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Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Egyptian Excursion - Day 3

            Another breakfast that filled us to the brim. Cairo and the pyramids beckoned us today. Set out with Tiger, leaving behind the beautiful beach resort of Fayid. Stopped at the War Cemetery, very silent place with well maintained grass and stone buildings and tombstones. A peaceful place for the final slumber of the many brave men who died here during World War 2. On the way to Cairo, it's pretty much empty desert on either side of the road. Now and then a military compound would show up to break the monotony of the desert. All of a sudden 2 air force jets flew over with a loud whoosh. Looking to the left, we saw 4 tanks going about in the desert, obviously on some sort of exercise.



We reached the place the Egyptians call Heliopolis (no, not the ancient city), a section of the city where the affluent build their homes, and where the airport finds its place. The roads were excellent so far, flanked by plenty of greenery. Pretty amazing for a so-called desert. No one cuts lanes here. And speed cameras do exist, marked by a "Speed Camera" picture. Tiger turned on the radio and it blared out some Arabic music. Very few two wheelers though, and no autos. No wonder it wasn't unruly on the roads. From Heliopolis onwards into the city, we followed a series of huge elevated expressways.



Soon enough we got to our hotel - the 5 star Pyramisa. All along the way I'd noticed that young girls (I mean teenagers and above) do wear a headscarf. However, it never covers the face, just one's hair and the with this exception tight form-revealing dresses seem to be their norm. Not to mention the fact that they bring along their accessory - a.k.a boyfriend - held tightly in one hand wherever they go. Lol. Not at all like a Muslim country. In fact it's much less restrictive than India.



Went over to the Papyrus museum in the afternoon. You guessed it, they make paintings on a base of Papyrus - from the pith of the Papyrus plant (Cyperus Papyrus). This is the way the Egyptians used to make them. You'd have seen imitations around the world but this is the real thing. Expectedly, prices are truly sky high. Bought 9 pieces or so, and they dwarfed the price of the 160gb PS3 we'd purchased on our last international trip.



On to the Pyramids of Giza from there. We alighted at
and took a horse drawn carriage to see the Pyramids with a guide tagging along. The carriage nearly toppled over, giving us a good scare, when the wheel rolled over a particularly large stone. The guide said his name was Sam, more likely Sameer :P but a nice friendly guy. Went around all 3 pyramids - Khufu, Khafra and Menkaure and around the six smaller ones.



Yes, it was quite hot, the caveat being you wouldn't sweat that much there so you'd be even more tired when you got back to the hotel. Walked into a few tombs and glanced at the wonderfully carved pictures while our guide gave us the lowdown on who's who and why they were there. I, alone, chose to go deep into one Pyramid while Dad and Mum stood outside. Good thing though, since the climb down is extremely difficult, with the passage being barely enough to fit one person, that too when you're stooped down and climbing downwards in reverse. If you try to climb downwards with your front side facing the bottom, you'll just fall right down the shaft, break a few parts and die, because the descent is both very steep and deep. At the bottom, there's just 2 rooms carved out of the solid stone, and you can look up to see the tunnel entrance well above you as a spot of light. Do NOT attempt this if you are even remotely claustrophobic. If you do freak out, there is no way to get you back up.




Once I'd climbed back out, we walked around the place a bit more snapping photos. Then it was a downhill trip to the Sphinx. When you're near it, you tend to wonder "That doesn't look so massive like the pictures :/ ". Some Sufi bugger apparently broke the nose of the statue off because he was pissed that the ancient people of the region were making offerings to the Sphinx and not to Allah. The people didn't take it too lightly though and they lynched him, sucks for him. The guides will tell you that Napoleon's cannon ball was responsible for the disfigured face, but that's a chronological impossibility. Between the front paws of the Sphinx lies a stone tablet (a Dream Stela) inscribed upon by the Pharaoh Thutmose IV.



After spending enough time near the last true wonder of the world, we were back at the starting point where we'd left Tiger with the car. Set off on a drive through the city. The sun was still up at 6pm. Check out this gray Chevy Cruze we snapped in Cairo, not a colour you'll find here:



For the Egyptians, the 6th of October is a very important day that commemorates their military victory over Israel when they fought a war and won, the second time. Of course no one commemorates the first time when they lost :P . In reality, Israel won the military victory and President Saddat won the political victory through which Israel was forced to withdraw due to international pressure. The 23rd of July is celebrated as the day they secured their freedom from the monarchy of King Farouk.





One thing you should know about Cairo is that the traffic is quite high, but the lanes are followed and the flow of vehicles is very orderly. Next stop - Cairo tower (look for a worthwhile mention of it in a later post too). As the name suggests, it's a very high building built such that you can see a great deal of Cairo from a bird's eye view. The wind up there is strong too. Both banks of the Nile - Giza and Cairo - are clearly visible from here. Lots of young couples up here getting cosy too. Not to mention, two girls standing there giggling at any young males as if they were selecting who to spend the evening with.





Aftr a while, we took the lift back down.


If you've been wondering why I call the driver Tiger, well that's what his name translated to - "Nemr" is the Arabic word for Tiger. He took us to the dock of the 'Memphis' company on the Nile. It was about 7pm and the sunset was just beginning. Bought the tickets for the Nile Cruise, a completely air conditioned boat with a fine dining area. Not that we really needed it, it was cold and windy anyway. The dinner buffet was open at 8pm. Meanwhile, some guy they'd hired was singing Arabic, Hindi and Spanish songs. Following this there came a Belly Dance by a.. well... Belly Dancer. Then a Whirling Dervish who enthralled us with his antics all the while spinning around at a dizzying pace. Someone pulled a young woman up from the Spanish tourist group that was seated there and she gave the belly dancer a run for her money.



Tiger was waiting to pick us up after the cruise, which concluded at 10pm. Damn, it was really cold outside. Traffic flew past as usual, but no horns. People were still up and about at 10pm. Traffic police too. And the parks were occupied even then with the aforementioned couples.

1 comments:

mido said...

what i like in your trip to Egypt that it was covering all Egypt high lights & you enjoyed it very much as i feel from your article
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