Thursday, August 9, 2012

Egypt/Cairo- Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I am getting used to being called “My Queen”. Thats what the merchants and some of the people at the hotel call me.

It was hard getting up today. I tried fuul, an Egyptian dish of beans that you add peppers, onions, cardamom, and tomatoes to. It was quite good. I also helped myself to honey which dripped straight from the cone on top of yogurt and numerous other dishes.

Maha and our driver. Ahmed picked us up. We drove through numerous small farming towns on the 45-60 minute drive to Dashur.

The two lane traffic consisted of motor cycles, donkeys, horses, motorcycles, tuktuks and the odd camel. We even saw farmers herding their sheep through the traffic. Many locals drive with their van doors open and no seat belts. At one point we drove around some guy burning garbage in the middle of the road.

We finally found one set of traffic lights. Maha says that people ignore them and they are more for decoration. Drivers seem to have an unwritten system of communication with a mix of horn blowing and flashing their lights. We noticed lots of people talking on cell phones and texting while driving.

Women shopped at vegetable and meat stands scattered here and there along the road, often carrying their loads home in large tubs balanced on their heads. When we got into some of the smaller towns we saw full cows hanging on hooks for sale. One place even had the decapitated cows head displayed right beside the hanging body. Maha said that women shop almost every day for produce and they want to see the whole body so that they know its fresh. That is so unlike North America where we want everything in pretty packages.

Maha told us that most farmers will keep their animals on the bottom level of their house. The first level is for their living and every son eventually gets another level built on when they mature. Many houses are always in addition mode and usually not painted because if it is painted, it is considered finished and then they have to pay taxes.

Taxes are really low here. Public hospitals are run by the government and only charge very minimal fees. Doctor’s education is paid for but they are committed to giving some of their time/skills to the public hospitals after they graduate. People often have to wait for their care because there are so many people but there are also private hospitals that you pay more. Some organizations raise money and sponsor cheaper private hospitals.

There is a lot of garbage around. People even throw their garbage in the canals. Before the revolution, a French company had been hired to take away the garbage.

A student has to have good marks to get into public school here. If not they have to pay to go to private school.

Tourism is down so much because of the after effects of the revolution. It is even lower right now because it is August (low season) and Ramadan. Maha tells us that there really is not much crime here. I know that our family feel very safe.

It is really too bad that people get a misleading scary opinion of Egypt without really knowing the facts. If you look at it, there have been more crazy killings in North America (Scarborough Street Party, Colorado Movie theatre killings) in the last few months than here. It is sad to see all these people dependant on jobs from tourism, working at very quiet sites. Often there are more staff around than tourists.

From a tourist point of view, it is a great time to go. Great prices and no crowds.

Soon we arrived at Dashur where we first visited the red pyramid. Dashur is not as well known as Giza and is located in the desert near a military base. It was like we had the place to ourselves. Really gave you the feeling of the timelessnes of the pyramids whereas there is more of a touristy feel in Giza.

We walked up the many steps to enter the pyramid in its middle. The tunnel was about 4 feet high by about 3 feet wide. It was lit in places and descended at about a 45 degree angle. It went for about 65 metres before getting to empty burial chamber.

I say this like I did it, but soon after I entered the tunnel, I panicked and ran out. John and the boys crouched low and walked the whole thing.

We next went to the bent pyramid which was built at two different angles. This was closed to the public because it needs to be restored for safety purposes. One loan guy with a camel waited for someone to hire his camel for a ride.

We then drove to Memphis where there had been numerous temples and monuments. The most impressive monument was a really large one of Ramses the Second (Apparently, because he had over 100 children he is also known as Ramses the sexed.

We moved on to a carpet factory. The carpets were beautiful but we don’t have the space in our luggage for the cheaper carpets and cannot afford the silk ones (that take months and months to make by hand).

Sakkara was are next stop where we saw the step pyramid of King Zoser and walked through the entrance and corridor of columns of what is left of the walls this ancient burial site.

We couldn’t enter the pyramid or mastabas but it was still worth the visit.

We ended a tour at a lovely outdoor shaded restaurant surrounded by date trees. We were the only ones there. Maha told me that before tourism was down, it was hard to even get a spot in their parking lot. Another small group arrived shortly after us.

The food was great, freshly baked pita type bread, grilled beef and chicken, grilled eggplant, yogurt cucumber dip and a tahini dip….yum, yum. I also had fresh hisbiscus juice. Mmmmmm. Musicians played for us.

We followed a truck with an open back that had a donkey and a horse riding in it. The horse kept being thrown off balance and every now and then would kick out.

We travelled back to our hotel for naps, swims in the pool and packing because we leave right after our tour tomorrow for the overnight sleeper train to Aswan.

We were picked up at 8:30 for our Nile Dinner cruise. There were only four tables groups on this cruise so we had a front row seat. The show started off with two singers giving their rendition of “Feelings”. Then there were belly dancers and a fabulous whirling Dervish. We ended off by all dancing with the dancers…Cameron was sleeping at the table.

On the drive back, there was a flat bed truck filled with sand speeding beside us. There was actually a guy standing on top and shovelling the sand as it drove. Yikes.

There was even a billboard with a celebrity on it with suspenders. Looked suspiciously like an Egyptian Kevin Frankish from Breakfast tv.

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