Egypt Day 4: Sir, Yours is the Nicest Camel

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After oversleeping terribly the day before we decided to have room service deliver breakfast to our room at 7 am. We opted for the continental breakfast plus muesli, thinking some nice crunchy cereal would be tasty with our coffee and rolls. Turns out the Muesli at the Le Meridien Pyramids is not the same as the Muesli we'd eaten in Europe. It was this wonderful concoction of what I can ony assume was whipped cream with fruit buried in it. There may have been a few crunchy bits in there, but really it was primarily a bowl of whipped cream. Mmm, mmm, good.

After our breakfast of champions we hit the lobby to take a cab to the Pyramids. It turns out the drivers at the Meridien do not like to act as cabbies. When we got to the Pyramids (turns out they were close enought to walk to) the driver wanted to give us a 3 hour tour (a 3 hour tour) driving us from Pyramid to Pyramid and then take us back. When we politely said no thank you (they are definitely spaced close enough to walk between) he indignantly asked how we were going to get back. He seemed rather surprised when we replied that we would walk.

First stop was the Great Pyramid of Khufu. It was enormous, and amazing to behold. There was just this sense of awe at the human achievement that had stood the test of time so long. You also got a real feel of the connection of humanity, how through the millenia man has always had some very clever people doing some amazing things.

Sadly, the awe of the Great Pyramid was quickly replaced by frustration and a certain sadness. There are hordes of random people coming up to you constantly giving you 'presents' since you are their 'friend' and then asking for 'presents' (money) in return. They are incredibly aggressive and follow you around. You can't even take a picture in peace, they run into the photo, and then want money for being in it. It's sad because then you become irritable and withdrawn, and wind up being mean to perfectly nice people who aren't trying to get anything from you.

For example, after wandering a bit taking pictures this man came up to Grant and asked him for a picture. Grant started to walk off and the man looked confused, at which point we realized that he was traveling alone and just wanted us to take his picture for him with his camera (something we normally wouldn't have shied away from). Luckily, we realized it quickly, appologized, and took his picture for him. But it just made me sad, it's hard to tell the difference between the hustlers and the normal people.

The hustlers are incredibly obnoxious. Due to our concerns with being Americans in the Middle East Grant began telling people we were Canadians from Vancouver (figured we've been there enough to be able to bluff our way through it). Everyone that heard we were from Canada then said 'Canada Dry, never die. Canada number 1.', before trying to give us things we ddn't want. Grant, being more tolerant of this than I am, was still answering them when they'd talk to us and wound up getting us 2 small carved scarabs and a picture with the guy who gave them to us, for about 5 pounds.

The Tourist Police are odd. Once we saw them agressively drag one of these hustlers out of the area fighting with him all the way. But most of the time they were trying to garner their own baksheesh from you for pointing things out to you. After we had our fill of photos we bought our tickets into the Great Pyramid (100 pounds each) and went to what we thought was the opening. Some men were standing around and started talking to us. They said, hey, come here. They took us part way in the opening and then said they'd take our picture. They took us farther in and took another picture of us. All of this cost us, of course. Then they lead us out. They never asked for tickets to go in, so we assumed this was not the main entrance. After walking out and consulting our guide book we discovered it was the entrance, so back up we went. We handed them our tickets, and reluctantly handed over our cameras (the guide book was very wrong, you cannot take your camera in for any price). Into the tiny shaft we climbed. All the side rooms were closed, so we only got to see the main chamber. It was still impressive to stand inside the Great Pyramid though. Climbing back down the shaft was quite the pain, but we came out no worse for wear (well, except for the giant blister I could feel burning on my heel).

We left the Great Pyramid and wandered around the Queen's Pyramids next to it. The camel drivers offering rides were obnoxious too, thought Grant put off one of them by telling him no thank you, but 'Sir, your is the nicest camel I've seen'. It was true too this particular one was nice looking.

Sick and tired of the hustlers Guillermo y Maria de Guadalajara were born. Grant and I took to speaking Spanish exclusively when we were in earshot of the hustlers and camel riders. Other than one horse driver, who I had to firmly repeat 'no gracias' to, as he did speak Spanish, this worked even better. It was also a nice chance to teach Grant some more Spanish.

We wandered down to the Sphinx and had a moment of annoyance, followed by concern, when we thought we needed a separate ticket to go in the Sphinx as well. After all, we didn't know where the Sphinx ticket booth was. Luckily it was the same ticket as we used to get into the 'park', so we wandered in and checked it out up close, well, almost close. Turns out he's got a tail! I guess it makes sense, but neither of us had realized it before that.

After the Sphinx we wandered around the outside of the other two Pyramids and opted not to go into the other one that was open (my heel was hurting and it was getting really hot). We instead headed for the solar barque museum behind the Great Pyramid.

This was another amazing stop on the trip. Back in 1954 archeologists found the 1200 pieces of the Pharaoh's solar barque (an enormous ceremonial boat that may have been used to bring the Pharoah's body across the Nile to his tomb, then buried to provide him transport in the next world) in a pit behind the Great Pyramid. It was reassembled and now sits in the museum. They are so careful with this boat you have to wear shoe covers when you go into the museum to keep the outside sand from coming in.

The barque is in the middle of the huge room and you walk around it on three different levels. The ground level (when you're under it) is built around the pit it was dug from. There are displays with bits and pieces found with the boat, including some of the original ropes. Staring at the ropes (which are really just thick pieces of yarn you know) I once again felt that strong connection to humanity. Millenia ago fibers were twisted together and used in the same way we're still using them today. There's a definite sense of satisfaction, for me, in practicing a craft that goes back through the ages.

After the solar barque we called it a day and walked back to our hotel. Along the way we passed the Mena House, a wonderful old Giza hotel. It was a turn of the century hunting lodge that was turned into a luxury hotel. We popped in to make dinner reservations for the Moghul Room for that night (touted as one the best restaurants in Cairo).

Once back at the hotel we hit the pool for some rest and some snacks (dinner wasn't until 9:30 pm, in true Egyptian fashion). The pool was excellent, though it was a bit hard to get chairs. We splashed about a bit, got a little sun, and went back to the room to get cleaned up and take a nap.

Running late, we took a cab up to the Mena House for dinner. Wine was WAY over priced ($100 US for a bottle we'd pay $30 for in the US), so we had mango lahssi instead. As these were the best I've ever had anywhere, it was a wise choice. The food was excellent (best naan I've had anywhere too), though a bit spicy for me thanks to Grant encouraging the waiter to make everything extra spicy. We had Turkish coffee and a dessert which I can only describe as the Indian equivalent of a donut hole filled with cream cheese and smothered in a sugar syrup. Yummy!

As we weren't in a hurry to get back to the hotel, and the night was warm, we walked back. This really tried my patience as EVERY single taxi that drove by us honked and slowed down trying to pick us up. Hello, I'm not daft, if I'd wanted a taxi ride I would be standing, not walking, and waving you down. Luckily only Grant was in earshot of my more colorful comments regarding these persistent drivers.

Back at the hotel Grant convinced me we should hit the sheesha bar, by the pool, for a water pipe and some tea. Loving tea, and not minding the smell of the sweet apple smoke, I agreed. I must admit, Grant even finally convinced me to try it out for myself. It was okay, I certainly didn't mind it, but I don't see myself becoming a regular sheesha smoker. Still, it was a wonderful Middle Eastern experience sitting on cushions, smoking the water pipe and drinking tea. It was worth it for that feeling.

After such a full day it was definitley time for bed. We hit the room and turned in for the night. Check out Grant's blog for Day 5:Old and Busted vs. The New Sickness.



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Christina said:

You two are doing such a great job of storytelling I almost feel like I'm on the trip with you. I've always wanted to go to Egypt and now I get to "go" there through you. Please keep the entries coming!

~ Christina

Dad said:

You two sound like you are having a ball! aren't all the "tour guides" a pain! Great reading of your adventures, can't wait for the next episode...and, what, no Swarmas?

Amy said:

I love reading about your amazing trip! I didn't think about what kind of cuisine you'd find in Egypt and was a little suprised that it would be Indian - one of my favorites. The dessert you described sounds like gulaab jamun, which you can find at Indian restaurants here in the Bay Area too, but without the cream filling - sounds even better that way!

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This page contains a single entry by published on June 19, 2005 11:10 AM.

Egypt Day 2: Wooden Shoes and Prostitutes was the previous entry in this blog.

Egypt Day 6: Goodbye, Cairo; Hello, Severe Injury and Illness. is the next entry in this blog.

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