Monday, November 30, 2015

Cairo Adventure: Corny tourist photos

Our guide, Sherif, had a nice sense of humor and had decided early on to share with us all the corny, tourist ‘facebook photos’ he could think of. Here are a few for a laugh.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cairo Adventure: The Sphinx

The Sphinx (or Svincus) as Sherif said it, was said to be a guardian of the area. It was carved from a single sandstone right where it stands and even with a broken nose and missing beard, it’s an impressive creature. Some say it was built at the same time as the pyramids (around 4000 years ago) and some say it’s even older.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cairo Adventure: The Pyramids by Camel

Part of our tour included an optional 30-minute camel ride through the Sahara to get a back-side view of the 9 pyramids. Heck Yeah! It was an amazing experience and I’m now quite happy I never have to do it again! Camels are not comfortable or smooth and very high. I was sure I was going to topple right over the front of mine at every turn. But I didn’t and it was worth it for the views.

I know, tourists!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cairo Adventure: The Architect’s tomb

Sherif could see that we were interested in learning about the culture and not just snapping photos (like the Asians – his words) so he took us to a small tomb that was said to have housed the architect of many of the pyramids. This was the only place we saw hieroglyphics and carvings and despite the signs, we were allowed to take photos.

And because we were slightly farther away from the hordes of tourists, we also started to get mildly hassled. Lots of kids would come and ask “selfie?” and want to take your picture with them. We had been warned earlier by Sherif that “nothing in Egypt is free. They will ask to take picture and then ask you to pay” Thanks for the tip, Sherif, saved us all a lot of hassle. The nice thing, however, was that a simple no, thank you usually worked. Maybe that’s because Sherif was always nearby?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cairo Adventure: The Great Pyramids of Giza

We booked a tour with a certified Egyptologist named Sherif. He was great and talked a mile a minute so you had to pay attention to keep up. Our first stop was the great pyramid of Khufu, the largest and oldest of the pyramids and the only remaining of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. And it’s pretty impressive. Most of us have seen pictures, seen them in movies, but to be there in the flesh is pretty amazing. A few facts:

The pyramid, the temple of purification and the temple of mummification were all built for one king and never used again for anything else.

In addition, there are 5 ships built around the pyramid to symbolize the journey to the sun god, Ra. So far, 4 of those ships have been excavated, the 5th is out there somewhere.

This first pyramid took 30 years to build and King Khufu died before it was finished so never got to see the fruits of his labor. The next one, belonging to his son, took 9 years, probably because he didn’t want to make the same mistake his father did!

The pyramid stones are sandstone cut to fit together and stay together. Then the entire pyramid was covered with limestone and polished smooth. This covering was torn off most of the pyramids by more recent kings who thought it prestigious to build their home and temples with the stone from the ancient pyramids. You’ll see the son’s pyramid still has some of the limestone covering the top third.

There are also queen’s pyramids for the king’s additional wives (his first would be buried with him in the main pyramid).

Enough trivia, let’s see these bad boys.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cairo: Getting There (in one piece!)

My brother and his partner were in UAE for a week to visit us, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and also Cairo & Giza. We've tagged along to Egypt as we've never seen the pyramids either. As most of our adventures do, we started with excitement at the airport.

I was able to book confirmed tickets for the guys, but Brian and I were standby, which always causes last minute worry and stress. But the travel gods were smiling and we got on (maybe they felt sorry for us after Doha? ;) So, off we went for the 3.5 hour flight.

Decent food, watched a movie, took a short nap and then we were descending into Cairo.

Quick side track: While planning this trip, we had a few discussions about the safety of traveling to Cairo.  Unfortunately, if you listen to US news, the entire Middle East is dangerous and unsafe, which is just not true. But we did our research and found that there might be some political demonstrations due to some upcoming elections, but as long as we stayed away from large crowds, we should be fine. Then, a few days before we're due to fly out, a plane traveling to Sharm El Sheikh crashes in what speculators say might have been a bomb. We decided to continue with our plans as Sharm El Sheikh is quite far from Cairo. You'll understand the side track in a minute.

Back to our story.

We were descending into Cairo and about a minute or so from touching down . . . and then we were going back up again. My first reaction was, "hmm, pilot must have overshot the landing". I looked at Brian, he looked at me and we both shrugged. Then my imagination kicked in. We kept ascending and there was no announcement. 5 minutes passed and we hit a little turbulence. My imagination really kicked in:

"Oh my god, someone else is flying the plane!"
"We've been silently taken over by ISIS!"
"The ISIS pilots don't have enough experience and we're going to crash!"
"I hope my brother looks back before we go down. (he and his partner were at the front of the plane and us at the back)

Then, the pilot came on, apologized for the change in plan and explained that there was an obstruction on the runway (camel? Al Quaeda? King Tut?) and he had to make another run at a different runway.

So that was fun. Then we got through immigration just fine, found a taxi without too much trouble or bartering and off we headed to Giza. An hour drive we had read in our internet research.
We then started the next adventure of rush hour traffic through Cairo. Imagine 5 lanes of traffic. Sorry, I mean imagine a road with painted lines for 5 lanes. Then imagine a mass of cars loosely organized into 7 lanes of traffic (apparently the lines are vague suggestions only).

Now imagine it’s Christmas eve at Wal-Mart and there’s a sale on the hottest toy that year. Can you picture the behavior of the shopper in this scenario? That’s how Egyptians drive. In and out, honking, flashing lights, barely missing each other. And all the while, our driver is cool as a cucumber – no swearing, getting angry or finger gestures. Just another evening drive in Cairo.

One hour, forty minutes later we arrived at our hotel.