Friday, August 10, 2012
Cairo, Wednesday, August 8, 2012
My hubby and the boys were complaining about really sore leg muscles. This is most definitely from the crouched walk through the inclined corridor in the Red Pyramid. Because I panicked and did not do it, my legs are feeling perfectly fine.
There were more people at breakfast today. I guess a tour had arrived. Maha told me that normally you have to book at least six months in advance to get into the Mena House hotel. I am certain that we would have had to pay 10 times more if tourist traffic had been at its regular capacity.
Once again I had some of the honey that dripped down form the comb. I know it was an actual comb because a drowned bee was in mine. I didn’t eat it but thought it was really cool.
Today Maha and our driver Emad met us at 8:00am. She also introduced Achmed, our body guard for the day. Wow, I have never had an armed body guard before! Cool.
She said they usually just send body guards with the Americans.
We drove through the Cairo traffic (always fun), and passed Tahir Square on our way to the Egyptian Museum. It looked pretty normal.
There were a lot of scantily clad (think beachwear) tourists getting off a bus in front of the museum. Maha said they were Russian tourists on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheik.
Achmed walked us to the entrance of the museum where we went through security with Maha.
The museum is a fabulous treasure trove. We saw King Tut’s treasures (including coffin and golden death mask) and the Mummy room which contained Ramses II, Queen Hatshepsut and Seti I. We were thrilled to see how many folding things (pillows, bed and chairs) made with working hinges that Tut had. Maha says that the Egyptians were so advanced that she keeps expecting them to find a cell phone.
Maha and I had a conversation about the body guard (movie vs reality) in the museum courtyard before Achmed met us at the gates and escorted us to our van. I kept humming the theme song from the movie all day.
Next door to the museum was a large office building that was totally burnt out. It used to be where Mubarak’s political party was based. Some think that Mubarak had his own people burn it in order to get rid of anything incriminating. There were even burnt cars in its front (fenced in) courtyard.
We were next on to Coptic Cairo and the Hanging Church. This church was built in the 9th century sitting across Roman Gate houses. Parts have been rebuilt numerous times.
We next walked through the narrow, once gated streets, to the Ben Ezra Synagogue. I had almost forgotten about Achmed, who walked quietly behind us. This synagogue was originally a church but after the 12th century a rabbi named Ben Ezra received permission to build a temple here
Next we visited a church built over a location where the holy family (Mary, Joseph and Jesus) stayed when they travelled through Egypt for three years. You can still look down some stairs to the level where they stayed at.
We all went for lunch (Well, Maha, Achmed and Emad didn’t eat due to Ramadan) at a nice restaurant nearby. I have found that out of all the countries and places we have visited in the world, this visit to Egypt with Memphis Tours has been the one that has taken care of Graham’s anaphylactic allergies the best.
Driving to The Citadel of Salah-al-Din, we passed the City of the Dead which is a very large, old Muslim cemetery which is still cared for by the living. These people actually live above the tombs because it is free and many are paid by the families to care for the graves.
At the Citadel, we visited the Muhammad Ali Mosque. Maha told me that I didn’t need to cover my hair or elbows, we just needed to take off our shoes. This mosque which is over 150 years old looks similar to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul but has a lot of European decorations inside.
Outside of the mosque, we purchased a number of headdresses, Cleopatra and King Tut crowns as well as an Egypt book before heading back into the car.
While driving to the Khan el-Khalili market area, my hubby and I had a discussion on how long we wanted to stay. We ended up agreeing on 1 ½ hours. Maha gave me specific tips on bargaining before saying goodbye.
Achmed and our family first went to an outdoor café because I wanted the family to experience smoking a sheesha pipe. We ordered apple. I was very excited when the pipe came and puffed on it for quite a while before Achmed informed me that they hadn’t lit it yet. My husband, Graham and I gave it a try. Cameron abstained. I tried a few more times before I noticed that I was getting dizzy. Don’t know if that was from the pipe or because I was hyperventilating.
Achmed tried advising me not to buy things right away, but then I bought a few galabayas for the boys and a Tut costume for John. Achmed and all my guys said I was a crappy bargainer (up until that point, I thought I had done quite well) and Achmed led us through the narrow maze of shops and bodies to another area where he assisted in helping me negotiate for a belly dancing/Cleopatra costume. I was originally going to buy one of the belly dancing outfits with a bra and sheer skirt but then decided that it would look better if I was twenty years younger.
Too soon, it was time to go. Emad and Achmid dropped us of at the air conditioned four seasons mall for a few hours before we had to go to the un-air-conditioned train station.
Hassan met us at the train station and stayed with us until we got onto our sleeper cabins.
The cabins were not luxurious but they did the trip and we all slept until the morning.