A little of THIS and a little of THAT

Initially I started this blog as a way of sharing my experiences overseas with those that were interested...however so much has happened over the last two years, including more travelling to foreign destinations, revelations of some kind or other, and experiences I thought others could learn from that I decided to mix it all up.

I hope that somewhere you'll find something that interests you and that you'll be able to learn from.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cairo, Egypt

It is the 15th of February, late in the morning, we’re on our second day in Egypt, just come back from a satisfying breakfast, Ron has got his feet up Egyptian style letting his food digest, the kids are watching ENGLISH TV, and here I am, trying to get my creative juices flowing. If only the balcony was a little warmer, I would be in heaven, but alas tomorrow we will be leaving for another short flight to Sharm El Sheikh, I’ll be sitting poolside only seconds from the Dead Sea, laptop in hand and will let my fingers do the talking for me.

We arrived in Cairo on Friday on a very uneventful and one of the best plane rides I have taken, I can almost say there was no turbulence, just a couple small bumps, the food was...well airplane food, but all in all not terrible, when we arrived, happily so did all our luggage and without waiting an hour for it, the drive to the hotel was uneventful and we settled in well, but wait a minute. Did we just break all the stereotypes of bad luck and Friday the 13th? Yes that’s right, we were travelling on the most unlucky day of the year, and yet somehow it seems as if everything was going right, and not just right, but near perfect. That is until we got the kids in the room and then all hell broke loose. Was it a full moon? Overtired, hungry, and excited makes for a very bad combination. All I wanted to do was sleep, and they wanted to do was explore the hotel room ...make that apartment we were staying at; it certainly did make up for the broom closet we stayed at in Rome. It was nearing on midnight, and food was on the agenda. After waiting a good 45 minutes for 4 sandwiches with 4 fries we learned that even in a busy tourist area, there is no pork, a club sandwich here consists of roast beef, chicken and egg, an interesting but still good combination. Nearly 1:00am, it was time for bed, up early for a very busy day exploring with our tour guide. We all let our dreams flee to Mr. Sandman in no time.

Our first full day in Egypt was just that FULL. It started with breakfast at 7:30 am after a shower, the museum where you learn to appreciate how intelligent, gifted, and artistic the Egyptians were, and a tour that could have lasted two days to view all the pieces that were adorned, a stop at the Papyrus museum to pick up some pictures, it was finally time to stop for lunch. On the menu was what I was meant to be eating, what I had come to Egypt for. Digging deep into my Lebanese roots were traditional appetizers from both Lebanon and Egypt, my meal, fresh fish from the Nile. All you could eat, and all natural foods. Oh and did I mention the view of the pyramids we had right outside our window. After our lunch break, it was time to get back on the road again, two minutes down the road we arrived at the main reason for our trip in the first place, and one of Ron’s dream. There are 119 pyramids in Egypt, all located along the Nile River and our journey had started with the biggest of them all, a wonder that even I was astonished with, as one could not even fathom the size, it was bigger and stood taller than one could ever imagine. Egypt was not one of my dreams, seeing the pyramids was not something I had wanted to do in my lifetime, but not doing so would be something I would have missed out on. Not as it was many years ago, the roads leading up to another stack of this worlds large wonders was paved, we hopped in our tour guides van and off we went to discover what the inside of what one of these marvels look liked. The climb down was steep, dark, and you could only imagine how one could work let alone build such a stucture.

I wanted the kids to experience everything they could while in this vast dessert land, including riding a camel with the pyramids in the background, little did I know that Ron was negotiating for all of us, myself included to hop onto one of these creatures who didn’t seem the most friendly. So $100, 4 people, 3 camels, pyramids in the background, a half hour later and with much screaming and pleading from me; I swear I thought the camel was going to drop me and Anthony on our ass; we had our own PRICELESS moment.

I almost wish I could say our day was finished at this point, but it still included a trip to the Egyptian cotton store, where I managed to persuade Ron that Wal-Mart brand really was good enough, a trip to the Sphinx, and a long drive to the market, or Souk, much like the one I attended while in Dubai. A half hour there though was not nearly enough, and I’m walking away from Cairo with nothing but a small set of perfume bottles, that I’m not really sure why I bought other than; they’re pretty. It is not until the next day that I am informed that there is an even better market at the resort that we’ll be staying at.

So sometimes plans just don’t go as planned as was the case our second day in Cairo. Our plan was to wake up, eat breakfast and go for a walk along the Nile, find somewhere to eat lunch, finish our day at the pool once it warmed up, and head to the Hard Rock for dinner. We made it about as far as just down the street from our hotel, barely along the Nile walk path when our adventurous plans for the day were foiled. Now I’ll try and be as diplomatic as possible, which is really hard for me to do at this point as I’m beginning to see certain things through eyes of experience rather than being naive, as I usually am, someone who’s never been anywhere before.

We quickly realized again that we were tourists, out of place. Even in a tourist trap that houses the pyramids, we are still in a Muslim country where they don’t welcome women aren’t fully covered, regardless of how little you’re showing. Men and women both stare, mock, laugh, and even occasionally whistle when a “westerner”, or more specifically a “western woman” walks by in capri’s and a t-shirt. Fine, I don’t really care so much about it, they’re not use to it and have their own beliefs; although my feelings are that we all have our differences and beliefs and I’m accepting of differences in other people and their cultures. The old saying goes if we were all the same it would be a pretty boring world, although it seems as always there is always someone who thinks they are better than everyone else. As this has turned into a little rant I will turn it back to our foiled plans, our walk ended early not because of the rudeness (opps there I go again) and indifference to some, but rather because of a few hood rats who were so closely eyeing Robbie’s camera and kept following us. Every time we stopped, they stopped, until Ron finally gave them a clear look that we knew what they were up to and they moved on, unfortunately at this point our plans were ruined, Ron was irritated, and we headed back to our hotel where we took a early and very cold dip in the pool. We thought we could escape some of the culture at lunch in the hotel, as breakfast the last couple days had been quiet, I put on a skort, and we headed down to the hotel restaurant only to find it filled to capacity minus one table with ...well let’s say less than enthusiastic opinions of western culture. Our time in Egypt although a learning experience with arts and architecture was less than impressive or comfortable in any other way. If a visit to the pyramids for one is a must, than one day is all you need.

Cairo had nothing to offer, pretty at night as the mosques were lit and Nile adorned with lighted boats, but once the sun rose, and the smog lifted it was dirty and dreary, the only good things I could personally find was the natural and fresh foods and the fact that tourists were well taken care of in all the major attractions as there are tourist police upon all entries and all the hotels have police and security with dogs, all cars are sniffed before being allowed to go past the gate, and all people must walk through metal detectors before entering the hotel.
Alas we still have a full week at the resort, more to come on that later.

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