For as many ways as I feel totally lost and incapable here in Egypt, there is one thing I can do about as well as any native: cross the street. I had it down to near expert level in under 2 weeks. Knowing how to rock at least one aspect of life here has helped me maintain my sanity on the worst days. I mean, my Arabic might be lousy enough to get me a pigeon when I thought I was asking for a bathroom, but I can cross the street in rush hour traffic like a boss. I’ve even seen Egyptians cast approving and impressed glances my way when witnessing my mad skillz.
Now, see this? This is what we usually have to get across.
Game face. It's show time.
It’s like a human Frogger game, only the stakes are far higher. The key is to look confident and be predictable. If you step off the curb, commit to it and keep moving like you own this place and are personally acquainted with Donald Trump (they dig him). Observe (I am right of center in the blue shirt):
Use the concrete median to mosey along casually until you find a gap you like in front of a driver who is not texting. You don't need a huge gap. Eighteen inches will do.
Don't worry - I'm behind the green bus.
There are a few caveats. Don’t step in front of the microbuses. Those guys don’t play. You’re either in their vehicle or under it. And taxis are hard to predict. As Kevin says, “White ones don’t care.” This is a decent time to take advantage of that American passport. It nets you crossing privilege because most people don't want to flatten the few tourists hardy enough to come here. I've had more than a few drivers hit the brakes hard and cheerfully wave me on across, even though I was still on the curb waiting patiently while the driver behind them is saying words in Arabic that I'm glad I don't know.
My biggest fear about this deal? That I will return home to Colorado and step boldly and confidently in front of a Jeep.
Most museums are packed full of stuff. Egypt’s national museum takes the basbousa. This is a nation that is overloaded with antiquities, so it makes sense that they would not be able to display it all, but still, I was floored. Even after the crazed looting of tombs hundreds of years ago, even after the British hauled a bunch off (and dropped some in the ocean), even after selling some to other countries for their museums, there is so much that they are building a new museum. It’s the only way to have room just for the majority of King Tutankhamen’s treasures. If it were not so cool, you’d have to call it Historical Storage Wars.
I love camels. Egyptians call them the “Ships of the Desert,” probably because they can haul over the longest distances without trouble and are a fairly smooth ride (if you don’t have back problems). But I like them because I see one more piece of proof that God has a sense of humor. Just check out the faces below. I challenge you to not be entertained.
I started with that title so that you too could share in my experience and have that song running through your head all day. I had to listen to Christmas music to get it out. Now I’m dealing with Frosty the Snowman.
But that is not what this blog post is about. This is all about our day touring the pyramids the history books skipped and seeing some of the best of the Egyptian countryside.
Ever heard the term “world schooling?” It’s where you teach your kids through travel experiences. It’s right up our alley, or in this case, heavily trafficked Cairo boulevard. When we decided to come to Egypt we knew there would be educational value for the kids, because you know, pyramids. But we really had no idea what treasures awaited.
If you’ve been following along with us from the beginning you know all about our trips to the Great Pyramids of Giza, Dahab, Mt. Sinai, a bedouin camp, mosques, parks, and the Garbage Village. But just in the last three weeks we have encountered some real and unexpected gems.
Last weekend a local friend took us to Khan el Khalili. This was another item that had been on our list since our arrival, mainly because we figured it was going to be the best place to grab last-minute souvenirs and gifts. We had no idea that the main attraction would be the colors and the atmosphere and the history. This place is it’s own tourist attraction that might require 3 days to see in its entirety.
Khan el Khalili was established in the late 14th century as a caravanserai and commercial center for foreign merchants. Today it is mainly a tourist market but maintains the old world charm and even much of the authenticity.
Egypt is a very safe country for tourists. Yes, there are some areas that travelers should steer clear of, but it’s mostly the Libyan border and the north Sinai. Egypt is a huge country. Avoiding Luxor or the other main tourist venues is a bit like saying you’re skipping that Grand Canyon vacation because of gang violence in Los Angeles.
But if you’re up for a great adventure, try all the forms of transportation.
Last week my parents were visiting with us and we took a trip down to Luxor to check out the history. There is so much to see in the city formerly known as Thebes, it is pretty tough to sum it up well without doing it an injustice, but I’ll try.
Our explorations began with our guide, Achmed of Amazing Global Travel, taking us to Karnak Temple. There are rows and rows of huge columns and ancient walls covered in hieroglyphs. We were there in the late afternoon light photographers call “golden hour” and the stones and statues all looked yummy.
I was going to call this post “Breaking All the Things, Part 1,” but that implies a part 2, which would actually be more of a list of random mishaps. Like dropping a fork off the balcony and not being able to find it anywhere (we blame the weasels). Or burning rice onto the bottom of a pot so badly that it took 4 days of soaking to get it out. Or death to a MacBook charger cord. I guess it was just its time to go, although I take issue with Apple’s inability to make a cord that lasts the life of the computer.
(Can I get a witness here?)
Cairo is a huge city. There are 22 million people and almost as many cats. Traffic jams that defy description but also allow you enough time to cross the street. Construction projects that begin at 3:00 a.m. (why? WHY!?!) and so much sand and dust on the buildings and in the air you begin to wonder how there is any Sahara left in the Sahara. In fact, the best analogy I could come up with is this: moving here from Colorado is like if you grew up on the lush moon of Endor and then moved to Coruscant after it had been shelled by the Empire then dusted by a nice Tatooine sandstorm.
But that’s not to say it’s all bad. On the contrary, he upshot to big cities is walking to all your main stuff.