Archive for March, 2009

Post Ides, Pre Patty’s and Egypt, Part 1.

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Happy mid-March. Although I’m feeling better than I was at the end of February, I’ve been thrown back into the world of office chair neck. I suppose many of you know what this is. It first manifested itself as mini-migraines, but is now just a dull scream from my neck muscles of “You horrible, horrible person. You let us relax for a week straight and expect us to PERFORM now? How COULD you?”

Alright already. Luckily for my neck and upper back, I just got a new insurance card through work (I paid for it, no freebies here), which comps massages as medical procedures. Bahaha! I have yet to buck up and actually schedule a massage, but it will happen and it will be glorious.

Something that was a mixture of glorious and wah-wah was Egypt. We were there for a week (the same week the bomb went off at the main market in Cairo, but we travelled to Cairo the day or second day after and the market wasn’t even on the tour itinerary), took two day trips — one to Cairo and one to Luxor — and generally got sunburned, windblown, and sanded. Sanded as in no matter what you did, drink water (bottled), rum (yes, Egypt, a 90% Muslim country, manufactures its own rum, gin, vodka, whisky, etc.) mixed with juice (helloooo guava, mango and pineapple!), straight-up juice (thought I’d say rum? Sick.) or brushed your teeth obsessively, it felt like there was always a 1/4 C. of sand in and around your face. Constant daytime temperature around 22′C, nights around 16′C. The heat was dry enough so we could wear long sleeves during the day trips and not be fried by the time we got back. We had sun, sand, the Red Sea, saw camel being parallel parked, donkeys, had our feet tickled by Egyptians, went swimming, watched the Discovery channel at night, saw pyramids, temples, Cairo, Luxor, Giza, and the Nile (funny story about the Nile…). I’ll jump straight to Cairo, then work my way around the week.

EGYPT: PART 1. CAIRO

Cairo was a very, very dirty city. Our Lonely Planet guide book warned us our snot would turn black. I was really excited to test this theory out and too-eagerly blew my nose and checked the tissue once back at the hotel, but to no avail. The reason could be because we spent most of the time in the tour bus. Cairo was also much less modern than I thought it would be, at least architecturally. In Cairo we saw the Museum of Egypt, which had many many artifacts. Sarcophagi, treasures from tombs, and pretty much every kind of animal/reptile/insect imaginable in mummified form. At the end of our broken-English tour (we were dumped by our tour guide onto another one leading a pack of Danes, Germans and British), we were ready to head back out into the dirty, sunny day, when our tour guide caught us and insisted “Excuse me, excuse me, but you have not seen the most important room! This is the gold room!” and we were all “Gold is dumb. We want to see the mummified goat again.”

Although we didn’t actually say this to her, I’m sure we all felt it. Nonetheless we dragged ourselves thorugh the gold room, which is basically a longish space containing King Tut’s most valuable treasures and shoulder-to-shoulder tourist traffic. Worse than that time at the Khalo exhibit in Minneapolis.

The Cairo trip also included a stop at a perfume shop, which was actually interesting, because we learned a bit about how perfumes are made, that the most famous scent from Egypt is the lotus, which has been used in perfumes since the Pharaohs were still around, if not before. I also scored a free, small perfume vial for knowing the name Nefertiti meant “the most beautiful woman”. See, I DID pay attention (at times) during the Museum tour! I also broke down and bought a small bottle of mint oil, which is supposed to be great for fighting headaches and sinus issues. I agree. Rub some on the back of your neck and your head is overwhelmed with a pleasant, cooling sensation. Put three drops of the oil in a cup of hot water and breathe in the steam – instant Vick’s Vapo concoction.

Our other “shopping stop” included a gold jewelry store. Did I mention that our tour company is apparently based out of Russia? I understand why the perfume store, and though in hindsight understand the gold store, all I could think at the time was “typical Russian.”

Of course, we also got to take a trip through Giza to the pyramids there. There are three pyramids literally right on the outskirts of the city, so in the panorama you feel more like you’re on higher ground looking down at the Las Vegas strip from behind the Luxor hotel. The pyramids were less awe-inspiring than anticipated, mostly due to their proximity to the city and because the lot for bus parking was right next to the main pyramid. Convenient, yes, but it’s a moment-killer.

There would have been plenty of camels to ride, but before we were able to reach that point of our 45 minutes at the Giza pyramids, we were quite thoroughly scammed by an older man who first posed as a “worker”, then as a “photographer”, and then as a “poor man” whose children would be very gratefull. Cue sap music and excuse me as I throw up in my mouth a little. Moving on, we were skeezed out of a decent amount of USD, were very unhappy and cynical about the rest of the pyramid experience, and were more than happy to get back on the bus to take the 5 minute drive to the Sphinx.

However, the fact that we were scammed on the first trip out and at the first location we hit was kind of a life lesson, as we were afterward able to easily tell which people were planning on scamming (i.e. offering to help you take touristy photos, then asking for way more money than it was worth, or offering to pose with you then asking for money, etc.) and even saw one man from our tour group get scammed much the way we did. If anything, it helped us be more aware of what was going on.

The Sphinx was also anti-climactic. Pigeons sitting on its face, one side covered by scaffolding, tourists and trinket sellers all over the place. It’s hard to even semi-enjoy something when people are flipping postcards and bookmarks in your face every 30 seconds. There are tourist police around, but it’s a mystery as to who they try to run out of the area and who they don’t. We could have filed a complaint with the tourist police, but it would have been wasted energy. 

And yes, we did take the touristy pictures of holding the pyramid, sitting against it, stomping it (that’s just me), as well as kissing, petting, poking the eyes of (again, that’s just me) and riding the Sphinx.

By the time we were dropped back off at the resort around 10/10.30 p.m., we were too tired for words, having slept little the night before to make the 1 a.m. departure time for Cairo. The next day (Wednesday) we got really, really sunburned. So sunburned I felt sick to my stomach if I laughed too much. Part II soon to follow!

And no, I was not bitten by anything this trip.