Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kate on the Loose: Cairo, Part 1

My good friend, Kate, is on a solo trip in Egypt. On March 16, she wrote:

All is going well.  I caught a taxi when I arrived in Cairo at midnight.  The driver sped through traffic weaving in and out, tooting the horn to let other cars know he's coming through. I just say a prayer and look out the side window.  The roads have no defined lanes and if they do the driver straddles the lanes to keep his options open.  Also, there are no stop lights and the one I saw, the driver went right through.

People cross anywhere even with traffic coming.  The first time I crossed a street I stood on the corner for five minutes trying to figure it out.  The best strategy is to cross with a family - maybe they'll stop for small children.  That said I only saw two fender benders.

My hotel is down a side street in a commercial area.  The hotel is on the 4th floor with a three person lift.  My room has pine floors, a sink and little balcony ( no view but glad to have).  There are 10 ft. double doors to my room.  It has lots of old Egyptian charm.  The shared bathroom was fine, and there was plenty of hot water!

Tuesday my first day, I set out with vague directions to walk to the large market, Khane al-Khalili.  The sidewalks were full of vendors with their wares spread out on the ground and lots of people browsing, almost impossible to walk through.  You understand I am in the common folk area - and the vendors are calling out "welcome to Egypt".  Did I mention I'm the only European tourist around?  Tourism is down 65% since last year.  I walked for a couple hours; never got to the market, but got comfortable with the area.

On Wed hired a taxi and went to Giza and two other areas with pyramids.  Went down into a pyramid at Dashur.  There is a long, steep ramp down into it and then several rooms with nothing in them (everything has been removed to museums).  I was the only one down there and it still felt close.  I can't imagine being there with a lot of people.  Did I mention I had to crouch the whole way down? I had stiff legs the next day.

The drive out was through rural areas. Many donkeys pulling carts and forests of palm trees.
At Giza I toured the pyramids in a horse-drawn cart.  On the way there was a funeral, two coffins carried with men walking along.  Woman can attend the service in the mosque but not walk behind the coffin.

It's so weak to say the pyramids are magnificent but they are. The sphinx was carved from the rock it rests on, so it is one piece.  Napoleon shot off the sphinx's nose in the 18th century.  The guide said Napoleon thought the sphinx would come to life and fight him.  Another guide told me the foot of a famous statue is in the British museum and they want it back!

I'm sending this first installment as I'm going to order a falafel for lunch and don't want to lose my email.


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