Well after going straight from Tallahassee to Memphis to New York we finally made it to Cairo or K a H a R a H as it is called an Arabic. They got us through customs after we purchased visa stamps for $45 with no problems, they didn’t ask us any questions or even take our pictures. At the airport, Beck and I put on our headscarves. Everyone was very impressed we were wearing them. A guard at the airport started yelling at Beck. We though she had done something wrong but he just wanted to find Egypt on the map on her bag.
Driving from the airport to the hotel we saw many plants just like in Florida (like flamboyants and bougainvillea). And yes, it’s true, they do smush five lanes of traffic into three lanes – but seem to have mastered the technique. On the way we stopped at the unknown soldiers grave which was also where Anwar Sadat was assassinated when my parents were little kids. The grave is always guarded by guards in uniform with knives, swords, and guns, and two folks dressed up as Pharaohs. We got to the Hilton early because the flight was early. So we had an hour to wait before room was ready. Beck and I decided to go shopping in the local downtown while waiting. Well, when Hamdy told us not to cross the street – he wasn’t kidding. How scary a task! We had to wait till others scampered across so we could follow them and avoid death by car. Although Beck and I both had our hair covered – all the people the knew we weren’t locals. Nobody bothered us too much, just trying to sell items and such. We purchased a $15 dress and $6 shoes. Other highlights from wandering include a cat missing skin and fur on half of his face, the size of these cats – so tiny – and a nice sales girl who helped us read the numbers. We had a lot of trouble understanding prices. Numbers are read left to right there. They are Indian numbers, who knows why.
Linton wanted to go swimming when we returned but it was dark. So after much deliberation we went to eat at a restaurant called Falafel where Beck and I were invited to play the zills with the musician. Linton and I went to the casino to see if they sold dice… No die. We played the slot machines by putting in one quarter, and then pressing return coin – and then we pretended we won! Back in our room, what a view – the nile down below and the pyramids off in the distance. Beneath our hotel a man kept a herd of goats on his roof. What an exhausting day 1!
On day 2 we went to the Museum and learned all about Egypt. No cameras allowed which made it a lot easier to see the important pieces. Rania was an excellent guide and she knew much history. She said that when she was little she would come to museum during school to study artifacts. Rania, is the niece of Mr. Hamdy. She is a mother of two and is married to a dentist (he does laser dentistry routinely). They live about an hour outside of Cairo, where it is quieter (Cairo is pulsing day and night). There they have two acres with many citrus trees. Rania’s children are named Aysil (turkish name) and Mohammed. She is an Egyptologist and it is her uncle who inspired her to study the dead languages: hieroglyphics, heiratic, and coptic. She was our guide in Cairo. She took us through the museum. Some highlights include King Tut’s treasures, Akenaten (distorted man) statues, and we got to see a backgammon set that was from Ramses II Tomb. We paid extra to see the mummys. They still had their toenails, eyelashes, and teeth. The image of the first one I saw is burned into my brain. We also paid extra to use the bathroom – even though the sign said no tipping.
Most people in the service industry here speak some English, so as long as you keep it simple there is no difficulty. When you deviate from the expected, there is a problem. Everyone wants to know our names and what country we are from. The hotel has bomb sniffing dogs and metal detectors but they are ignored for the most part. A lot of people have jobs, but don’t really seem to be doing much. After the museum, Beck and I went to the citadel to go to the mosque. Original carpets and lamps were still in use. The mosque is near the quarry that was used for the pyramids. The citadel is much like an Alcazar. We really enjoyed seeing the children there, also on a tour. After, we made it to the souk, or bazaar, the Khan el Khalili. Rania and I both marveled at beck’s bargaining skills. Dinner was Indian food at the hotel.
Some funny things to note: There are many guards with rifles! Boys hold hands with other boys and they’re not gay. The airport has a pile of broken planes near the runway, it’s disheartening. Children like to get their picture taken with us because we are white. Rababa is the 2 stringed coconut instrument that they use to accompany story telling. It cannot rain in Egypt because of the river and sea. Egypt is called MASA [MISR] in arabic.