Friday, May 13, 2011

What a Trip - Cairo Time

I'm picking up right where I left off in this post, so for the casual reader you might want to skim back to find out all about our first days in Egypt spent in Luxor! Back in Cairo, we felt the effects of the rain showers the previous day when our car ride to Giza which should take about 25 minutes took 2 1/2 hours! Inching along in a not so well air conditioned car (Bob and Paul's seats actually had heat streaming out of their floor vents!), the drive was anticipation multiplied!

We started out in Memphis where we stopped at an outdoor museum and saw a few more statues before heading to the pyramids. 2 good bits of trivia:
1. If the statue's beard is longer and curled up, it means the statue was made of the person after they were dead. Now I'm reading online that the phallic look of it was also meant to hope for fertility in the after life.
2. The fists were balled to make bigger arm muscles. I say, you have control of how you make a statue - just ask for bigger muscles!
Next up was a quick trip to Sakkara to see some of the first pyramids ever created. We even got to go inside one at this location, though one may argue what we went inside looked less like a pyramid and more like a pile of dirt. Lesson learned: not all pyramids are perfect and that's okay. Although you are not supposed to take photos inside, a little tip to the guide goes a long way. Check out the wall, aren't these in perfect condition? How does that happen!!
The step pyramid, in the background, was under restoration so we could not get too close. Stray dogs everywhere.
One of the good things for us/sad things for our tour guide was the lack of tourism that they are still fighting to come back from. A parking lot that might have been filled only had one or two cars in them. This helped me in snapping pics that were not filled with other people snapping pics.
On our way to Giza to see the real deal! It actually got pretty windy and cool, and even sprinkled a little. Not what I expected at all when we signed up for this trip - I was convinced I was going to come back beet red! We were able to climb up the Great Pyramid a little bit of a ways and could have paid to go inside, but we figured we would save our pounds as our guide let us in on what little you would see inside.
We drove up to a viewing point, again the lack of tour vans and buses made for great shots. I like this one because the pyramid on the far end has three little pyramids representing the king's wives. Ladies certainly do get the short end of the stick, don't they?
Of course, the visit would not be complete without the Great Sphinx! Here she is in all of her noseless beauty:
After all this, we stopped at a Papyrus Museum to learn how the paper is made and why the super cheap ones sold on the side of the roads are not quite up to snuff (can you say Banana Leaves?). Here is Bob trying to break the papyrus plant. Tougher than it looks, this stuff.
We spent probably a good hour in the museum looking for the perfect art to buy for both gifts and ourselves. We settled on a wide piece that tells the story of Final Judgment. You can read the story here. We are waiting until we move to get this baby framed.
The next day we toured Coptic Cairo (the oldest part of Cairo and the Christian Center) as well as the Muslim section of town. In Coptic Cairo, the biggest draw is the Suspended or Hanging Church. One of the oldest churches in Egypt, it was built over a passage of a Roman fortress.
When we arrived in the Muslim center, I took a look at this mosque and though to myself, "that looks like just like the Blue Mosque in Istanbul!" Turns out it was modeled after the Blue Mosque. Talk about Deja Vu!
After a long day of walking, we put our feet up for a sunset cruise on a Nile Felucca ride. A felucca is the traditional sailboat of Egypt. I was reading about Nile tours that could last days on these boats. I'd only be there for an hour and a half.
A relaxing end to the day!
Had to share this shot of the local flavor. I was very confused when we first got Stellas at a bar and were told they were a local beer. Ohhh, not Stella Artois, now I get it!

Finally, with our last night in Cairo, we went out to have some fun walking around the shopping markets and hookah bars (or sheesha or water pipe). I did not partake considering I was fighting off a cold that would only get worse as the trip continues. I don't think the bar helped my cough much.
And just like that we were over and done with as Egyptian travellers. We said goodbye to our travel companians (who were on their way to South Africa after this!) and made our way to Italy. . .but that is for another post!