Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Arrived in Milan at 6:45 a.m. after flying 6617 km from Toronto. I don't fly much so being on a plane is always an exciting adventure. They showed 2 movies on the way over, "The Waitress" and "Shrek the 3rd." I slept through the Shrek movie. We got supper and breakfast on the plane. It was not great. Not even very good. It didn't seem like they cleaned the plane when it was turned around in Toronto. The washroom was dirty and there was garbage in the pocket in front of the seat. After a stopover in Milan we're flying on to Cairo.
It's so awesome to be in Egypt. Our guide tells us the population of the country is 70 million. The population of Cairo is 18 million, swelling to 20 million each day with commuters coming into the city to work. Almost everything is brown. I've never been to a desert before. Cairo is huge and boy is it different. Traffic is crazy and you have to drive with one hand on the horn. People totally ignore lane markers. There was a pick-up truck driving with 15 to 20 guys STANDING in the back. Another truck was piled high with bags of I-don't-know-what, as high as the bus, and two guys were lying on top of the bags. There were flocks of sheep in the middle of the city, a few goats on someone's roof, and a LOT of really poor housing. One place called the "City of the Dead" is blocks and blocks of cemeteries in and around buildings and the poor have made their homes among them, some with satellite dishes.
Then through the fog (or smog) you see the outline, the forms, of the pyramids. It's just amazing. Awesome!
We're in a pretty nice hotel (with a metal detector on the way in). Our guide suggested a change to our itinerary. We were going to see the pyramids on Wednesday and the Egyptian Museum on Thursday but she thinks that seeing the museum first will give us a better grounding about what we'll see at the pyramids. It's been a long couple of days of travel, leaving Toronto on Monday evening and ending up in Cairo on Tuesday afternoon/evening. After supper we gathered with our guide who gave us a run-down of our next few days and then we headed to our rooms at about 9 p.m. and I thought, "the kids won't even be out of school for another half hour, and I'm so beat. I slept on both flights so I'm not as tired as I could be.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Our tour guide, Reham, is an Egyptologist with a Master's degree, working on her PhD so we're getting a lot of good information as she guides us through Cairo. We cross the Nile as we drive into and out of downtown. This river is the only source of water for this country and the only source of irrigation so every possible bit of land is farmed.
Our first stop on this day is the Egyptian Museum. That was wicked! We saw the treasures of King Tut, the mask, the coffins, many of the artifacts that were found in his tomb. It's the stuff you always see in books and magazines but we got to see it up close and in person. We saw lots of mummies, even Ramses II who tradition says may have been the pharaoh at the time of Moses. Reham is an excellent guide who really knows her stuff. Someone who had been to the museum before said she's way better than her previous guide.
Next we headed to Old Cairo. We saw what they call the "hanging church" because it's suspended over some old Roman towers from an old Roman fortress. We also saw the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus built over a cave where tradition says the Holy Family lived while in exile in Egypt.
For lunch we stopped at a typical Egyptian fast food place where they served felafels and shawermas. For the shawermas you had the choice of chicken of "meat." I'm guessing the "meat" was lamb or goat but they didn't say. I had a "meat" shawerma and a Coke.
Next we went to a Papyrus institute and gift shop. I saw a number of these places around. The salesmen are good talkers. I wanted to buy a certain papyrus with a picture on it from the back of one of King Tut's thrones. I had the one I wanted picked out (although the salesman was trying to talk me into 3) and then he took me over to see the same one only in a bigger size. I ended up buying it for my wife.
It's just so freaky driving around this part of the city and seeing these huge pyramids looming above everything. We had a short (1 ½ hour) break at the hotel and then went to the Sound & Light show at the pyramids. They tell some of the story of Egypt's history and of the pharaoh's who built the pyramids along with music and lights and lasers. On the way in there was a group of musicians dressed as pharaoh's playing drums and, of all things, bagpipes. On the way out they were playing again and actually played "Amazing Grace." We got back to our hotel, had supper, and went to our rooms and to bed since we were to have an early start the next morning.