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Embedded Photos: 1.Osiris2.Canopic Jars 3-4.King Tut's Gold Mask
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Egypt Flag EGYPT


February 5. CAIRO The hotel had asked us to designate a breakfast time, so it would be hot, and chose between Continental or Egyptian style.  We scheduled and Egyptian breakfast for 8:00.  We received cold falafels with a kind of beans and pita bread, a boiled egg, and Nescafe.  So much for the "hot" part but it was tasty and filling.  

In contradiction to Atef's suggestion that we don't see the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities on our first day (probably because he already had people going to the pyramids instead) Osiris, Cairo Museum, Egypt we did just that.  It was a great way to begin our immersion into Egyptian history. It was walking distance from our hotel and the neighborhood looked only marginally better in the daytime than it had at night.  We discovered that the alleyway that led to our hotel was also where the trash got dumped, making it look really slummy.  The streets weren't busy but they were gray and run down.  The buildings had some potential but were dilapidated and the streets had some litter.  Walking to the museum we met a couple of touts who tried to start conversations with inviting phrases like "Welcome to Egypt!", "Where are you going?', "What are you looking for?".  We just kept up our pace and didn't give them any attention. 

The building that houses the Egyptian Museum itself is somewhat of an attraction.  A colonial British building from the end of the 19th century it houses a mind boggling selection of pieces on two large floors.  The pieces were displayed in old glass cases with wooden or brass trim.  It had more the look of a research center at a university than a museum, especially with the unexplained numbering systems and succinct descriptions, but it all added to a kind of old world charm.  

We had to go through security at the main gate, buy our ticket, enter, and then go through security again before we were able to begin our exploration of the museum.  It was absolutely mob packed with tour groups, the density of which I have never quite experienced.  They were dominantly French, Russian, and Chinese with a smattering of others, including Americans.  The dynamics of these groups, some as large as sixty, moving around the museum with their pushy guides was a poor statement of human behavior.  There was plenty of pushing and bumping and noise levels that kept you from being able to think.   We thought that heading to the Tutankhamun exhibit on the second floor first might be a good strategy to avoid the groups but there was almost no place to avoid them.   We just had to persevere.  I could recognize some of the items from the King Tut tour that hit  SF when I was in grammar school.  It is an impressive collection of pieces and took up our whole morning.

An overpriced cafe at the museum was where we ate lunch and took a rest.  The cashier tried to overcharge us and then shorted us on the change to boot.  Then we resumed our tour of  the museum starting with the Late and Middle Kingdoms and working our way around to the the  Greco-Roman days before we completely expired.   There was too much to see and with the way things were presented it was a lot of work to make sense of everything.  With sun still left in the day went to find a Citibank and get train tickets to Aswan in Upper Egypt.   

Canopic Jars, Cairo Museum, EgyptOutside the museum there were conspicuous numbers of police with machine guns and barricades to control traffic in front of the building.  As we exited a determined tout tried to interest us in papyrus prints while taxi drivers tired to lure us to their cabs.   We kept moving and walked towards the river, planning to find a Citibank.  Our hotel had suggested one across the river but the website had said there were locations in Central Cairo so we strolled into the Hilton and asked the concierge.  It is a benefit of keeping ourselves looking presentable that we can mingle in the nicer hotels.  Some low budget travelers get a bit mangy looking and are frowned upon.  The concierge directed us farther down the Nile to Garden City, a neighborhood of old colonial buildings that is now home to many embassies.

Crossing roads in Cairo was somewhat of a death defying feat.  Even on wide boulevards there often weren't any lanes to speak of and the signal lights didn't mean a thing.  The only thing that could bring traffic to a halt was a traffic cop and they were few and far between.  Rob always watches the locals to see how they manage but in this case that wasn't very reassuring.  Even with hoards of cars hurling down a road people step off of the curve and dodge and weave their way across.  The cars swerve and break to avoid killing them.  Watching it all gives the impression of a video game.  We weren't very good at it and found ourselves occasionally facing on oncoming car like deer stuck in headlights, sure that we were about to become a hood ornaments, when cars divided and saved us.  After a while you begin to believe in Allah.  Walking along the road that stretched along the eastern side of the Nile we came to a major road crossing that  was reeling with traffic from the bridge.  We made it as far as the narrow island and found ourselves stuck there with car flying by on both sides of us.  We weren't sure what to do when an Egyptian man crossed over to get us and bring us to the curb.  It was random act of kindness that may have saved our lives.  

Once we reached Garden City we passed the British Embassy and turned into the side streets, past a guarded barricade.  Every street in Garden City had police on watch and the place was nearly desolate except for them.  The area was a web of curving streets lined with dilapidated colonial buildings, some in seriously bad shape.  The streets and yards were overhung with dense foliage from banyan trees and other heavy trees and shrubbery.  The area looked like some sort of neglected botanical garden.  We found Citibank on an unlikely corner, the only commercial-looking establishment amongst blocks of embassies and government agencies.  Garden City had been planned out under the British and, in its day, must have been a nice green haven in the middle of a hectic Cairo, but has sadly become a tired ghetto for foreign governments.  The lavish buildings that once had yards that extended to the Nile are now truncated by the large boulevard, the foliage has grown unchecked and the buildings are chipping apart.   

As we stocked up with cash we noticed a motorbike pull up at the building.  The driver was wearing a dark jacket with the unmistakable logo of McDonald's on the back.  His bike was painted to match in bright red and yellow.  He was on a 6-7.King Tut's Gold Mask King Tut's Gold Mask delivery to give someone at Citibank their lunch.  When we asked he kindly posed for a photograph.  

From Garden City we waited patiently along side the busy road that ran beside Nile for an opportunity to cross.  The sun was going down and some feluccas were sailing up the Nile. Even from across the road an eager felucca owner was beckoning us to take a ride.  But we were tired and were being draw by a sign we had seen for a Hard Rock Cafe at the Hyatt.  It was somewhat of a mystery how this crazy diner style restaurant was surviving in Cairo.  The waitresses were clad in a short uniforms and got up to dance to YMCA on queue.   A couple of them looked Eastern European but most looked Egyptian.  We were both curious how working as a Hard Rock waitress rated among jobs in Cairo.  Otherwise, the menu was the same and the view from the windows across the Nile at sunset was a nice way to end the day.

After dinner we walked back along the Nile to the museum and cut over to our hotel.  All along the river there were little carts selling tea, couples huddled discreetly on benches, and groups of young people parading up and down.  Everyone once in a while we'd hear "Welcome to Egypt" or "Where you from?".  Never sure if they were touts or not we just smiled and kept moving.  

Near our hotel we came upon a tantalizing window of deserts and ducked in off the sidewalk at Groppi's to pick up a piece of black forest cake to take back with us.  It may not have been a "traditional" Egyptian treat but any place that has been in business for over a hundred years is some kind of a tradition and Groppi's opened in 1891.  Walking up Talaat Harb the street was buzzing with people out shopping.  Shopping is a very social event for Egyptians and the evening seems to be the most popular time for it.  Most of the people were smartly dressed, the women almost always in a head scarf with conservative clothes and the men dressed in a more casual western style with nothing to cover their heads. The sidewalk was so crowded with people we just walked in the street to get back to the hotel.  Back at Luna we ate our cake and ordered in some Turkish Coffee.   It was a perfect way to wind up a long day.

GREECE Athens Jan 27-Feb 4

EGYPT Cairo Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6 Feb 7 Aswan Feb 8 Feb 9 Feb 10 Luxor Feb 11 Feb 12 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Nuweiba Feb 16-17

JORDAN Petra Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Amman Feb 22 Feb 23-24 Feb 25 Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 Feb 29-Mar 1 Dead Sea Mar 2 Mar 3

ISRAEL Eilat Mar 4

EGYPT Cairo Mar 5 Mar 6 Mar 7 Mar 8

GREECE Athens Mar 9 Santorini Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 12-13 Crete Mar 14 Mar 15-16 Mar 17-21 Athens Mar 22