Adventures at home, abroad, and online

Tag: Egypt

The People Demand the Fall of the Regime

Before leaving the continent, I decided to go see my old friend Jared who’s now based in Cairo. It’s the three year anniversary of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, so there are sure to be stories to cover.

Day 14 – Cairo

We left the hotel intending to take a bus to the Pyramids, but getting to the depot near Midan Tahrir, it was too confusing for that early in the morning, so we relented and paid too much for a taxi. It was an exciting ride, as the drivers in Cairo pay no attention to traffic laws, if any even exist. Lanes, lights, and pedestrians, all are mere figments of the imagination to the Cairo driver. Judicious use of the horn and vulgar language smoothed our transit. We learned many good Arabic swears from Itai in Israel, but are afraid to use them in Egypt, because their use would surely result in our immediate and painful death. Ask me for useful examples, which will pepper my language upon my return to the Western world.


GeoBear at the Pyramids

It was hot as ever at the Pyramids, but the excitement of walking around the only remaining ancient wonder made the experience more bearable. We entered into one of the side pyramids made for Khufu’s queen; it was hot and humid, not unlike a sauna, and entirely unremarkable inside. We chose not to stand in line to repeat the experience. A friendly man hanging out with the guards offered to show us some newly excavated tombs, and I agreed without consulting the group. I expected that it would cost some baksheesh, but thought it would be worth it for the experience. He took us far from other tourists, showing us the tomb of the engineer who directed the construction, and that of his family. He reminded us that taking pictures was not allowed, but he would let it be our secret. Then he staged cheesy photographs of us, the Care Bear, and the pyramids behind. These seemed ridiculous at the time, but were totally worth it in retrospect. Then, when we were out of sight of anyone else, he asked for 300 Egyptian pounds, or around $60. This was really out of our price range, and I made a counter offer of L100. He was appalled at my lack of consideration for him and his friends, and he reminded me that this price was for the whole group, not just per person. How generous. We dithered back and forth, and finally convinced him that we are just poor students, and while we appreciated his time, we could only give him L150. He then tried to give us our money back if we were unsatisfied, putting us in the position of demanding that he take at leas some money. Very smart, this guy. We got out of there a little bit poorer, perhaps no wiser but a whole lot more wary.



We had lunch at Groppi’s coffee shop in Sharia Talaat Harb. The food was mediocre and the service painfully slow, but the airconditioning and ambience were wonderful. Then we staggered around the museum, completely exhausted and overwhelmed by the trove of treasures lying about with little explanation. The building itself is from the 1850’s, and the exhibits don’t seem to have been updated since. We did see some excellent animal mummies, including a 25 foot long crocodile, an enormous fish, and a pensive monkey. King Tut’s tomb was on tour, but the man himself and some of his bling was still there. That dude had gold coverings for each of his fingers, putting fitty cent to shame.

After a nap, we went out for dinner. The first place we tried informed us that they only serve liver and brains. I was unaware that such a diet existed; in any case we passed on such culinary delights. The owner did reccomend a spot where we could get some vegetables for Kali. The place seemed nice enough, with clean tables and excellent music videos on the tele. I ordered stuffed pigeon, as it seemed the thing to do, and certainly less adventurous than liver and brains. It was tasty and filling, but my stomach reacted poorly. At least everyone else got sick too, so it was probably the restaurant as a whole and not just my order.

We walked and shopped through the evening, and met a man named Mohammed (it seems like everyone’s name is Mohammed), who spoke excellent English and was exceedingly friendly. He works at the Museum, and offered to help Jared find a phone to deal with the bank that ate his card. After our experience being ripped off twice today, we were understandably wary when he asked us to accompany him to his cousin’s perfume shop. Everyone’s cousin owns a shop they’re delighted to show you. As the cousin put an aphrodisiac perfume on Kali’s arm that is intended to keep the husband up all night (we are married for the week), we decided it was time to go. We extracted ourselves as delicately as possible, but he seemed genuinely offended. I don’t think he was trying to scam us, and really just wanted to practice English, but we don’t have the money to be scammed three times a day. What a city!

Day 13 – Cairo


Sand Covered Highway

We woke in the morning to another blistering day, and made the decision to go further south. We took a taxi to the Egyptian border, singing along with the driver to “Forever Young.” We meant to catch a bus from there to Cairo but were conviced by an official, in his unofficial job as a hotel tout, to take a taxi. After some meagerly successful haggling, we got into his man’s car and sped off. And I do mean sped; we drove through the narrow canyons in the left lane on blind curves while the driver laughed gleefully. When sand covered one lane in the Sinai, we drove in the other. This was not confidence inspiring. He spoke some English, or at least enough to ask for more money, which we did not intend to agree to, but he misconstrued my response. Somehow “we’ll see when we get there” became “I’ll pay whatever you ask.” When we got to Cairo, he pulled aside an obliging police officer to help his side of the argument. We paid almost what he asked, just so he would go away. Welcome in Egypt, as they say.

Hotel Luna is a wonderful respite from the heat and bustle of the city. Situated on one of the upscale shopping streets, nestled between a watch and shoe store, up a rickety elevator, it’s a truly Romantic place. We went to dinner at Gad Diner, which serves excellent fast food, and apparently delivers. An unfriendly ATM ate Jared’s bank card, setting up a whole litany of money issues. The lesson here is, don’t put your card into machines that are not attached to banks, so you always have someone to yell at.

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