see if his flight had arrived. It had. Dave was ready to jump in the shower when the phone rang…..it was the front desk. Brendan had arrived! Our perfect plan had gone awry. Dave showered quickly and ran down to meet him. He was tired, yet smiling. We were reunited after two years and the trip was on!! – Can’t believe he foiled our perfect plan.
Day one saw the trio taking
a small hike to the nearby Egyptian Museum. Crossing the busy streets of Cairo is not for the faint of heart. The locals think nothing of it, but needless to say, we’re not practiced at this fine art and darted about in our attempts to dodge the cars to safety across the road. The Egyptian Museum is as expected was full of treasured mummies, sarcophagi (now there’s a word we don’t commonly use), sculptures, chariots, written manuscripts and artwork a plenty. The museum was chock full of antiquities. It boggles the mind to see how many treasures have been uncovered and preserved over the ages. It certainly opens the door to understanding the past and what their lives may have been like. The adornments of the royals far surpassed that of the ordinary working people- once again pointing out that it is good to be the king!
The thing that struck us odd was that the majority of the relics were not encased in glass or protected in any way. Some were and that was good, but many others were not. Certainly there were a few signs posted requesting patrons not to touch, but you know how
Turkish lamb shank
18 hour cooked lamb.....oh boy
that goes. It was if they were casually put on display, at times organized, other times not so much. The museum is quite old and not air conditioned which brings us pause due to the age of some of the displays, knowing that carefully controlled conditions would allow these amazing pieces of history to be preserved for years to come. They are building a new museum, but we were told that this had be going on for over a decade and would not be complete for another two years…at least that is what they are telling people this year. Many of the pedestals these amazing pieces were mounted on seemed insufficient to what was placed on them. Far be it for us to interfere as they have survived centuries, but it seemed odd.
Cremation vs. Mummification— your decision will be based on your beliefs and financial situation. The royal families always went for mummification. The process takes about 70 days. Once all of your organs are removed and placed in jars they need to remove the moisture so they place them in salt for 40 days, sand for 10 days and another 20 days for cleaning and
Walk like an Egyptian
With due respect to The Bangles
wrapping. All in the name of being ready for the next lifetime. The poor simply could not afford the process and their remains would be cremated. http://www.mylearning.org/a-step-by-step-guide-to-egyptian-mummification/p-1681/
MJ would note that traveling with Dave and Brendan is an adventure to be certain with both of them wanting to be “the funny one”. MJ was sure it was killing Dave not to make jokes about the mummies and it made MJ think of Abbott and Costello’s movie Meet the Mummy.
In planning our trip we studied the weather – needing to know the average daily temperatures in order to pack appropriately. It is still technically winter here in Egypt as the calendar goes, and the average high should be about 68 degrees (20 C) and we packed appropriately given this information. So much for planning, as we experienced a heat wave and it reached 90 (32) each day in Cairo. Fortunately it will only be hot for a couple of days and then back more normal temperatures for the rest of the trip…….we hope.
Politically, the landscape has been changing due to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, when protestors occupied Tahir Square. The
protest lasted 18 days and basically resulted in the removal of President Mubarak from office...after 30 years. It seems the Egyptians used this protest to let everyone know they were tired of the corruption and the status quo. Unfortunately, the unrest did not help the tourism industry much. Tourism accounts for a great deal of total economy in the land of the Pharaohs. Real political change will most likely come slowly to this nation of some 90 million people. And hopefully the tourist will return en mass.
Today on street corners you will see Egyptian police guarding various buildings around the city. Most of them look bored but give the evil eye as you pass by. Some have their faces covered with a black cloth which we assume is to protect their identity but who knows….maybe just protecting them from the sun. We surmise that it is to assure people they are safe but honestly we’re not sure it had much impact. But for us, it is not the norm to see heavily armed protective forces out in the open like this.
Our hotel had a guard dog that had to walk around the
Dave and Brendan
taxi when it pulled in. We chuckled because they had to wake her up to sniff our car. It was a Golden Retriever and ....we named her Molly. She didn’t look like a fierce bomb sniffing pup. We are told that they rotate the dogs every four hours but she seemed to be on duty for hours at a time. We don't want to make light of this really, because it is a way of life in this day and age for this country.
Cairo has far more visitors than Alexandria. In the museum alone we saw several busloads of Asian tourists. We’ve been told that recently, slowly some people are beginning to come back to Egypt. We hope it is true because the economy could use the lift in income from tourism. We felt perfectly safe and didn’t see anything that worried us. We can say with certainty that Egypt is quite safe and open for business!
From our hotel, there is a great view of the Nile….the mighty and storied river, the longest river in the world. Its directional flow confuses us ever so slightly as it runs south to north and
One of many in the museum.
ends in the Mediterranean Sea. When Egyptians refer to Upper Egypt, they mean the areas south of Cairo, in the direction of the headwaters of this magnificent river. Africa might not survive without this 4,132-mile river that is bordered by eleven countries, including Egypt. Most of this nation is desert. The areas bordering the Nile provide its only fresh water source and make the land arable.
Then of course, there are the Pyramids. How many movies have you watched with the Pyramids featured in them? They easily draw in the imagination and increase the mystery. We can tell you they are simply amazing. They stand tall in their glory. The design and construction are clearly marvels of engineering. It is a serene moment to be standing at their base looking up. From a distance they are truly majestic and it made of think of movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Bucket List. We climbed on Arabian horses and took a short stroll near the pyramids... no charging across the desert for these more mature adventures. Then we had a photo op with a camel. Cheesy yes, fun….absolutely. We were absolutely mesmerized by the images
Wrapped after some 70 days
in front of us. Even as fairly seasoned travelers, this was a very impressive sight. We will no doubt remember this time fondly for years to come.
Our hotel had an incredible Turkish restaurant that we frequented more than once. We had a chat with the Turkish Chef and told him how much we enjoyed the cuisine. We inquired whether or not he might cook for us one night. He agreed and the culinary fest was on! It was delightful to be with Brendan sampling these fantastic foods. Once again, we’ve struck culinary gold and feel quite grateful to be this fortunate. The chef in this restaurant used live and works in Savannah, Georgia so it was fun talking about the U.S. with him. Dave and I enjoyed listening to Brendan and the Chef talk food.
It is rare that we include information on a guide that we used but if you are coming to Cairo we recommend -- Hanan Omara. Not only is she an excellent guide but has an excellent command of the English language. Her contact her on Facebook at Hanan Omara or reach her on hotmail at hananomara.
On a sarcophagus
We concluded our visit with a quick trip to the souks. Almost every city of any size likes to encourage shopping and here is no different. The souks here go many blocks and in many different directions. We traversed one of streets, but it’s not really our cup of tea, with many of the old shops hawking the same articles over and over again. We noted that we were one of the few foreigners strolling the souk on this day. We were accosted more than a few times by shop owners, but did our best just to press on.
Cairo is a big bustling city, old buildings and new. We spent time in the nice newer neighborhoods and time in the older more rustic areas. We didn't dislike Cairo but for us it didn't have the charm that so many world cities have offered us. Cairo isn't a city we will long to return to but certainly was more than worth it to come a see the amazing Pyramids in Giza.
Now that we’ve collected more memories and more importantly BV Chef, it’s time to move on…..to the desert and more adventures.
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