28
Apr
06

Egypt

We arrived in Cairo rather tired. We paid three times the going rate for a taxi to the once-upon-a-time-lovely Cosmopolitan Hotel. Two porters assisted us up a lift which was as old as time, and both expected a tip. Welcome to Egypt! Overservicing and the expectation of Baksheesh (tip).

There was a helpful tourist/concierge type person who sat chain-smoking in his office at the hotel. He helped us out with a Sound and Light show at the pyramids so Anna gave him a Furry Friend chocolate – can’t remember the animal (thanks Dings). Our first day otherwise was a lagged blur. We fell asleep in the museum once and also at the light show at the pyramids (even though they had a bagpipe band there!!!).

There are guards everywhere in Cairo. The first day they were wearing black, the second day white. We speculated on the reasons for the change but were way out. It turns out white is for summer, black for winter and the seasons had just changed. The guards are generally sleeping or close to it with an AK47 slung over their shoulder. I think National Service includes police work so they aren’t the motivated type. The guns were ancient!

Cairo and Egypt in general is smoky, smelling of diesel and camel and donkey droppings, there is litter everywhere and lots of “rubble”. Lots of it. There are unfinished buildings with metal bars jutting out the top promising more levels to be added. Apparently finished buildings attract more tax so go figure!

Whilst the place is over-crowded and intense, the people are very open and return your smile – more than you can say for Melbourne. Everyone is very helpful. Once our taxi stalled. The driver yelled out the window and a young bloke came over to help him roll start instantly. Just one example.

Taxi drivers yell out to you and toot their horns for business. Traders in the local souqs come up and greet you with “Hello”, “Welcome” or “Where (You) From?” We usually answer “Australia” or “No Thankyou!!!”. A fellow traveller, Frank, would asnwer “Tasmania” just to confuse.

In a strange way, the best bits of travel sometimes are the harder parts. And breakfast in Middle East is not one of its finer points. If I see one more bloody boiled egg!!! And everything is saturated in sugar or oil. Bah! Hehe.

Most Scary Moment
Bus Driver driving a mini-bus 160km/hour to Abu Simbel. I knew it was trouble when I jumped in the bus and he was sleeping at the wheel before we’d even started. The bus driver to Mt. Sinai also almost fell asleep!

Best Chill Outs:
Cataract Hotel in Aswan – drinking juice at sunset with a view of the Nile
Felucca Day – a day spent sailing on the Nile.
Sinai – Sitting on the beach drinking strawberry juice.

Best Meet-the-locals:
Mr Sams House in Luxor. The family put on a big meal and we got to chat to his daughters about life as a muslim female in Egypt.

Weirdest Moment:
Tony, our brit co-traveller, telling me about a disturbing festival in the Cotswolds involving rolling cheese down a hill and chasing it! 🙂

Favourite Food:
Kushari – a mixture of Rice, Pasta, Lentils, Tomato sauce. Also cost less than one Aussie dollar.

Most Middle-East Sexist Moment:
Anna’s white tops turned pink after the laundry effort at the Victoria Hotel in Cairo. When she went to reception the men refused to take her seriously and laughed at her. The laughter died down somewhat when we refused to pay for our laundry!! Take that! No-one messes with Anna.

… more to follow

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