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6/10: Day Fifteen, Cairo and Sakkara
We started off by going to the Steppe pyramids in Sakkara. Sakkara is one of the oldest cemeteries in Egypt, at around 5000 years old, and while we didn't actually go into the pyramids there, we did go into the tomb of the financial officer (Mere-Ruka, 2340 BCE). The rad thing about this tomb was that it outlined the relationship between the man and his wife, showing more intimate scenes than any we had seen before. This is probably because of the fact that since he wasn't a pharoah, his interactions with the gods were not as all-encompassing. Near this tomb, there was a pyramid that we had the opportunity to enter, but as I am a major clautrophobe, I opted to stay outside while Caroline went in and took pics. After seeing how they developed, I am pretty happy with my judgment call.
The steppe pyramids.
The entrance to the tomb of Mere-Ruka.
A carving of a sitting pharaoh, showing how stiff is skirt was (so if he got an erection, no one would notice! Seriously! That is what that's for!) and how his wife would sit in front of him, to keep other women from peeking :); a statue of a man.
Wifey playing music for her husband, while he loosely conducts.
Entrance to the pyramid.
Caroline in the pyramid -- ugh, my throat's closing up...
Caroline in a doorway. Yikes, that's teeny!
The sarcophagus inside the pyramid.
Caroline, Alison, and wind. Sexy!
After hanging out at the steppes a bit more and taking some pics, we headed towards the mosques in downtown Cairo. The first, Citadel of Salah-al Bin (or the mosque of Muhammad Ali), was pretty cool. Caroline said that it looked a lot like Hagia Sofia, which I had studied in art history and which she had seen extensive photos of, located in Turkey. We removed our shoes to enter (because people do supplications of the floor -- in fact, a mark of a very pious person is a callous in the middle of the forehead, which many find a source of pride), and Amadeus went over the 5 pillars of Islam: 1. pray 5x a day; 2. celebrate the fast of Ramadan; 3. give alms to the poor; 4. visit Mecca at least once, and once for each relative who is unable to; and 5. believe the phrase "There is no G-d but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." A man is also allowed 4 wives! (Hmph.)
People in Egypt are very safety-conscious.
At the entrance to the mosque of Muhammed Ali, Alison and Caroline relive a childhood photo involving a hibiscus as big as our heads.
The Mosque of Muhammed Ali.
Alison, Murray, Tracey, Brian, and Caroline.
Hanging lights inside the mosque.
Alison, Caroline, and this beautiful gilded staircase that leads to the level where the women pray.
Keith and Tami outside!
The outside courtyard.
Alison, Caroline, Cairo, and smog. Mmm.
After this mosque, we headed towards the mosque of Sultan Hassan. On our way there, we saw something which I think is indicative about how people feel towards germs and dirt in Egypt; a man was bike riding with a basket of pita atop his head, and when he entered a particularly busy intersection, he accidentally dropped a few. He stopped his bike, and a few people got out of their cars, picked the pita up off the cement, and put them back in his basket. Ahead of him, a guy was herding sheep and goats along the same road. Mmm. Anyway, there are ~1000 well-used mosques in Cairo alone, which says a lot about how religious the country is.
The courtyard at the mosque of Sultan Hassan; people giving supplication. (I am sure that I am going to go to hell for this photo. Oh well.)
Caroline, Amadeus, and Alison.
After the last mosque, we all went to a "fancy" restaurant, where we had more falafel and typical middle-eastern fare. Dessert was watermelon, which the waiter accidentally dumped down my front; he was so sorry that the restaurant a) apologized, b) brought me a 10 piaster coin (coins are extremely rare in Egypt, and most 'change' -- piasters -- are either in bill form or replaced with a small gift of something along those lines), c) a postcard of the restaurant, and finally, d) surrounded me with the entire staff and apologized again. The funny thing was that I didn't even care that I had juice spilt on me. Egyptians are just really very nice. Finally, we headed back to the bus and ultimately back to the hotel in Cairo.
Caroline's watermelon seed art.
At the hotel, Caroline, Murray, and I went back to the shops by the hotel in order to buy Caroline's big sheesha, and then we headed back to the cafe bar, where I got some tropical drink and we chatted. Then, we went back to our rooms to pack and wait for the time to go to the light show at Philae.
The light show seated us in Philae, because that way, we could see the Sphinx, the Valley Temple, and all 6 pyramids at Giza (the 3 bigs and the 3 little wifey ones). There were two shows each night, and each had a different language, which I thought was quite cool. I sat between Murray and Caroline (after a bit of a weird figuring out issue), and then the light show started. Two words: total cheese. The Sphinx spoke with a British accent, as did all of the other voices representing Egyptians. The show was sort of cool, though, in that it brought you through a lot of Egyptian history, and even did some neat laser things on the pyramids (like showing how the interior was constructed).
Best part of the show: it's a tie between the line "Civilizations are islands on a sea of barbarianism" and Murray holding my hand. :)
After the show, we all went back to the hotel and ate dinner. At this point, I presented Paul with his baksheesh envelope and we packed. Because our flight back to Athens was leaving at 2:45 am, I decided to try to stay awake, and not sleep until we got to the Olympic Palace. So, Murray, Brian, David, Nicole, Caroline (eventually, as she decided to try to take a nap), and I all partook of apple sheeshas at the hotel. Okay, here's a lesson: if you're naturally a happy person, and you are tired as hell, do NOT smoke a sheesha, because you will just begin giggling uncontrollably. Which is what happened to me. I could not stop myself from laughing, and this went on for almost 10 minutes. Ten minutes of mind-numbing, silly giggling. I am sure I was quite a sight.
Alison, Murray, and Caroline: sheesha time!
So, a very heartfelt goodbye to all of our Egyptian friends, those bound for Greece got on a bus and went to the airport. I handled the boarding passes for our group of 12, which was annoying to everyone (I am sure I was being sort of bitchy at this point, as it was almost 2 am...), and when we finally got to the airport, we bid goodbye to some more of our group and then headed to the hotel with Liza in a shared cab. Unfortunately, our rooms weren't made up yet...