Sunday, October 31, 2010

Down the Nile: Aswan, Luxor, and back to Cairo!

Aswan: Cute town, our hotel rocked, pool and all.  Once we got there we were able to enjoy our first beer in what felt like forever!  Early to bed to be ready for our 6 hour journey to Abu Simbel the next day, where we had to wake up at 2:30am. Shit.
          We spent two nights in Aswan,  and one evening we went to an authentic Egyptian restaurant, delicious food, lots of meat, and dips, tahini, yogurt, hummus, babaganouj, it was probably one of the better meals we've had!
After that, we explored the Bazaar.  Everything in Egypt tends to open later and stay open late.  If you walk around at 2 in the afternoon, not much is open, 9 at night, the city is alive!  Mom bought some spices, which they tried to sell to her at 500 Egyptian Pounds, but was bargained down to 100.  That is the way of buying things here, you have to haggle!  Everywhere you go, men are bothering you to buy something, it's nice when you find a place where no one is asking you for baksheesh(tips)  or trying to sell you a scarf!  
The next cool thing we saw was Kitchner's Island, pretty much a garden island owned by some English Horticulturalist.  Many pretty flowers and trees.

HA!  Oh, man.  Not what anyone would have expected.  We were taken by bus to a random spot down the road.  Our guide gets out and leads us down the dirt embankment to a shitty little felucca.  It was small and dirty and had a huge futon-like mat on the deck was where we were to sit, sleep and eat for the the next day and a half.  !  As you could expect, my mom was a little more than pissed!
There were three people already on board, two French guys and a Korean girl, all very nice people and entertaining company.  At first, this quaint little boat seemed cute and intimate, until you had been sitting on it for a couple hours and your ass and back hurt. 
  I did get to practice my french which was a plus, for the .. umm 24 hours where all we had for entertainment was conversation!  Once the sun went down we floated to a bank and Nasser and his son, Ahmed made us all dinner, which we ate crosslegged in a circle.  We had pretty traditional food, tomato sauce with veggies over rice with pita.  Talked some religion and politics and went to bed.  It's funny to hear what foreigners think of Obama, most don't really like him. Which is interesting, they are saying what most Republicans are saying in the states, that he hasn't done a lot!
AWESOME sunset over the Nile, which was pretty cool!
That night was the coldest night ever!  It freezes in Egypt around one in the morning!  For bed they (Nasser and Ahmed) threw us some nasty looking blankets to keep warm, they seemed pretty thick so I didn't think anything of it... until I had to make a cocoon to keep from freezing to death!
The following day we were dropped off on the bank and picked up by a van, no AC. eck.  Turned out, we had gone like 100 meters from the place we got on the falucca..and ended up driving the rest to Luxor!  What a sham. 

Recap of the whole experience: "That was a fucking joke." in the words of my mother.

      Once we arrived in Luxor, we went to Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, which was sweet!  I was psyched to see something that monumental that I had learned about in Art History class freshman year! The story of a Queen who took over the kingdom after her husband died and didn't want her step-son to rule.  We visited the Valley of the Kings- over 70 discovered tombs under a natural pyramid, Colossi of Memnon, Karnak-the largest ancient temple in the world, and of course, the Temple of Luxor.
      On the last afternoon we had in Luxor we decided to go find a freaking pool.  It was so hot the further south you went!  *What was pretty cool, forgot to mention, when we drove all the way down to Abu Simble, we were about 50km away from the Sudan border! 
So, that afternoon we strolled into a fancy hotel and went straight for the lounge chairs, grabbed some towels, fibbed a room number and had a very relaxing afternoon at some expensive hotel we didn't have to pay for!

And no honking allowed in Luxor, we need these signs in The States.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cairo to Aswan- Ohhh dear.

So, we finally left Cairo last night.  We had attempted on our own to get from Cairo to Aswan and take some sort of boat up (North) the Nile back to Cairo.  Failed attempt.  It is incredibly difficult to do anything when you don't speak the language and cannot even begin to decipher the writing. 
We gave up, well, my parents did.  -That is one thing that is great about traveling w/them.. i don't have to worry about anything, really.   They figure everything out and I sort of put my two cents in and go along. -
Our hostel had a tour deal that we ended up taking, 3 nights, 4 days=Train down to Aswan, day trip to Abu Semble, flucca ride up the Nile, pit stops in Luxor and some other places...So, we took it, and added a day in Aswan and one more in Luxor.  
Oh, man.  HA.  Someone from the hostel drove us to the train station that night, to get us on our train at 10:00pm.  Well, that train didn't show up until 10:30.  And it was super crappy.  The seats smelled like moldy something or other and it was probably at least 50 years old, and never been cleaned.  The woman at the hostel had told us there would be food served/included on the trip.  No such luck.  My mom and I made our way to the "dining car" which turned out to be a diner counter at the end of a car with a bunch of men standing around smoking.  Gross expensive food, especially compared to Cairo, where you could get a giant bucket of that pasta/rice stuff for a dollar (5 Egyptian Pounds).   Holy cow, we thought we were getting a sleeper car!  No way, jose. It was a private car, we ended up sharing w/ two sisters and their brother, all ironically from Colorado.  Seats did not recline, most uncomfortable 13 hour train ride I've ever endured.  Jeesh. 
We finally got to Aswan around noon the next day and found some of the people who were doing the tour through our hostel also. Pretty cool people, Jenny and Andy. 
We all arrived at the arranged hotel, which turned out to be pretty nice.  Was able to rest for about half an hour and then went to see the High Dam, Lake Nassar, and the Temple of Philae.
pictures to come.


Ha.  Egyptian food is not quite what you would consider "Egyptian food."  Their most popular dish is a bowl full of pasta and rice, topped with tomato sauce and fried onions and chickpeas...?  Bizarre.  You get it at a place called a Kosherie.  But hey, this is Egypt! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 4: Oh Cairo

It is so strange being in a place where no matter what you do, you will never fit in.  We do not look anything like the locals and in no way really know what we are doing.  Always a tourist.  We went to the Egyptian Museum yesterday, woah, nothing like the museums in NY!  It was a little shocking, first of all the state of the museum.  There was spackle all over the walls walking up the staircase and some of the artifacts were just pushed into corners.  It seemed like they had more sculptures than they knew what to do with.  But some of the things were pretty cool. Thank you Art History from freshman year.  I saw a bunch of stuff that looked super familiar, and we would walk into another room and see like five more.  So many of the same things, all originals!
We are attempting to go to Luxor tonight.  It has been hell trying to get a ticket-train or otherwise- out of Cairo.  Probably ending up taking the tour through the Hostel.  Maybe we will be somewhere else tonight...
Pictures from Cairo and a little bit of Aswan

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 3: Catch up

Finally things are in English.  I know what I'm doing, now. 

So, this whole trip has been building up tremendously.  I've sort of been prepping myself to be on my own and independent.  I felt the first three weeks that I would be w/the folks would just be a little bit of  practice.
Egypt is kinda the shit.  I really like it, despite the fact that it's dirtier and busier than New York, or any other city you could ever imagine and that crossing the street you are pretty much taking your life in your hands, or better yet, in the competence of the cab drivers. 
Return to Day 1:
We arrived into Cairo the evening before, super exhausted due to the 11 hour flight, found our hostel, napped, then went out to check out the neighborhood. Little sketch. At least the first impression was.  Bunches of auto part stores. But not in the way we know them in The States, more like bodega style auto part stores.
Day 2:
Had a guy from the hostel take us to the pyramids.  SO fucking cool. Woah.  Went inside a tomb, no biggie, checked out some ancient ruins. And saw the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, all that sweet stuff.   It was interesting to see the other tourists there, most were Egyptians.  It was similar to visiting our Mount Rushmore, but way older and sort of way cooler due to the fact that it was/is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and whatnot.
So, bunches of men leading/riding camels w/elaborate saddles all around, trying to get you to take pictures w/them and pay them for it.  I attempted to take a pic of some guy's camel and he then began to take his scarf and wrap it around my head and tell me we would get a good picture, I knew he was going to ask for change and I didn't have any, so quickly shot out my hand and snapped a quick photo of me and the camel and proceeded to take off the scarf around my head and walk away.   The guy went after my dad for about a hundred feet trying to get some kind of cash out of him. Oops!
Something I am having a bit of trouble getting used to is the attention we get as Americans.  As we were leaving the Pyramids, a bus nearby was letting tons of school-age children out, they were heading in our direction and saw us.  They surrounded us and were asking us all kinds of questions, mostly "WHAAT IS YOUR NAME!?" "Where are you FROM?!"  it was nuts. And there were like fifty of them.  Yikes.

Back to Cairo.
Crazy and insane cab ride back. They drive like there are no rules, any street is a two-way street!  You want to go left, we go left!
Walking back to our hostel we ran into a guy who claimed to be an archeologist at the Egyptian Museum and did the animal mummy restoration.  He was a very nice man and interesting to talk to.  He took us to a tiny cafe in an alley where we had delicious Egyptian coffee, pretty much Turkish coffee and chatted, then we all sort of went on our way.  Egyptians seem to be very friendly people, especially when they get the chance to speak English and talk to a foreigner.   A similar incidence happened today, but the man ended up taking us to his son-in-law's perfume shop, and expected us to buy.
It seems like a cop-out and kind of is, but for dinner that night, we went to The Hilton across the road.  ie highway. Crossing traffic is like a game one guy told us.  And it is so true, you're rolling the dice and hope you land on the opposite sidewalk in one piece!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 1: Cairo

Holy Shit. This is quite difficult, trying to create a blog on an Arabic Blogger site.  Apparently you can't get the English site from an Arabian connection!! A little frustrating.   And the fact that everything I type is coming from the right side towards the left is a little strange... this is what happens when you put off making a blog until the second night you spend abroad! Once I figure things out, things will get interesting. I promise you.I
will be sure.