03.11.2008 - 06.11.2008
Well, after an 8 hour coach journey, which was actually really easy going, we arrived back in Cairo and grabbed a taxi to our hotel in the center island - Zamalek. Quite a good place for £22 a day including breakfast. Nice balcony too, with abundant free wi-fi.
The next day we set off to see the Egyptian Museum - where all the artifacts form various tombs are kept, plus the Royal Mummies. We decided to walk as it doesn't look too far on the map. Not a bad walk but bloody challenging trying to work out how to get up onto the bridge highways to cross the Nile. We made it though :-)
That's all you are going to see. No cameras allowed inside of course!
A mighty impressive collection of stuff too, and we are not really "museum people". The collection from the TutanKhamun tomb is amazing - particularly when you know that he was a pretty insignificant young king, and therefore the collections in the tombs of the great kings must have been mind boggling (all looted of course - there must be some pretty amazing private collections hidden away round the world).
We saw Tut's mask which was every bit as fabulous as you might imagine it to be in the flesh, plus his coffins , one of which is made of solid gold.
We didn't bother seeing the Royal Mummies as they wanted another £10 each and we decided we could give it a miss and live happy lives still.
Suitable knackered we had lunch at the Ramses Hilton then got a cab back and chilled, and enjoyed the US election on telly :-) - That McCain chap is a bit of a nutter!... "We will stop buying oil from countries that don't like us very much" etc etc. Thank god he din't get in - sounded like a real antagonist. Anyhow, America has their black president now (omg! I said "black" and not African American. For goodness sake!! I'm white, some people are brown, some are black. Daftness I tell you. Daftness. I even noticed UK reporters referring to him as black, in the UK, and then "on location" UK reporters in the US referring to him as "African American". How I laughed.
We went to the Islamic quarter of Cairo today - where the best mosques are and also the famous giant bazaar. We hit the mosque 1st, and immediately "picked up, involuntarily" a "guide". He was great although he fleeced us. He showed us all round and explained how all the different groups of Muslims pray in different areas etc.
(Each rectangle in the carpet is a praying spot, pointing to Mekkah)
After a good tour, he offered to take us up the main Minarette - for £3 each. We agreed and gave him a tenner. He unlocked a door and up we went... small spiral stairs just like in a castle, but in total pitch black - a tricky and unnerving experience!
(Just before our ascent)
When we got to the top we got pretty good views of the old city...
At that point he explained that that was as far as we could go but I noticed some more tiny spiral stairs going up further. After little resistance, he agreed and we went on up right to the very top. No poncey hand rails here...Kirstin stayed below :-)
(That's as far as we could go :-) )
.. he then convinced me to let him keep the £4 change for the "orphans" and then had the cheek to tap me up for another £1 backsheesh!
All Mosqued-out we wandered though parts of the bazaar - I say parts - it covers miles, and it is chaotic with people tyring to squeeze past carts and persistent shop keepers.
(the guy on the right REALLY wanted to be in the picture. I took 3 exposures of this shot to get a dynamic picture (which takes a while to setup) and he stood perfectly still, posing. Lol)
Had fun wandering and gawping. Incidentally, out taxi driver dropped us off at the far end of the market and for a long while we saw no other tourists - which was a little unnerving at 1st but the Egyptians have always proved welcoming and friendly. You could tell we were at the "poor" end - the road was mere dirt and littered with rubbish and various liquids - all very "Indy". We knew when we hit the tourist end - proper roads, and huge coaches, and the pestering got worse.
Talking about pestering - it's bee pretty cool overall. We got constantly hassled in Luxor and it got very tiring. "How much for your wife?", "How many camels?", "You walk like an Egyptian sir!". I had a laugh though. The usual banter was , "Where you from?", "London", "Oh, London, very nice place!". I got fed up after the umpteenth time... "Where you from?", "Space", "Ahh, very nice place!".
Generally though, it was just Luxor. Everywhere else a polite no thankyou "La Shokran" does the trick.
Finally, after over 3 weeks here I'd add one more thing. Just about everyone is Muslim here, varying from "mild" to fully "burkha'd" and not one person seemed "fanatical" or "angry". Just the opposite. Strangers frequently greet us with "welcome to Egypt", or "have a nice time in Egypt" and they are not selling anything. We are left with a great impression of the people here.
Probably the nicest thing someone has said to me for ages was our barman in Dahab when we left - "Insallah" - God willing.
Onward and upwards - we fly to Cape Town tomorrow, and it's going to be an amazing journey. You know I mentioned that our flights (that were economy cost) showed up as 1st class? Well, re didn't really believe it, but I logged back on to check our itinerary last night and they still say 1st class, and our seats have been allocated.... 01E and 01F - it does not take a brain surgeon to work out 01 seats are at the very front. I check on their website and looked at the seating plan for our specific plane, and yep, we are in the front seats of the 1st class cabin tha has only 12 seats in total! - business class is behind, with about another 30 seats.
God knows how this has happened!?! - I joined the airline's frequent flyer programme, and entered our codes when we booked, although we have zero miles. Perhaps their system said, "no economy seats left, bump two people who have membership automatically"? Quite odd but we are most certainly flying 1st class. I'm going to shave tonight.