Tuesday, February 15, 2011


TODAY: An interesting note for those that watch the news; those horses & camels that we witnessed racing through Tahrir Square last week were normally entertaining the tourist around the pyramids in Giza! Several of the riders were severely injured during the mad dash through the center of the demonstrators. Since we have visited Egypt they have nearly completed a new Museum in Giza (across the river from Cairo) that will house many of the treasurers from the Cairo Museum which is jammed packed today with antiquities; not taking the place of the old one but provide space to exhibit more of the artifacts owned by the government. So far…the violence has stopped in Cairo and they have agreed to honor existing treaties with other countries.

On Valentine’s Day hundreds of Egyptian tour guides gathered near the pyramids to plead with tourists to return to Egypt. "Tourism is like a delicate bird, it flies off at the slightest sound. But there's nothing to fear here, quite the contrary," insisted 37-year-old guide Hazem Hashem.

Monday: November 21st, 2005 VISITING THE GIZA PYRAMIDS….

The alarm woke us up at 8 am and we hurried to breakfast as we had to meet the group in the lobby at 9:15 am for our first day of touring. Weather is overcast; actually had light sprinkles during the day off and on. Not enough for umbrellas. Rita said that the weather is very unusual today. This is their autumn and you see lots of coats on the Egyptians. I realized that I’d left my coat in the room so I made due with my large black scarf in my backpack…that worked fine as a shawl.

Our first stop was walking distance to our hotel at the Giza Pyramids. There we walked around two of the three and toured the Solar Boat. This is a full size boat that was found buried next to the Great Pyramid of Cheops. That Pyramid was built around 2,600 B.C. and stands some 450 feet tall. It took them ten years to reconstruct the entire boat. It was built by using ropes to hold the wood together. They found traces of salt in the wood indicating that the king had actually used this boat to sail in the sea. It was buried there after it was used to carry the pharaoh’s mummy across the Nile to Memphis (now Cairo) a millennia ago to provide transport for the king in the next world. Boats are always found buried with the kings but they are usually small models only.

Outside the solar boat we experienced our first vendors. Very persistent people; they constantly ask you questions and imply that their goods are “free”. They try to hand things to you; then if you accept the item they start to negotiate. Rita said not to pay their price and usually you can go down from 50 to 90% of initial price given. Jim had two Arabic headdresses and postcards in his hands by the time we entered. Rita said….they will expect you to purchase them when we exit. If you don’t want to buy and they put items in your hands…just drop the item on the ground and they will leave you alone. Jim purchased the items as we left. They put the headdresses on us. By the time we left the area; four different vendors had taken it off my head and put it back on while they talked to me. Are you American? What is your name? My name is Jimmy Schmit or sometimes they give their Arabic name. Then say something like “hi oh Silver” or some other English TV or movie term. From there they either tried to sell you something or ask to take your photo…then they expect to be paid about $1.00. Nothing is free. Toilet paper is handed to you on the way in and you are expected to pay one Egyptian pound. If there is no one collecting fees at the entrance…you will not find any paper in the toilets.

Then we went by bus to see the Sphinx. Afterwards we met at the cafeteria and enjoyed a Mango drink before boarding the bus for our next stop. We have elected not to attend the Light Show tonight as we will have another opportunity in Aswan. That will be on the Temple as opposed to the one on the Pyramids tonight. We decided we needed a good nights sleep more than the show. Dinner is on our own tonight and we’re going to enjoy some of the food we brought from home. I think we’ll be using it for snacks as so far the food here is very good.

Our lunch was held at a local restaurant in Cairo. Walking in we watched them BBQ the chickens on open grills and the woman were baking the pieta bread in open ovens. There were lots of flies everywhere. This restaurant was open-air and very pretty. We were served oranges for desert…hard to peel as we only had a table knife to use. Fresh fruit we’re told is a very common dessert in Egypt.

The afternoon was spent touring Saqqara. We saw the step pyramid of Zoser; looked inside the two holes where we saw a copy of limestone statue of Zoser (the original is in the Cairo Museum), the bent pyramid and then went inside of another pyramid. To enter the tombs inside we had to walk down a long ramp bent at the waist, as it was very narrow and short. Inside we found three rooms; two of them had carvings still on the walls. Some people felt very claustrophobic while inside.

Back on the bus we made a stop at a Carpet School. This was out in the countryside so that children could be trained there to continue the custom and also learn a trade for income without having to travel into the city. There were beautiful silk and wood carpets on display. All of the weavers were following a pattern to create their rugs except one fellow in his twenties who was actually creating a custom design as he weaved his rugs. He was an artist and his rugs were priced at over a thousand dollars each. A few people purchased small rugs.

We were tired and happy to stay at the hotel when we arrived back about 6 pm. Traffic was very heavy in Cairo. We’ve discovered that they have no rules of the road. Everyone drives reasonably; no signs of road rage. Horn honks were “gentle” and there are absolutely no left turns at any time. If necessary the driver goes blocks out of their way to make a u-turn to get back to where he can then turn right on his street. After dark the drivers do not use their headlights unless there are no street lights. When necessary, the drivers start using the reverse lanes if traffic is too heavy. Really crazy sometimes; even Jim admits that he would not like driving here!

The light show at the Pyramids was beautiful and I've included a few photos for you to enjoy. But we enjoyed a few extra hours of sleep by staying home this evening.

No comments: