Country of Pharao's, Sfinxes, history and habits
29.08.2010 - 10.09.2010 38 °C
Arrival in Egypt
29th of august.
The Turkey Trip was over and it was time for my second destination. Egypt. A country with an amazing history. A country that i was looking forward so much to see.
The flight was very, very good with Egypt air. I didn't expect that food and drinks were included and just when i opened a roll of cookies, because i was hungry, it turned out that food and drinks were included. Wow! The food was actually quite good. So i was very happy.
After arrival in Cairo, it was a bit tricky to find the way. As always, a lot of taxi drivers asked; you need a ride sir? How much? 50. 50 pounds? No, sir, 50 dollar. US dollar? Yes, US dollar. Just for the info: 50 US dollar is far too much. For 2 pounds (about 25 dollar cent) you can go until Ramses station, which is the city centre of Cairo. I went to a small tourist information shop, and the taxi drivers kept trying (of course, it is their job). They explained me to take the white bus. After, change bus to go to Ramses station. At the bus stop i waited and a women from Uruguay showed up. It turned out that she saved money for about 20!! years and now, was doing the trip of her live. She was 54 years. I went with her to the city centre and to the hostel she booked. The hostel turned out to be the University hostel. So we were about the only backpackers around. It was very interesting and everyone was very friendly. Dylis (the Uruguan lady) had her room and i booked a shared room.
Today i went to the pyramids. The famous Giza Piramids. Something that i was looking forward to a lot. Together with Dylis i took a taxi to the Giza area. There, we informed at the tourist office and went. We found out that in the evening at 20 00 we should be ready to buy tickets for the sound and light show.
Walking to the pyramids is a very interesting moment. The pyramids, of which the oldest is 4500 years old, slowly starts showing itself more and more. AMAZING WOW! So much history.
In the meantime, some anoying salesmen try to convince you to take their taxi, buy their stuff or take the shortcut (for money of course), because the walk is 7 km. No, it was about 500 meter..but they will not tell you.
The control at the pyramids (and stations also) is like an airport. You go trough security checks and there is a lot of police, with big guns. I quess i have seen some AK47's around.
Arriving at the pyramids was amazing. The sun was already burning a lot and the Pyramid, 4500 years old, is shining. WOW! And later, more pyramids show themselves. 9 in total in the Giza area. We walked around, amazed by the pyramids and more salesmen come by.
Here 2 interesting anecdotes. At first i was still friendly, but later, i was not so friendly to new salespeople anymore.
Arriving at the pyramids, after a couple of 'no' Shokran, another salesmen arrived. I got a present for you. And he gave a scarf. I put it around my head, Moroccan style. After, where are you from and the other standard talk, he gave 3 stone pyramids. Presents.
I was getting a bit anxious, because i knew it were not presents. So after a while he said..i give you present, and you can give what you want. So i returned: well, it is not a present then, right? Yes, it is a present, and you give what you want. So, i give 5 pound. (about €0,80) for the three pyramids and the scarf. He returns: normally people give 20 pound or more. I became annoyed, put the scarf off, give the pyramids to him: well, you can sell them to other people then. Shokran.
Later, a camel guy shows up. You want to make picture? It is free. Ok, i like to make a picture, but i dont pay, because it is free. Ok? Yes, yes, picture is free. Of course i was anxious, but it was a nice start for someting interesting. So, i sit on the camel, Dylis takes a picture and i want to get off. But, as expected, the guy starts walking with the camel. I become a bit annoyed and say: Please, let me down. Just picture, no walking with camel. After a while, he puts the camel down and i get off. You got money? Camel needs to eat? No, it was free you said. Normally people pay 5 or 10 pound. Yes, but we agreed it was free.
He start grapping my polse. At first i laugh and it like a joke. My friend, it was free No pounds for picture. He starts screaming a bit, I respond a bit aggresive. Ok, my friend. I will delete the pictures. No no, no delete. Ok, then i keep the picture. He annoyed, i annoyed. Must have been a great sight. Anyway, he stops arguing and walks away, saying some arabic words.
So, always be carefull with things like this. But sometimes it is very interesting to see what happens. As long as you play the game in the right way, it can give some nice stories.
Ok, back to the pyramids. We decide not to give any attention anymore to the salesmen and start enjoying the pyramids. To my surprise, there are very few people. Good, now we can really enjoy. So, a lot of pictures and walking up the sand hill for a better view. After, we went into the big pyramid. This is truly amazing. Imagine going into a building of 4500 years old. Incredible. But also a bit scary, because you might know about the curse of Toetanchamon. Every person that enters a grave, or pyramid, died shortly afterwards. Was it because of the air, the rotten things in the graves, or something else? No idea. But it is a bit scary. So, after big walk into the pyramid, up, up..and very hot (outside it is also around 40 degrees)..you will enter grave chamber. There is still a tomb (if it is the real one). This is magnificent! It was really great to be so close to a civilisation that lived very long ago.
Later, we went to the big market in Cairo. There Dylis bought a scarabee chain and me a chess game, egyptian style. After a lot of negotiation, we had a good price for both. This negotiation was in a very nice way. It was a nice game/ play.
In the evening we took a cab to the sound and light show. On the way, there was a guy selling mangos. We bought some and they were really good!
After a simple dinner (unfortunately, Egyptian kitchen is not the best), we went to the sound and light show. Another not to be missed specacle. My first day in Egypt was amazing!
31st of august.
Today i actually didn't do a lot. My intention was to go to the famous egyptian museum. From the University hostel, which is very much out of the centre, i took a bus to the metro station. From there i went to a metro station, that was supposed to be close to the egyptian museum. I asked some people and they send me in a direction (later i found out that this was the right direction). Later, a guy passed by and we had a chat. He told me i was heading in the wrong direction. I was a bit confused, but trusted him, so turned around he went into the same direction. He asked me about my travel plans and i told him i was planning to go to Aswan, Luxor and more places. He was talking a bit about himself and turned out to speak a bit of German. We walked into a street and he told me that the museum is there. But before, he jumped into his uncles' shop. I went with him, but told it would be shortly. From this moment, my alarm was ringing, because usually this is the moment things are getting annoying. And yes, of course he offered a drink. I refused. Normally i wouldn't do that, but i felt the real intentions now. An indeed. 'you want to do a tour'? Yes, but i am on a tight budget. So i will probably arrange all myself. We can do it for you. Well, i guess my budget is too tight. What is your budget? 25 euro a day...blabla etc. Well, he could arrange the tour, wanted to call some friends. I refused. Later it turned out a 3 day dessert tour was 300 US dollars. That's too much for me. I was becoming very distant. First, because of realising the intentions for the nice chat, was just selling someting, second because i wanted to go to the museum. In the end, i left, after he was also talking about the (fake) papyrus. And then, typically the annoying salespeople. No goodbye, no hand, no eye contact. I went..this i don't like. Later it turned out that this guy send me in the complete opposite direction. So i walked back. I just didnt want to take a taxi, just for the feeling of being able to find things myself.
Then, i searched for a quiet place to eat. Because of ramadan, i didn't want to disturb people. A guy came to me and said it's better to eat somewhere else because of Ramadan. I said that thats exactly why i came here. There is a church with a park where you can eat. Is it close? Yes, it is close. I will show you. I was a bit anxious, but ok. Lets go, but i kept a distance in my speach, eye contact, and non verbal conversation. And yes, he jumped into a shop. I am an artist.. (the standard story). A table was put, so i could eat. I immediately made clear i was not going to buy someting. It was ok. So we started talking. I just ate relaxed. First the talk was pretty relaxed. Later, i am an artist. What do you think of my paintings? Well, they are nice, but it is not my style. Etc etc. Later: i want to write you name in Arabic on this painting. Well, if you do that, you cannot sell it to anyone anymore. No, it is a present for you. A present? Yes, a present. I give you a present and you give me anything you want. Right, that i already had in Giza. I dont want the painting and i am not going to pay anything. I told you when i went in. Ok, my friend no problem. Then he started to talk about that he wanted to live in Amsterdam and bla bla .Anyway, i was just finishing my food to leave afterwards. But here again, no eye contact, no goodbye. Annnoying salesman. From that moment, on the streets, i am not so friendly anymore to people that are like: hey, welcome to Egypt. Where are you from? Or: i am an artist. Or some chit chat and later: i want to give you my business card. Come with me.
The good thing: no more annoying salesman. The bad thing: i might miss interesting meetings with interesting people.
Well, finally i arrived at the museum and it was closed. Because of Ramadan most places close at 1500 or 1600. I went back to the metro station and walked a bit around the nile area. Also, i found a hostel with tourist in the main erea. I needed this to find info about tours. The Dahab hostel was recommanded on internet and i booke a tour there. Later, I ended up in a shop just after 1800 and some people were having dinner (from 1800 that's allowed according to ramadan). I asked them where they bought this. At Kazaz. Where is Kazaz? It is very near. Out, left and it is 5 min walk. But come..lets have a seat and eat with us. These guys looked like business people, just off from their work. So, although i had 2 bad experiences today that costed me about 3 hours (including the misdirection of twice 20 min), i sat down. I didnt have plans for tonight anyway. We had dinner, some drinks, the waterpipe, and later we went to another place. There, more waterpipe, more drinks and it was really good. I felt these were good people. We talked, and had a lot of fun. I got their phonenumber and when i come back to Cairo i meet up with them. Mohammed, Ahmed, Salah and Essam thanks a lot!
So i experienced both the super annoying salesman; which i now start to recognise by the way they approach me, and the real friendly egyptian hospitality by the real people.
Later i told this to my roommates in the hotel (who are really friendly) and they dont like the salesmen also.
There i had a chat with my roommates and Besim showed me how he would wash before he goes to the mosque for praying (Salaat). That was very intersting. We talked a lot about Ramadan and being muslim. Besim invited me to go with him to the mosque, so i could watch. I was temped, but refused. Actually for 2 reasons: one, because it was 200 am and i had to get up at 515 for my dessert tour, two, because in a way it doesnt feel good for me to watch someone who is paying gratitude to god (or allah), just to see how it works.
But i appreciated the invitation and my three roommates were really good people. I enjoyed a lot.