Friday, 5 January 2007

In Egypt!!

We arrived in Cairo at midnight the night before last. We were amazed to see so many cars and people on the streets at that time of night. Cairo is an incredibly busy city - 20 Million people. We spent that first day getting ourselves to the Cairo Museum - we teamed up with a fellow Aussie who is on our tour and walked there. That day was an interesting experience. The roads are crazy busy - the driving is even worse than Italy, except everyone is much calmer - no road rage here. But trying to cross the roads is a baptism by fire, and quite scary to begin with. We made it to the museum, which is an enormous sprawling building, with 4 levels of security before you can get in. Inside, its is very full, lots of people, and very little labelling or organisation. But the contents are amazing and fascinating to look at, especially King Tut's sarcophagi etc. We then used our Lonely Planet guide to find a cafe for lunch, and had some local Egyptian food, which was quite nice. Apparently to Egyptians it's a dish usually eaten at births etc - special occasions. Everywhere we walked people stared at me - especially the women. I felt very self conscious, and by the end of the day it was wearing thin. Everyone assures me it was more the skin and hair colour, but I felt I should have been wearing a long dress and covering my hair. I had culture shock quite badly by the end of the day and just wanted to hide in my hotel room. That night we met our guide, and went out for dinner with him. We went to a bar with western food and music, which helped a bit, although it still took a great tour to Giza today to make me finally relax. Jason coped much better, but its also a bit easier being male here, I think. Today we went to Giza and saw the pyramids and the sphinx. They are amazing! The blocks are so huge - the smallest weighs 2 and a half ton. Just looking at them and imagining how they were made, wow...... We walked inside one of them. You walk doubled over down a steep ramp, and then up again, and come out in the burial chamber. There is not much to see, but it has an atmosphere, and we thought it was well worth going inside. To my horror, Jason had to jump in and lie in the burial area, when I wasn't looking. *shakes head*. What's worse - he got the other guys started, so then they all had to as well...he'll get us thrown out of Egypt at this rate. :) Our guide today was excellent, and he is an archaeologist working on current digs around the Pyramids. He was interesting and very informative, and had footage of a recent find to show us on his phone! A Mummy so well preserved it is still soft to touch. Ick! He also told us how to avoid all the various scams and hustles. Egyptians are a friendly people, and not aggressive at all. But they all seem to be trying to sell us something, even if its just help getting across the street. We learnt the Arabic for 'no thankyou' today - it works like a charm. They assume you have been around for awhile and leave you alone. Thank goodness - that contributed quite a bit to my stress levels dropping. It's like a shield. There are only 5 on our tour, all Aussies. A bit different from the last one, which had 47. We will be meeting up with 2 other small tours later though, and forming a larger group. Tonight we take the night train, heading for Luxor, 900km away. So, I better head off and get organised!!
Can you believe this is how close Cairo has grown to the Giza Plateau? This was taken from inside the Pizza Hut.... The wall in the foreground was only built relatively recently, as the barrier beyond which they are no longer allowed to build.

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