April 3, 2009
Perhaps the most inspiring day of the whole trip was my first full day in Cairo. Was it the history? Was it the pyramids I had longed to see? No…more to come on that later!
I was able to have a fairly long rest before meeting my tour guide for the day – Mohamed. I had Hassan again as my driver, which was comforting. In the morning, Mohamed was very polite and I was probably very quiet – still in search for a country that appreciates the beauty of a morning cup of coffee before throwing tourists into the sightseeing circuit!
We started with the Egyptian Museum. Now, I’m no lover of museums and this museum was huge! I was a bit concerned as we began, but Mohamed very effectively guided me to the highlights and important statues to be seen. Of course, I may have missed something amazing, but 45-minutes was beautiful! I got to see the artifacts taken from King Tut’s tomb including the famous head piece, sarcophagus, etc. It was quite impressive. I could have spent 100EP more to see his mummified body, but it wasn’t really worth that to me, so I got to see mummified animals instead! YUCK! 😀
From the museum we moved to lunch. Now, this was the first day and I didn’t know what to expect. Mohamed first said he could take me somewhere for about 80EP, that’s $14! So, I said, no no, I wanted to eat for at least half that price. He said he could take me somewhere and I ended up at a buffet place, which honestly I think was probably the same place for both prices!!! Anyway, the food was nice, but I don’t need a buffet meal!
After lunch, we headed to the Papyrus Institute. First point of interest is pronunciation. In my part of America, we say pa-pie-rus. In Egypt, they say pa-pi-rus. Perhaps something only a dorky English teacher would point out…. Anyway, I was shown the process for making papyrus: take the plant and peel away the hard outer shell, roll out the moisture, soak in water for about six days for the lighter color to remove the sugar, lay out in a grid pattern and press for another few days to remove the remaining moisture and you end up with flexible and lovely papyrus paper! Fascinating, eh? Of course, after the demonstration, I was shown the artwork done on the papers showing replications of hieroglyph stories and I fell in love with two pictures. One was simple with the lotus plant, papyrus plant and another flowering plant with birds flying over the top to symbolize love, happiness and long-life. The other was the image of King Tut’s proposal to his wife with a similar theme. They were both a bit expensive… so…I wandered and looked at other options. But, the colors in the latter image were vibrant and I fell in love with it. So…yes, I bought it! Now…I have to find a frame and wall for it….
From the institute we headed to the main attraction – the Giza Pyramids. All the images and expectations of my visit to Egypt came to this moment. 3 massive pyramids and the sphynx!
It was…amazing. I went down into a tomb, which was not a highlight, but I got a sense of how serious the tomb raiders were to get the valuable items. 😀
I did try to ride a camel. The pictures will make it seem that I had a great experience on the animal, but don’t let that fool you! I really wasn’t interested in riding one, but of course everyone said that is the thing to do. But, I live in a desert now, so I can ride a camel when I get the urge…but we had extra time, so…I agreed to have a short ride. The animals are TALL! A young boy guided the camel and took my photos. After asking for baksheesh, and being told I had no money – I really had no money on me due to Mohamed’s advice. Then,
Boy asks, “You want to gallop?”
I say, “No”
Boy whips camel and camel gallops.
I say “NO!”
Boy slows camel. Boy walks camel in same short patch of sound two more times.
Boy asks, “You want to gallop?” with a grin.
I say, “NO!”
Boy whips camel and camel gallops.
I start to fall off the side of the camel barely holding on to the horn shouting, “NO!”
Boy stops and asks, “You happy?”
I glare at boy and say “NO! Take me back.”
Boy takes me back.
The guide and camel owner wonder what is wrong. I explain I want OFF THE DAMN CAMEL! They let me off and I just say I want to go. Of course, they want to know why I am unhappy. I’m thinking why did I not trust my own instincts on this one? So, I briefly explain to Mohamed who translates to camel owner who says in English, “the boy no understand English”. I laugh and say, “He understands NO”. Mohamed tried to get me back on the camel and though it is against his religion to have me touch him in the manner it would be required to ride a camel together, he offered to ride the camel together with him. I said, “No, thank you, I’m done.”
Mohamed felt terrible for me after that, but I quickly shrugged it off as my first and last camel ride experience. I’m not really an animal person anymore…the farm upbringing clearly had no effect on me! 😀
We continued the tour and went to a Perfume Palace where I got to try different essences and replications of brand name colognes/perfumes. That was a lot of fun and the people were very friendly. From there, we stopped at a cotton store, but I wasn’t impressed with the claim for Egyptian cotton….
From there I had a few hours to kill before boarding the sleeper train to Luxor. Mohamed was very kind to stay with me the whole time until he sent me on my way.
Now…about inspiration and love. I had a great day talking to Mohamed because he is so in love with his girlfriend. He spent all day talking to me about her (in between historical stories, of course). He explained how they met, how he fell for her, how he won her and how he was hoping in just a couple of days he was going to ask her to marry him. They sent each other love poetry in English. It was cheesy and yet so honest, real and it touched me deeply. I began to reflect about my own ability to express how I feel about people I truly care about and wondered what harm is there in being like this? So, upon this thought I started my trip in Egypt.