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6/4: Day Nine, Cairo to Giza to Aswan (sometime in there)
This was taken at 4 AM, so it counts as day nine. Caroline expresses how pleased she is that our plane was scheduled to get in at 2 AM.
Alison's just as pleased.
Woke up at 6, and our part of the group was soooo tired that we could hardly stand up straight. I thought that 47 people (the size of the Greece trip) was big, but this tour had over 53. Wow.
I tried to meet people during breakfast but I was zoning out. I did meet Tami and Keith, though, this newlywed couple who I adore. They rock. And then we all got on the bus to go see the museum.
First thing I did when I got on the bus was spy this very cute guy in the front seat. I don't even know what I was thinking at the time, but I was deliriously tired, so I decided that I was going to make a concerted effort to meet all the people on the bus, starting in the front. (Ha, I had almost no energy. Well, at least I had Alison's version of no energy.) Turns out the cute guy and his seatmate are brothers Murray and Brian. The first things I notice about them: Murray's tattoo (well, damn, it's hard to miss) and Brian's chai, which I thought was gutsy, because, well, Egypt was only at war with Israel for CENTURIES.
So, anyway, I meet a few people on the bus, and Paul (the tour "escort") gets on. He tells us how dirty Egyptian money is, and he wasn't lying. An excerpt from Keith's email about it: "And what's the deal with Egyptian money? Is there any more disgusting form of paper known to man? You have no idea just how icky this stuff is. The 1-pound notes look like they've been in circulation since Moses led our people out of Egypt." That would be because people in Egypt are so poor that this is all they see, sometimes. This place needs some coinage, and badly. Anyway, we went to the bank to get some for ourselves (goody!), and then we go to the Cairo museum.
Caroline and Alison in front of the Cairo museum.
I like live sites a lot better than museums, but this one had two very cool exhibits: King Tut's treasures (wow!), and the Mummy room. Man, that mummy room totally made the trip worth it -- you could see the HAIR of these queens and kings. That was pretty much the most amazing thing in the entire place, IMO, even if you had to pay more; one of the queens had plaited hair and the other's was incredibly curly, and it almost looked like we were looking at sculptures of people, it was so surreal. Not disgusting or anything; beautifully creepy.
Inside of a sarcophagus. (A smart Alison didn't take notes. Oops.)
A mummified cat, with a mummy fish and mummy bird behind it. (That's sort of ironic, in a weird way. Now the cat can't move to catch either...)
Ramses, Nefreteri, Laura, Alison, and Caroline.
Next stop were the pyramids at Giza. These things are huge. I mean, HUGE. They are gigantic! How the heck did people build them!? I just don't get it. Anyway, here I had my first pseudo-bedouin experience. People in Egypt really want you to buy stuff. I became an expert haggler here, and it was due to this fact. They are so poor that they will do almost anything to make money, which is very sad, and they love pens. (I don't get this.) I was talking to a tourist police guy (complete with AK-47), and I was gesturing to the smoggy view of Cairo with my pen. Suddenly, he points at me and says, "American?" I reply, confused, "Yes." Then he points at my pen and says, "Souvenir?" Uh, you have a huge rifle, and could shoot me unprovoked. I stole this pen from work. Here, have it. Yeah. It's yours. (run away)
The pyramids in the distance. Yes, they are right in the middle of the city.
Pyramids 1 (Cheops) and 2 (Chephren), artsy style. Like my little guy for scale?
Alison and Caroline at Cheops. There are 2,300,000+ blocks of stone used in this one pyramid. (Aren't those rocks HUGE?)
Yes, they are huge!
Temples of Senegemib (left) and Alehetmehu/Khenement (right)
Caroline and Smog. (Cairo)
A sitting pseudo-bedouin. Catching one of these at peace when tourists are around is a rare thing -- the only reason this guy is sitting down is because we are all safely in the bus.
All three pyramids.
I think the look on my face says it all.
Alison, Shayne, Caroline, and Darryl, the Mario stand-in.
We went to take our group pic, and then it was off to the Sphinx. Again, people are trying to sell stuff -- they were even reaching through the bars at one part of the Valley Temple (the temple at the foot of the Sphinx) to try to sell sodas. Geez. This made it very hard for me to really get a feel for either site, mostly because I wasn't used to the way that Egyptians operate yet, so it was very much a culture shock instead of a cultural experience. I am glad that we had the opportunity to see them again (on the last day).
The Valley Temple, at the base of the Sphinx.
The Sphinx! Do you know that his nose was shot off by Napoleon's troops during target practice? Poor Chephren...
The sisters conquer Egypt! (Or, at least try to charm it to death.)
Alison tries to eat Egypt!
Caroline tries to talk Egypt's ear off!
We then had falafel, etc., at Sakkara's Nest, this restaurant where Paul held a meeting for all of us latecomers, to tell us a bit about baksheesh (tips) and general Egypt info. At this point he told us about the "WC People" (my name, not his): caste stratification is so bad in Egypt, that people pick up extra side jobs just to make money. People volunteer to clean the toilets if they can collect baksheesh from those who use it; this made me feel really badly about the airport incident. Oops. After learning this, I was very generous with my bathroom baksheesh (well, if the WC was actually clean).
After lunch, Brian actually bought the drum from under some guy's hands. (That is, he bought the drum off of this drummer at the restaurant.) It was pretty damn funny. :) We ordered cartouches for ourselves (mine says my named followed by an eye of Horus for protection, something which I was to need on this trip...) and then went to a papyrus factory, where we bought our parents a cool painting which we ordered special heiroglyphs for (it took almost a week for them to paint the rest). We also went to a perfumery, where this cool guy named Ali gave us all beverages (I had Pepsi!) and had us smell a few of his oils. They were pretty nice, but all very strong, with an undertone that I didn't like. Then, it was off to the train station.
Ali, the perfume guy. Notice his nice white galabaya... everyone here wears those.
Alison is overwhelmed by all the choices in size. Debbie smiles knowingly.
In order to get to Aswan, we took an overnight sleeper train. When we got on, they served dinner -- which was HUGE -- and I wandered around a bit, talking to Brian and Murray (they always put the same people next to each other, so their room was next to ours, as it would be for the rest of the trip), and this group from Carnagie Mellon. We spent the rest of the night partying away with the CMU people, and at one point, the train guys started drinking with everyone else (how come I am always the sober girl? Because Alison doesn't drink anymore, that's why, and thus can accurately relate these stories to YOU!). One of them started balancing a glass of water on his head, so he pulled me up on the table with him to try. Alison balanced a glass of water on her head, on table a moving train, and then did little tricks (like curtseying). Aww yeah.
This night, Caroline made Alison very mad. But, we won't go into that here. Anyway, I eventually made my way to our car and slept fully dressed, because I couldn't find room to open my suitcase. Every now and then, I would wake up when the train screetched to a halt to let people out, but other than that, the ride was nice.