Posted on Nov 7, 2016 |
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Even more adventures in Egypt!
A more detailed overview
This is the first time I've had some free time to go into more detail. Apologies if I am repeating myself, I can't remember what all I posted and what I haven't so far. I have a 2 hr wait at the Cairo airport for my trip to Aswan, and apparently this airport has excellent wifi, even in the domestic flight section! Egypt is funny that way, you get ancient pyramids and some places where the toilet is nothing more then a hole in the ground, but then you also get wifi, brand new clothes, and the latest electronics. I didn’t check to see if there was wifi at the pyramids, but I did notice my guides were talking on their cel phones just fine lol.
The hotel I’m staying at is quite nice, it’s a budget place, so it has marble flooring, air conditioning, my own toilet (if I only wanted to pay $2 per night I could have shared with other women), and the maid came in daily. The only downfall was the lack of toilet paper upon checkin. However I was prepared, as someone warned me about the tp shortage in Egypt. Fortunately the lack of tp was taken care of later. It really is a rare commodity in Egypt, people having to pay 25cents to get some outside of any public bathrooms. There also seems to be this odd shortage of anything to wipe your hands with after eating. Napkins are apparently a foreign concept in Egypt. Wiping your hands on your clothing doesn’t work well either if you are wearing light colours to keep off the sun!The clothing customs are downright... well religious here. The women are expected to keep their hair covered at all times, and very few seem to cheat. It is funny how the local women are just appalled at how the tourist women dress and have their hair out. I have decided to just wear a silk head scarf to get less harassment, and keep the sun off. I’ve seen some tourist women with hair completely down and short shorts on; they should have an interesting trip in Egypt I figure lol. Of course women are also not supposed to have bare legs (fuck that), and not bare arms, but one can sort of get away with short sleeved t-shirts. The shoulders are also not supposed to be bare. This is in Cairo, so I’m sure it’s extra strict in the smaller towns and villages. I have seen some of the woman cheat a bit and wear the head to toe outfit, but part of it being tight. I have yet to see an Egyptian women wear less then a tshirt and capris though. Many of the woman wear black head to toe, and some wear veils. Now that might work out just fine in the winter, but would be damn hot in the summer!
The food has been excellent and extremely low cost! Well it depends where you eat of course... there are sometimes two prices, one for the locals, and another special tourist price. I still seem to keep finding lunch and dinner for $3 or less though. I have yet to have a bad meal here which is good. I just look for the places that seem packed to the brim with a lineup, or go with the one the hotel or my driver suggests. Speaking of which, when my driver and I go out, he has been quite nice, and stops at all of the fresh squeezed mango juice stands for me. I have no idea what that crap in North America is, but the mango (mangu) juice in Egypt is amazing! It’s also a very good deal at only $5 per 1.5 litre water bottle filled up with it. My driver was quite sweet and just randomly showed up one morning with a huge bottle of it for me. Needless to say he got a large tip for that one :>.
The hotel is a bit odd, or more likely wanting extra income, and they are convinced that tourists cannot get anywhere alone and they always need a guide and/or driver! Personally I like to walk around, so I spent 2 of my days in Cairo just wandering for 4-5 hours. Definitely an interesting experience. The second day the wandering was greatly extended because I was hopelessly lost (I think I was circling my hotel and the museum and not knowing it lol). So I finally gave up and hailed a cab, so he drove me around lost for half an hour, which also included asking directions from people, trying to get interpreters and so on. One must have a good sense of humour to be in Egypt. He finally gave up, and I got out. I offered him a very low amount since I was nowhere near my hotel. He was quite mad, but fortunately the tourist police intervened and I got Egyptian price (the cabbie was extra pissed now) and they got me a new cab to the place that I could find my way back to the hotel from. It was a nice tour of Cairo at least LOL.
I have found that everyone that knows English in Egypt that tries to talk to you either is trying to be your guide for a fee, or they just so happen to own a perfume shop that they attempt to lure you into. Of course most of these perfume shops have fake essential oils. You would not believe how many people with perfume shops told me about how they traveled to Canada (or the US)... then they just so happened to show me their shop next. I only fell for this once. The first time when I did fall for it, the guy quoted one price, then another price if I got 2. Suddenly a bit later the price went up a lot, so I walked out saying he was a rippoff. I come to find out later that he lied about how early the Egyptian museum closed so he could lure me into his store.
Whenever you go shopping in Egypt, they always sit you down with a mint tea (or other drink of your choice). Then they proceed to show you what they have in their shop and talk you into something. I’m not all that patient and like to cut to the chase. I’m sure I pay a lot more then I should for this, but half an hour of haggling is just not my idea of fun :P. My guide brought me to one perfume shop that was government sanctioned, so the oils were actually real. I had to get some papyrus oil and some lotus oil. I think they would go over extremely well for Egyptian magics.
I was also taken to a government sanctioned papyrus institute where I was shown how papyrus is made. It’s pretty neat, they take off the skin of the stalk, then they slice strips. The strips are then put in water to soak for a week or few. When they are done soaking they are put into a press and flattened (a rock in the old days) then rolled out with a rolling pin to flatten them even further. They are then overlayed with each other to make the papyrus. They naturally stick to each other due to their high starch content. The funny thing is that the “papyrus” one finds in north America is not actually papyrus, but banana leaves! Real papyrus is MUCH thicker, and waterproof. I think a papyrus rain jacket would be quite nice :). Unfortunately most of the papyrus in Egypt is also fake. The real stuff is actually quite thick and sturdy. The papyrus institute was amazing, the paintings on the papyri were truly masterpieces, what you would expect to find in any art gallery. I was completely amazed at how well they were done. Again, nothing like you find here. However the prices were also a bit high. For a large poster sized one it was $500 (likely haggled down to $200-$250), but they are truly gorgeous.
The next shopping stop was a rug school in Sakkura. Apparently Saqqura (no nothing ever really does have a standard spelling in Egypt) is famous for their rug making and rug school. I was brought on the tour and shown how they knot the rugs. I was let try as well, and have photos, but the wifi here is not fast enough for photo uploads! The silk rugs were just gorgeous and sooo soft! I told them no thank you, I don’t want to buy any carpets, right up until he showed me a silk one with the weighing of the heart papyrus on it! So I left with one of the smaller carpets.
Aside from that I’m avoiding the souvenirs as most are very low quality, and I would rather spend my money on tours of remote temples. Also, haggling for inordinate amounts of time is getting old... fast! I did find out that when I paid $5 for a pair of sunglasses I was paying way too much, since my next pair was only $2 lol. For other souvenirs I have more blisters then I can count! There are the butt blisters from camel riding, the blisters all over my feet from the new sandals, and just a load of them for walking around for 5 hours per day.When my tours were booked, I thought they might be short 4-6 hour tours. Meanwhile I found out that they were an 11 hour and a 9 hour tour! Needless to say I was exhausted by the end of the day. The good part is that they were private tours with my own driver and guide. So I nixed the Christian temples and Mosques right away. I had seen enough in Morocco when I went, and when you’ve seen one monotheistic Deity’s church/mosque you have seen them all. Well OK perhaps not, the inlay is beautiful, but there were important tombs and pyramids that needed to be seen instead.
I have seen about 10 pyramids now, and crawled inside 2 of them. Pyramid crawling is quite a bit of exercise and wears one out quickly, so I chose not to go into all of them, just a couple of the more interesting ones. They do feel pretty neat inside, but I think the thousands of tourists per day does take away from it a bit. I was able to take photos inside one of the pyramids, but not the other. You aren’t supposed to take photos inside of them, but with the right backsheesh, well you can get away with a few more things. I think this country is run on backsheesh actually. Of course they always tell you that you haven’t given them enough, but that is a common tactic that is best ignored!
My first tour of the Egyptian museum was with a guide and only lasted an hour or two. She definitely told me some interesting facts that I did not know, and many relating to magical practice, which is quite handy. However she also did not cover even half of the museum, since one never could in that short of a time. So I went back on my own a few days later and spent 4-5 hours in the museum. I of course quickly saw the exhibits my guide had shown me, and remembered much of what she said, but I also found some new ones that I had not yet seen before! One of my favourites was this 20 foot tall statue of Horus :>. Across from the statue was the white crown of upper Egypt. I made a joke about his hat falling off, but I don’t think the guard got it. Unfortunately they were watching that statue like a hawk (pun intended), so I couldn’t get away with too much.
Speaking of Horus, there was another room where there was a Horus statue sitting in one of the sacred granite houses for statues, in every quarter. There were also hundreds of eyes of Horus in various places in the museum, including the ever so wonderful jewellery rooms. All this and a couple of stuffed, er I mean mummified falcons. There was also a Horus statue outside in the gardens (well it was sort of a garden, there was Egyptian lotus and papyri plant there. After hours of touring the museum I bought a much overpriced bottle of water ($1.60 can you believe it?!) and relaxed leaning up against the statue.
There was of course also statues of all of the kings/pharaohs, and many of them had an extremely strong presence! All of the famous pictures that I have seen of Egyptian statues, well they were all there! The one with the pharaoh with Horus on one side and Set on the other, was in a closed off under construction room. Fortunately it could clearly be seen from the door if one peeked around and took the back route through a few of the monuments. I’m sure if there was some backsheesh involved the workman may have let me in, but I was far too tired at this point that just seeing the statue from the door was good enough. Then there was also of course the famous statue of Khephre with Horus behind him in hawk form, made of granite, and very nicely done. The statues are much more awesome (and very huge) in person!
Another of my favourite sections was the main court where you walk along it, and there are about twenty 50 foot high statues of pharaohs all looking at you. The neat thing was that some of them definitely did look at you, and this room won out for seeing statues move or smile slightly.
I went into the animal mummification room, to see all various sorts of animals mummified. They had everything mummified, from crocodiles down to sand dollars. I can see why they mummified the sand dollars, since they had the same design on them as the stars on the ceiling of many of the temples and tombs. There were also many many sarcophagi in the museum, so many that I actually got tired of seeing sarcophagi, even if each and every one of them was very pretty. As everyone knows, the Egyptians put a LOT of work into their burials... everything from nicely hand painted red cedar various shaped boxes, to granite hand carved with thousands of hieroglyphics. There was even one set there which held the king and his organs (there was a canopic jar box involved which held all 4, which was covered over in 18K gold. Of course not just regular 18K gold, but gold that had various deities and hieroglyphics all over it. Then inside that box, was another box that had gold sheeting on the outside, then inside that another box, and so on. There were about 5 of the gold ones, then an alabaster one or two at the end, inlayed of course.
I also had to go see the royal mummy room, that would be a room with nothing but 10 old Pharaohs mummified. Here they thought they were spending all of eternity beneath their pyramid, or in their tomb, but now they are in glass cases, with their faces exposed at the Egyptian museum in Cairo. So much for a restful sleep. Some of them definitely did have a presence etc. about them. It was $20 to get into that room, and I thought you could buy a ticket inside the museum. I was far too tired to go back outside and buy the ticket but fortunately a guard looking to make a day’s wages in 5 minutes saved me the trip LOL. We just exchanged the cash around the back to Ramses III.
It really is a shame that photography is no longer allowed in the Egyptian museum, as there are so many pieces that I would love to have a photo of. There were people there who decided the new laws forbidding cameras would not slow them down, and they were just drawing the inscriptions that they saw upon the tombs, statues and so on. There was one person who was actually fully painting the design on one sarcophagus, complete with paint pallet of many colours just sitting on the ground there in front of the box. It seems they are pretty relaxed at the museum fortunately. You are allowed to touch all of the monuments accept for those which are behind glass. So I had a great time connecting with and getting a feel for many of the old kings and Deities. I also packed a lunch so that I would survive the entire day there without having to leave for lunch or water, and no one seemed to mind me sitting there amongst the Gods eating my Egyptian pizza.
The best part of the museum for me were the 3 jewellery rooms. They were amazing!! To actually see the gorgeous gold, lapis, carnelian, etc. jewellery that the pharaohs wore in ancient Egypt was amazing. That was a LOT of 18K gold! I would go broke just re-creating even one of the many pieces. Needless to say, they had no lack of jewellery in the afterlife. How they could wear all that and still walk is beyond me though, as much of it was pretty large and cumbersome. There were also talismans and amulets in the jewellery rooms as many of them were worn, as pendants, rings, bracelets and more. The most amazing bit is that they created each of these pieces without the help of a dremel.
One interesting tomb was the one where all of the hieroglyphics were outees instead of innies. Most hieroglyphics are carved into the stone. However with some tombs and statues, they are carved around! This would mean you would have to carve away the entire stone accept for the little bit that makes up the intricate hieroglyphics! When you look at the displays in the museum, you see literally millions of little (and some not so little) hieroglyphics perfectly carved into granite, alabaster an many other stones. There were very few statues that weren’t written on. I have tried to engrave hieroglyphics into gemstones and believe me, it is not as easy as it looks! Also, how they got them so deep is beyond me.
It is a shame that they took all of the nice statues and sarcophagi out of the original sites, but that is probably the only way to keep them from getting damaged and/or stolen. The tomb robbers already got away with a LOT of loot over the millennia, so it is all a lot safer in the museum now. The temple and tomb guardian statues at the Egyptian museum look a little annoyed by the thousands of visitors, but I guess at least what they are guarding is now quite safe under lock and key.
There was also a room full of papyrus, the fancy coloured sort that we are used to, but also the regular ol’ black and er tan sort that seemed to be much more common. It is truly amazing that the colour stayed so bright after all these years. There are also a few tomb and temple wall pieces that are now in the museum where the colour is fully intact! The original temple and tomb walls were carved into the stone, as were the hieroglyphics, then they were painted on with charcoal, ochre, malachite and azurite. Very pretty colouring.
There was a display of hundreds of little statues, they were the people who were to serve the king in the afterlife. Some sets contained 360 so that one could serve him or her each day of the year. Some Pharaohs would have their servants buried with them (they were killed for this) so they could serve them, but most would just have a set of statues. Also with the dead, the Egyptians in the old Kingdom would go to the tomb of their ancestors each day and leave out food and water offerings. Well eventually they would just paint food and water on the tomb walls to provide the nourishment for the deceased. I think the dead got a bum deal in this one. They were of course also buried with protective amulets, as well as their royal jewellery. Apparently they protected against magical dangers, but didn’t do so well against archaeologists.
Posted by A magicians travels at 12:09 AM No comments:
Friday, April 4, 2008
A few (hundred) photos of Egypt
I am adding my photos of Egypt to myspace. http://myspace.com/scirlin/ since that is the only place I can seem to upload to without downloading something.
Posted by A magicians travels at 3:19 AM No comments:
Monday, March 31, 2008
The pyramids are really big!
Damn those things are HUGE! Unfortunately they don’t let you climb up them anymore. Years back a couple of tourists fell to their deaths and ruined it for everyone else. When you see all of the photos of the pyramids it’s difficult to tell how large they are, but I would say as taller then most sky scrapers, more interesting too :>. I hired a camel and a “guide” (more like a guy to make sure my camel doesn’t misbehave and show us the right route) and got to see the pyramids from the back which was pretty neat. It took 40 minutes by camel to get to the pyramids, but definitely better then walking around them since the area is so large. When I got to the pyramids I saw that most others cheated and took the AC tour buses to the top where the pyramids are lol.
I went inside the Khepre pyramid, the medium sized one, which was pretty awesome! You have to walk down quite hunched over to get into it, and it actually gets difficult to breathe at a couple of points due to the lack of air (and far too many other people in there). Then you come out into a couple of main areas, and the large main section where the sarcophagus is. There isn’t any decorate inside (well aside from some graffiti from the 1890, but still very interesting. I was also able to see the sphinx and the temple of Khepre. Now those people who are selling sand from between the paws of the sphinx, are lying! You can’t even get within 50 feet of it! Fortunately it’s also kind of large, and there is no problem seeing it at all :>. It took 20 years to build the great pyramid apparently, which is pretty fast considering they had to ship those giant bricks down the nile, then get them up there via pulleys or what have you.
I looked at the pyramids of Mycerinus and Khufu but didn’t go inside them, one pyramid was enough. I of course also saw the Sphinx. The people who are selling sand from between the paws of the sphinx are lying, since you can’t get within 100 feet of it! The best view of it is from just above Khafre’s funerary temple. The temple is also quite awesome to visit, with offering tables which are basically large pieces of carved flat stone, hieroglyphics all over the walls, one of the ever popular false doors, and so on. It is truly amazing that the colour from all of those thousands of years ago is still on the walls! Of course some has eroded, but a lot of it is still there. To colour the walls they used charcoal for the black, ochre for the yellow and red, azurite for the blue, and malachite for the green. Those are some damn magically potent walls! Unfortunately the thousands of tourists per day destroy the affect quite a bit.
Also, in all of the temples and funerary complexes (that I have seen so far), the hieroglyphics are carved in quite deeply! 1/8th to 1/4” deep! They are (so far) all done extremely well also! Much better then I could ever carve into my walls, and mine are only wood.
The Egyptian museum is amazing! The jewellery room was my favourite, and I have a few new ideas now :). The statues in the museum are pretty incredible as well, and many of them still have a lot of feel to them. There are some rooms that when you enter you can definitely feel the presence of the statues. The ones that were built to protect the tomb and all the stuff in it have this feeling of being annoyed at so many people wandering in and out LOL. Well I guess they are at least not wandering out with anything, and everything is very well protected.. just perhaps not in the location they would have liked.
That museum has a LOT of mummies, and an entire room dedicated to mummification, and another room for mummified animals. I still would say the statues had more presence though. One of the most beautiful exhibits was a sarcophagus which was marble, then inside that one was a gold foiled one, then inside that another gold foiled one... and eventually down to the actual mummy.
There are also hundreds of amulets in the museum, and I’m sure just as many talismans. All together there are thousands of exhibits there, and I only spent a couple of hours so far, so I will have to go back and spend an entire day there so that I can see more. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos, and are very strict about this, so I can’t post any pictures from inside the museum. Well actually I can’t post photos anyways because Egyptian wifi is about as reliable and fast as the Egyptian mail service...
Posted by A magicians travels at 2:14 PM No comments:
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Made it to Egypt, and the food is yummy!
Got through airport security in Seattle quickly which is always good. The first flight which was only 4 hrs wasn’t too painful. The 2nd flight which was 8 hrs long was however quite painful, even though I did get to select between 20 different movies to watch on my personal seat back mini tv screen, and had my palm pilot with me full of songs. Then there was the severely painful 9 hour wait at the Amsterdamn airport. I was far too tired to go traveling into the city, and unfortunately also too tired to enjoy the art museum in the airport, or the meditation room. It was mostly sleeping and using their overpriced wifi during the airport visit. I bought a very small lunch and mentioned to the person beside me that this was the most expensive food I had ever seen. He looked shocked, then said “welcome to Holland” LOL. I skipped the $50 lunch at the restaurant, and went for the $15 rice bowl at the asian place instead. At least the food in the airport is a hair better then the food on the airplane. NWA’s attempt at curry was pathetic.
If I had known about it, and had a bit more spare money, I would have been seriously tempted to stay in the hotel here at the airport! It is quite handy, you don’t even have to leave the airport, and you don’t even have to go through security again, the hotel is right here in the main area of the airport. However at $120 for a few extra hours sleep I would likely to have to be more tired then this to not just grab one of the lounge chairs and call it good. It is 3 degrees here in Amsterdam, and will be at least 20 when I get to Egypt. So now I only have 6 hrs to go until I am standing in Egypt! I can’t wait, but do hope I will get some more sleep before then. I will be arriving at 2am Egypt time, so unfortunately most everything will be closed. I will want to find a restaurant asap to make up for the past 24 hours of food horror. I’m sure sleeping will be a chore since I know as soon as I wake up I’ll be able to see Cairo properly. On a side note, my inflatable travel pillow was well worth whatever I paid for it :).
Well I made it across the Egyptian border just fine, and fortunately had the help of the hotel I’m staying at. It’s awfully nice here, marble tile floors, marble counters, nice furnishings and so on. I can only imagine what the nice hotels are like! This is one of the budget lowest cost hotels in Cairo, well the one with air conditioning *and* your own toilet that is lol. I decided to splurge a little and not get the $2 per night place.
I just love the hotel’s version of their wifi lounge ;>. It’s basically a few chairs and tables and a nice couch up on the 13th floor of the building, and very nicely breezy on a hot day. However wifi in north America and wifi in Egypt are 2 completely different things. This wifi makes dialup seem luxurious lol. Apparently they also serve breakfast up here, but I wouldn’t know about that yet as I got up too late today to enjoy it.
I made a trip around downtown walking around enjoying the sites. Apparently you can purchase any and every sort of tool, or piece part for machinery from people who put down blankets full of stuff for sale on the sidewalks. You can also get lunch (the largest meal of the day) for around $2-$5! I managed to have an “essential oil” dealer try to rip me off, and some other guy swear at me and threaten me worse then I could have managed! I walked out of the first shop after making some rude comment, and tried my best to give the second guy the evil eye. The perfume dealer even went so far as to lie about the closing time of the Egyptian museum to get me to visit his shop instead. He apparently sells his oils to the body shop. From what I have seen of the body shop they are fake shit. I’m pretty sure what he was trying to sell me was fake as well, even though he had pretty pictures of his supposed flower farms.
Lunch was some lamb and ochre. It was OK, and I probably could have done better if I had chosen one out of the guide book instead of just randomly walking into a place that looked busy with locals. The guide books seems to exaggerate about everything in Egypt, both good and bad. There are not fresh squeezed fruit juice stands everywhere, I only saw 3 on a several hour walk, and I didn’t see any pomegranates or mangos. The men aren’t quite as bad here as people make out, and only 1 in every 100 Egyptians tried to offer to be my tour guide. The best thing is that I haven’t been asked for bakshish even once yet! Even the people who picked me up from the hotel, and the hotel staff didn’t ask. Needless to say I gave them more then I would have if they asked.
Cairo looks much like any other large city accept you have to be pretty careful crossing the streets, there is Arabic writing on all the storefronts, and the woman walk around wearing far too much for weather this warm. Fortunately it’s not all that hot yet, more about just right. However 2 months from now I’m thinking it might be too hot.
Apparently 3am is a prayer time (they are crazy!) as well as 6am, and a few other times. I hear them during the night since I leave my balcony door of my hotel room open to get the nice breeze in my room. I find this to be much nicer (and quieter) then the AC. The AC does work, but is a bit loud. However a nice breeze in a dark place seems to be the best way to beat the heat around here.
I haven’t taken any photos yet, I was too busy finding my way around and thinking about the dozen new blisters on my feet from these damn fancy sandals lol.
I went out for dinner, as there really is no point trying to cook for myself when dinner is only $4 with the special tourist price I’m sure I was charged. The price on the menu was $1.50 for dinner, and I of course did ask for a special order, but still how it went from $1.50 to $4.00 I’m not so sure. Anyways, it was the best beef kofta I have ever had, so I will live with the price.
I haven’t yet seen any tourist items accept for a couple of small statues and a few papyri, but I’m sure I’ll find it all soon enough. I only packed a few t-shirts for my trip thinking I could purchase a few here. I’m hoping to find some that aren’t cheesy! This country has a LOT of clothing stores! I mean even more then the US. You find about 20 clothing stores per block if you count both sides of the street. Aside from the clothing stores there seems to be store after store that is trying to sell you luggage. In north America the shopkeepers generally sit inside the store and wait for people to come in; well in Egypt aggressive salesmanship definitely seems the way to go. I’m hoping I will find some essential oils that aren’t just fake perfume oil soon.
Posted by A magicians travels at 10:35 AM 2 comments:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Seattle blog, day 1
My friend with very good advice recommended that I take the float plane from the island to Seattle instead of traveling through Victoria and takig the 4 hr ferry down. It would have been 2 ferries and a bus trip. The float plane was a blast! I had taken a float plane once before, but this time was even more fun as it was a much smaller plane this time (6 passenger), and I was the only passenger on it! The coolest bit is that since I was the only passenger and the pilot didn’t have a co-pilot, I got to sit in the front co-pilot seat. It is definitely a *much* better view from up front then from any of the passenger seals! The pilot that I flew with had been doing this job for over 20 years, so she gave me the grand tour and listed off most of the islands along the route. The flight took an hour and was one of the smoothest flights I have ever flown.
Fortunately getting through customs was as easy as ever with just a couple of questions, and only a few minutes. So now I am sitting outside the floatplane airline building and disappointed that more and more people are securing their wireless networks these days. There will be sushi involved soon, and I can’t wait, since sushi back on the island is only so so; I usually just make my own. Seattle has some of the best sushi restaurants I have ever tried! It will be my bday sushi dinner, so extra yummy I figure.
Well as it ended up, we went for east Indian as the sushi places weren’t open for dinner yet, then we both crashed for the night (he had been working swing shifts and was tired as well).
Seattle day 2
On Saturday H and I went out for sushi dinner to the best (as far as we know) sushi place in Seattle. Then we went off to see a movie. The movie was 3000, and I actually liked it. I can’t stand most movies so this is definitely saying something. Now why everyone had dreadlocks is beyond me though! The film also portrayed the ancient Egyptians as overtly neurotic and lame lol. We also got a lot of my shopping for the trip out of the way, boring shit like sandals, water purification tablets, sun screen and so on.
On Sunday we again went for sushi. You can never have too much sushi we figure. It was one of those places where your sushi travels on by as it goes around the restaurant and you choose which ones you want to eat and grab them. We also fortunately found some perfect pendants for the talismans we wished to make. Sunday was pouring down rain, so we didn’t go for the walk and the drink we were planning for easter.
Posted by A magicians travels at 10:29 AM No comments:
Monday, March 3, 2008
Only 23 more days to go!!!
First off, a word of warning, if you are easily offended, or have grown up in the Muslim religion, this blog will most likely offend you. It doesn’t mean to offend but some people are extremely uptight, or do not know how we often speak here in the west. I am also a Pagan, which I know is very blasphemous in Egypt. So you have been warned, don’t go messaging me to complain or writing rude comments in my blog if you don’t like it. I thought I would mention this just in case the general public happen upon my blog.
I can’t wait, only 23 more days until I set foot in Egypt! Of course I’ll be setting foot there about 2am after 2 days of flying and airports, so I may be a bit more then trashed. A local person from Egypt has offered to meet me at the airport, then we take the city bus 4 hours after I arrive. I’m thinking not, that would be too many people to strangle if any pissed me off (remember the bit about 2 days of airplanes and 2am). So I will be haggling for a cab at 2am after 2 days of travel! If there are still cab drivers willing to speak with me after I’m done, I will be taking one to my hotel.
About 6 months ago Flauros and I talked about me going to Egypt! I just loved the idea but mentioned that it would be awfully difficult for me to afford it. So he asked how much for airfare. I told him, and within 2 weeks I had an order for the exact amount of airfare and travel insurance! Then we discussed hotels, I was looking up the $2-$5 per night ones as I just love budget travel. Flauros told me I have to stay in the nicer hotels. I complained about how much more they cost, but also thought it very sweet that he was concerned. So he asked how much for the ones with AC and bathrooms... I calculated the figures and told him. Of course less then a week later I got a couple of orders for exactly that amount. This is on top of an order for the exact amount for food/transportation/entrance fees some time later when we he asked me how much more I needed to complete the trip.
The very first thing I will be doing in Egypt (well besides changing money to that really pretty Egyptian stuff and haggling with cab drivers and telling touts “IMSHEE!”) will be to go out to eat! Fortunately there are several eating establishments in Cairo which are open 24 hours a day :). So I will be starting off my trip with some good Egyptian food!
I have my itinerary all planned out for where I will be each day and which monuments I will be going to see each day. However this is more then likely to change once I actually get there. I’m already thinking of taking a quick unplanned trip over to the red sea after I have relaxed in Cairo for a few days. I also might be flying to Abul Sumbul instead of taking the 18 hour overnight train. Not that there is anything wrong with trains in Egypt of course... aside from breaking down often, being rickety, being overcrowded, not always air conditioned, and costing more then to fly if you actually want a bed.... but getting there in only a couple of hours is more then tempting. Unfortunately I will be arriving during one of the prime tourist seasons (believe me this was *not* planned) so I will have to book ahead with a lot of places. Damn north Americans and their having to travel to Egypt over the easter holidays! Couldn’t they have done so back at Christmas or in January?
I will be going to the far south at the beginning of my trip, right after I recover from the flight in Cairo, since it gets far too hot there the closer to summer it gets. I have carefully sought out air conditioned hotels with their own bathrooms. While they do cost a little more then the $2 per night options, there are some luxuries that I would like to experience during my first trip over there. Believe it or not, there are actually hotels in Egypt that are $170 per night and up! Keep in mind this is a country where the average national income is about $2 per day. Even in Cairo, people tend to make $200-$300 per month for an entire family. As you can guess one of the primary sources of income for many Egyptians is the tourist trade, and baksheesh (tipping) from tourists.
There is much to do in Egypt... everything from internet cafes and wifi (have to keep up with my email you know), to pyramids, tombs, museums, a wild nightlife, and cruising the Nile on traditional boats called Fellucas. For those with too much money and no imagination there are also Nile cruises on cruise boats that are larger then most skyscrapers, have pools on deck, several restaurants, ballrooms and other luxuries. Most of them make the fanciest of hotels look like not much. Now how they have those marble tiled floors and still stay afloat is beyond me! I am guessing that the Egyptians view the cruise ships full of tourists with the same disgust we here on the island view the hoards of tourist buses that come over in the summer. However like Egypt, that is how most residents pay their rent.
A few interesting facts about Egypt... for example, the papyrus that you buy in most stores is actually just screen printed banana leaves, especially what we get over here in north America! If you want the real papyrus, you have to go to a reputable papyrus dealer or know what you are looking for. Apparently in ancient Egypt there were several grades of papyrus, similar to how we grade leather today. The innermost and nicest papyri was only used for religious and temple documents, while the next layer out was used for official documents, and so on until the not so good outer layers that were used for... probably the tourists LOL.
Cairo is apparently one of the largest cities in the world with 16 million residents! I don’t even think that is including the tourists. Fortunately it is also one of the safest countries in the world to travel to. Well no wonder with 90% (or likely more) of the country’s economy depending on the tourist trade, they have to make it safe for tourists. Finding things like a restaurant with a tiny non-smoking section or a vegetarian restaurant in Egypt is near impossible. Fortunately I quite like lamb. Btw, the Sheeshas (Hookas) that they use in all of the cafes in Egypt actually use a mixture of tobacco and not what we might use them for in the West, well as far as I know anyways. If this is the case it would be quite different from Morocco. When I was in Morocco the men of the country would sit around and smoke blonde hash (also known as Kif) all day either at the cafes, or just outside the stores they worked in. In Morocco it is so much of the culture that many books written about the area by people who live there include kif as one of the main components of the stories. The authors will often pride the hasheesh smokers while making fun the of the alcohol drinkers and tend to have morals to the story such as it is better to smoke then to drink. This was quite a few years ago though, so I don’t know if things might have changed over there more recently.
Another interesting fact about Egypt, and especially Cairo is that it is far from safe to drive there. Tourists are definitely recommended to take taxis (or the city buses if you are adventurous) and avoid renting a car. Of course with the city buses, they don’t actually stop at each stop, they more slow down quite a bit so you can jump off of the bus. It is also a made dash to get onto the buses that resembles 90% off sale day at the shopping malls in the US! Cabs don’t cost nearly as much as they do here though, and you can even hire a cab and a driver for several hours at a very good rate if you wish to tour around a bit, or go out of town a ways. I’m thinking bicycles might be a good option for Cairo, then a taxi when I want to hit the city of the dead (more about that in a couple of paragraphs).
Another not so good fact about Egypt is that when the citizens apply for identification they are asked which religion they are, and this is printed on the ID. It is of course very good to say Muslim, and OK to say Christian (Coptic of course), but if you say any other religion you are likely to be thrown in jail. I don’t want to know what would happen if one of the locals said “Satanist” or perhaps that would be Shaitanism or perhaps Iblisanism. It doesn’t seem all bad though, I have a photograph of a current business card of a magician who advertizes various healing services, getting rid of devils and cleansings! From what I have heard though, one does not speak about being an infidel, er I mean magician over there. Now how they live amongst all of those temples and pyramids and ignore the old Gods is beyond me, but they seem to manage pretty well. Perhaps it is the prayers 5 times per day.
Over here we have cemeteries and graveyards, but over there they have tombs and cities! Many years ago the homeless people of Cairo started living in the graveyard. It was a rather large graveyard that kept getting larger and larger for obvious reasons, and well most graves would have a little building you could use to hang out with your departed ancestors! Pretty cool I think. Well many of these buildings had places where you could actually stay the night and this was done quite often. Well the homeless pretty much thought this was a great opportunity for free lodging. Eventually of course the city of Cairo decided to do something about this! They installed electricity and water for them :). So now it is called the city of the dead, in English anyways, I’m not sure what the name is in Arabic. I would say the dead are far from lonely in that graveyard. They are probably also happier then the dead pharaohs who put up with having their bodies taken out of their resting places, brought into view, and thousands of tourists walking around their tombs everyday! So much for an eternal afterlife, or at least a peaceful eternal afterlife. After all that effort of taking the brains out through the nose as to not mar the skull, the gallons of honey, fancy wrappings, incensed many times, walls painted or carefully chiselled with entire books of what they are supposed to do in the afterlife, statues and other dead people to help them out in the afterlife and so on.... to just be dug up by some guy in a tan shirt with a grant from some foreign government!
It isn’t all bad, the Edfu temple, which is the largest temple of Horus in Egypt was completely buried for thousands of years. This was the temple which was built on top of another earlier temple. Well they found it more recently, and it was perfectly intact since it had been buried for so many years! I mean perfectly intact minus the piles of garbage the people left who were living in it. But the archaeologists (more like their interns or the hired locals) cleaned all that up anyways. Now it is one of the temples in the best condition after all of these centuries. Most of the carefully chiselled hieroglyphics (and even some centuries old graphiti) is in near perfect condition.
Since some of the tombs and temples are wearing out a bit from the thousands of tourists per day, they have brought about some laws such as no flashes to be used, no touching the walls and so on. They also only allow a certain amount of people in some of the tombs each day. They routinely close off some of the tombs and temples for restoration work as well, but tend to leave enough open to interest most tourists.
One of the largest restoration projects was that of the temple of Phillae. The island which it used to stand on (called Phillae) was flooding too much and destroying the temple. So they just picked it up and moved it to another island. So if you want to go visit Isis in her main temple now (you know the one in all the old Egyptian stories), you have to go to the new island. I don’t think they mention the relocation very often though. It would be interesting to visit the old island as well, if it’s not underwater when I am in Egypt that is.
As I travel through Egypt I will be taking numerous photos (obviously) and will be adding them to my blog (insha’wifi; insha’Horus). So there should be mentions of my tour along with photos to see quite a bit of each area, as well as the life of the locals, the locals that don’t mind photos that is :). I may update this blog again before I leave for Egypt, but I doubt it, since there is no point of updating a blog about traveling around Egypt until I get there afterall. So be patient and wait until the 27th, or until I have recuperated and found wifi, to see the next post.
Btw, don't forget to look to the top left to see the google adsense links. Feel free to click them from time to time as well to help fund my souvineer purchasing fund *g*.