|Subject: Re: 2nd installment of Egyptian journal|
2nd installment....ready to see the Pyramids!
We toured the Giza plateau & saw the 3 pyramids built by Khufu or Cheops, his son, Khafre or Chepren, & his son, Menkaure. The largest & oldest of the Giza Pyramids is that of the Pharoah Khufu who ruled Egypt from 2551-2528 BC. Khufu broke with tradition & built his funerary complex on the Giza Plateau. Khufu#s pyramid is a mindboggling sight! It consists of 23 million blocks of granite & limestone which average about 2 ½ tons each. The Great Pyramid stands 449 feet high & the area of the base covers the equivalent of 7 city blocks! Awe-inspiring! Khafre, the son of Khufu, rules from 2520-2494BC & built the 2nd largest pyramid, as well as the Sphinx. Menkaure#s pyramid is the smallest of the 3, but is still 203 feet tall. We also toured the Sphinx & learned about mummification which takes place in a temple adjoining each pyramid.
The Sphinx with the man#s head & lion#s body is thought to be a representation of the Pharoah Khafre, but nothing is known for sure. It is questionable what happened to the Sphinx#s beard but it is believed to be have knocked off sometime in the early 19th century by Napoleonic soldiers taking target practice. The day started with thunder & lightning at 2am, then a little rainstorm which was over by the time we went touring, but we had a sandstorm which obscured the lovely panorama view at the end of the pyramid tour & put grit in our hair & as we found out later, caused us to change our itinerary. The sandstorm & wind messed up the train schedule, we never really understood that, but the sleeper train we were to take to Aswan did not travel that night so that#s why we#re in Hurghada#.more on that later.
During the tour we were asked what kind of food we wanted for lunch. We all agreed that Egyptian food was what we were there for, so we went to Felfela#s, a well-known, large restaurant, but quite empty at that time, about 3pm, which was a little early for normal Egyptian lunch time. We 3 tourists had soup: lentil, minestrone, vegetable#all delicious..and then a variety of salads & dips called mezze or appetizers..pickled veggies, taamiya-fava beans flavored with spices ; tehina-basic dip & garnish derived from chickpea paste called tehini, spiced up with cumin, ground coriander, salt, pepper, lemon; baba ghanugh- combines a chick pea base, with roasted eggplant, cumin, pepper, garlic; green salad with greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, all dressed in oil-vinegar & spices. and then, of course, pocket or pita bread, known as aish meaning #life# in Arabic, tea, water, & Brian had a pasta casserole like Dalia & Reham had. The pasta came with French fries, of course. While Dalia & Reham bought their own lunch, we 3 each paid about $3 for the delicious feast. Our US dollar buys a lot in Egypt! More that 6 LE to $1 & food is cheap, wine isn#t.
Tonight, Friday night in Hurghada, my small bottle of white wine, about 2 ½ glasses was 45LE or $7 while our 2 pasta casseroles were 47LE or $7.50 for both! Better save my wine drinking for Portugal where wine is cheaper. Back to Cairo#we spent a delightful hour after Pyramid touring & before lunch at a perfumerie. Sheikh Abdull Perfume Palace. We all went in thinking, Oh no! tourist trap, especially Brian. But Gamal soon had us at ease, telling us the story of his family#s having made essential oils for 190 years. He read our auras, does aroma therapy, & soon had us #under his spell.# The idea was to buy, of course, & we all did & enjoyed the experience#mint tea, diet coke, smelling lovely scents & looking at beautiful hand-blown, perfume bottles & being mesmerized by Gamal#s voice. He told me that my aura was happy & peaceful & that I didn#t need any special scents to make my life better. Amen! I am a contented person. He was quite intuitive about Margo#s conflicted aura & suggested some oils that might help. It was a lovely visit which all 3 of us enjoyed. Gamal gave each of us a perfume bottle to keep some of our oils in. The oils & perfume bottles were well-packed & mine arrived, in my packed luggage, in fine condition, back home. When I slather on a bit of lotus oil I smile about the time spent in the perfume palace. And isn#t that what souvenirs are supposed to do? Bring back nice memories?
After our lovely interlude we went to an ATM for Brian & Mago & that started an interesting misadventure. Brian couldn#t find his ATM card. Disastrous for him since he was traveling from Egypt to Israel & then Turkey before going back to study in London for 4 months. He did have a credit card, though, & cell phone so he will communicate with family & the bank & eventually get a new card. We spent an hour or so going through his luggage, then back to the hotel to go through the garbage, no luck! Reham, problem-solver, loaned him Egyptian money & also to us a couple times, 5LE and again 15LE to tip people. We always paid it back but it was so spontaneous on Reham#s part, #not to worry.# After our ATM card misadventure, we had little time for the Egyptian Antiquities museum so Dalia mainly explained the plaque commemorating the uniting of Upper & Lower Egypt. Then we went upstairs, Margo & Brian bought an extra 40LE ticket to see the mummy room. I opted out as I#d seen Egyptian mummies in the British museum many times. On to King Tut#s several rooms of treasures, wonderful but not nearly enough time. Tight security on entrance..metal detector, armed guards but few guards & low lighting in the museum except in King Tut#s gold room#.with gold funerary mask & other gold treasures. It was in a barred room like a big jail cell. It was closing at 6:30pm so we had only a few minutes to take a few pictures#.without flash. The museum has very small signs with information about the exhibits so you really need a guide to explain everything. I did see a few people with self-guiding headsets but Dalia was a wonderful guide explaining fully in the short time we had.
Because of the sandstorm the sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan we were scheduled on, was not running. We agreed to reverse our itinerary..go to Hurghada for 3 days, then on the Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan & then take the sleeper train back to Cairo instead of the original reverse itin. Seemed like a good idea but created some problems in Aswan later on. Reham offered us a choice of a Nile dinner cruise or a few hours in the hotel to rest & clean up, at Milano Travel#s expense, because the motorcoach left at 1am. We opted for the hotel, knew we#d be on the Nile later for 3 nights & I had such grit in my hair & on my scalp from the sandstorm, although, amazingly, my allergies were no problem. I coughed a few times but with such dust blowing around all day it was truly unbelievable that I didn#t have a big attack! I was never bothered with allergy problems throughout the entire trip. Never understood that! My new contacts were gritty, too, & needed to be cleaned but they weren#t unbearable.
Back to the same hotel, showered, rested a few hours, Reham & driver picked us up at midnight. There was a wedding celebration going on in the hotel#lovely & fascinating to see. Oh, before going back to the hotel#room wouldn#t be ready before 7:30pm..we left Brian with another Milano driver to go to the bus station & continue his tour, then our driver & Reham took Margo & me through the extremely narrow streets of a Cairo neighborhood near the Pyramids, where the #real# people live#as opposed to the tourist areas..dirt streets were barely wide enough for our mini-van to go through, many little open food shops, piles of eggs(not under refrigeration), hanging carcasses of sheep, chickens, & other meat, oranges, beans, many stores run by women. In the tourist areas all the shops were run by men. There were many small workshops were men were working on hand-crafted wood items. It was a fascinating glimpse into a Cairo that tourists on a huge, air conditioned motorcoach would not experience.
An aside#I almost forgot the hustler at the Pyramids#as we were walking around, just the 3 of us, without our guide, a man stopped us & asked for our security pass. That was his scam or approach to us. He wanted us to pay him to explain everything to us. He called me, #my mother# in quite respectful terms & followed us, talking a bit & then left us alone when we didn#t succumb to his spiel. Reham said that many of the tourist hustlers speak English, have never been to school, are illiterate, trying to earn a living from generation to generation. On the whole, even the hustlers were friendly & genuinely welcoming. We heard, America#number one#many times.
Back to the bus adventure#Reham & driver took us to a branch bus station, then on to the main station after we stopped to pick up fruit..bananas & oranges, crackers, & soda & bottled water at a supermarket. Everything was open & going full blast at midnight, all restaurants were full.
Next installment coming up....night bus to Hurghada....sounds like the night train to Memphis or where ever that is!
Carol Bailey In N. Idaho