The ship docked in Alexandria but we took a 12 hour excursion to Cairo. The tour started at 7:15am, though my sister and I almost missed it because it was so early. We made it to the bus in time for the two hour drive to Cairo, or more specifically, Giza, where the major pyramids are.
Now, Egypt as a country is not that poor, but according to our tour guide, corruption has caused a huge gap between the lower class and upper class. As a result, the poor are extremely poor and it's quite apparent. Driving through Cairo you can see the poverty and the guides also warned us that everywhere we go, people would be doing their best to get money from us.
What that means is that if you ask someone to take a picture of you, or you ask someone to be in a picture with you, or you drop something and someone picks it up for you, they will expect a tip and be quite persistent about it. They will also hike up prices to make as much profit as possible, though they will negotiate back to a reasonable price. They will also be happy to accept any form of currency whether it be Euros, Dollars or British Pounds since they're all worth more than the Egyptian Pound.
For instance, I saw a couple having trouble pushing their baby stroller through the sand (who brings a stroller to the desert?) so an Egyptian man helped them pick the stroller up onto a walkway, after which he demanded a tip. Then there are the historical artifacts security guards who watch the pyramids. You are not allowed to cross lines, touch or climb on the pyramids or you will be reprimanded by security. However, they eagerly indicate they will let you go, or will allow you to cross lines if you simply provide them with a tip.
Once you've realized how things work, Egypt is not that difficult to navigate. Since we were on a guided tour, the day was pretty much laid out for us so I pretty much sat back and snapped an excessive number of pictures while absorbing random tidbits of info.
First we saw the most famous pyramids of Khafre and Khufu along with the Sphinx. We then drove to Saqqara to see the funery grounds of Ka-Gmni including hieroglyphics and artwork that still exhibits the original paint from thousands of years ago.
After that was a buffet lunch at a large restaurant. It didn't look like that good a place and I wasn't surprised that the food was a bit disappointing. Not only was most of the food mediocre, none of it was labeled so I have no idea what some of it was. One interesting thing about the restaurant was the traditional oven they had outside to bake a pita-like bread. Too bad none of that bread was at the buffet.
After lunch we checked out Zoser's Step Pyramid complex where a gust of wind blew away my sister's new visor. We then went on to the Jeep tour where we piled into a series of 4x4 vehicles. Most prevalent were Jeep Cherokees and Toyota Land Cruisers. My sister and I ended up in a Land Cruiser which is supposed to be the preferred model for nomadic Bedouins as the FJ chassis coded Land Cruisers are well known for their off-road abilities (hence Toyota's homage to the old Land Cruiser, by releasing the new FJ Cruiser).
The Jeep tour was pretty fun, particularly driving up and down blind dunes as can be see in the video below. I was fortunately enough to get the front seat, though the back was probably rougher. The people talking in the video are other passengers.
After the Jeep tour was the Camel tour. Getting on the camel was a bit hairy. They lay on the ground and when they get up, they lift up their back end first, then their front end, giving the sensation that you're going to fall forward off the camel, then back off the camel, before leveling out. The camel's gait isn't the most pleasant either, it's much less smooth than a horse and rocks quite a bit front and back, requiring you to shift your hips a lot to compensate. The saddles aren't that comfortable either and after 20 minutes I was starting to get saddle sore.
At the end of the camel tour, getting off the camel was equally precarious. There was no warning either; one second I was sitting on top of the camel, the next second I thought I was falling off as the camel pitched forward, then pitched backwards, then after leveling out the remaining foot of descent was even and smooth, like a hydraulic platform. You can sort of see it in this vid summary.
After the camel tour we went to a papyrus shop where they demonstrated how papyrus reeds were turned into paper then turned us "free" to browse the papyrus art so we could buy some. After that we took the 2 hour trip back to Alexandria. For dinner my family ate at Grand Pacific, the formal restaurant where we had an excellent meal.
Picture comments (and... The Mummy!)
That can o' Pepsi sure has a narrow mouth -- to these Western eyes. Oddly enough, seeing the pyramid and temple ruins just reminded me of Stargate (the movie). I find the idea of kicking a camel to be rather amusing, but wouldn't that fake palm tree be a good -- if unusally high -- cover for a cell-phone tower? KFC and Carrefour have made significant inroads into many Asian countries as well, though I would've loved to have seen some Hardee's in Thailand back in '02. (And... Im-ho-tep!!) Submitted by Dan on 10/19/2008 06:28 PM
Your article was excellent and eurdite. Submitted by awRWJExIVfRMvbknWTs on 08/27/2011 01:35 AM
Amanda, we definitely need to get you out here to the Pacific Northwest and show you some REAL monniatus. There is great skiing and snowboarding to be had barely an hour's drive from Seattle or Portland, and plenty of other great resorts all over Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. Submitted by bPEUuVwGMu on 01/02/2013 04:51 PM
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1 Submitted by 1 on 07/14/2017 02:13 AM
Egypt has many oil refineries and gas is very cheap there, about $1 per gallon.
A small family waving at the tour buses on the highway.
Pigeon towers that are set up to give domesticated pigeons a place to live. These domesticated pigeons are used for communication and assumedly for food as well.
Don't remember what this was.
Entrance to one of the tombs in Giza
Pyramid of Khafre. The smoother top section is because the plaster that smoothed the pyramid still exists at the top. The plaster was once plated with gold but all the gold has since been stolen and the plaster in disrepair
Driving up to the base of the Khufu pyramid which is larger and does not have the smooth section at the top.
More views of the Khufu pyramid
More views of the Khufu pyramid
Some pics of the Khafre pyramid from my mom.
View of the Khafre pyramid from the Khufu pyramid
My sister having a little too much fun.
Security doesn't like you touching the pyramid unless you bribe, er, tip them.
The top of a smaller pyramid, to give you an idea of what the tops are like.
Accessory pyramids which often hold the pharaoh's wife, family or attendants
A kind of sad looking thin horse and a young boy trying to get customers to ride them.
Passing the Sphinx by bus.
Walking toward the Sphinx with the Khafre pyramid in the background.
Ticket for the Sphinx
The crowd to get to the Sphinx
Up close with the Sphinx
Is the Sphinx modeled after my sister?
Khafre Pyramid behind the Sphinx
On to Saqqara to see the funery grounds for Ka-Gmni
Hieroglyphics for Ka-Gmni
Hieroglyphics in their appropriate spot in the building wall.
Entrance to the Ka-Gmni funery grounds. Pictures inside were not allowed as original paintings still exist in the inner chambers.
On to lunch, starting with an Egyptian Pepsi
Lunch was a buffet spread. Unfortunately it was not labelled in any way so it was kind of trial and error for figuring out what things were and if you liked them or not.
I thought this was some Egyptian porridge, but it turned out to be a bland watery Cream of Chicken
I thought this was beef curry, but it tasted more like a bland beef stroganoff.
The grilled chicken was pretty good but nothing special.
The beef kofte was the tastiest thing at the buffet with a good spice mix and just the right grilled flavor
My first plate included: caprese style tomato and cheese (tasty ripe tomatoes, simple cheese), a goat cheese tzatziki (a bit too goaty for me), roasted eggplant (bitter), rice (well seasoned), a pita-like bread (hard and dry), pasta (bland), marinated eggplant (tangy and well spiced), kofte (yummy) and marinated squash (okay).
My second plate included: Slaw (vinegar based but boring), marinated tomatoes (tangy and sweet), a dill tahini (heavy on the dill), more rice, more caprese, a funny potato casserole (cold, slimey and bland), a carrot slaw (bland), more marinated eggplant and more kofte.
Dessert included baklava (all gone in this picture), kataifi (the stringy dessert) and several western cakes and treats. I took too long and had to grab some dessert as the bus got ready to leave so I only got to try some kataifi which was sweet and crunchy but otherwise sloppy and boring. It probably came from a box.
Traditional pita style breads cooked in an old style brick oven, although this one is gas powered.
Zoser's Step Pyramid in Saqqara
Zoser's Mortuary Temple
Other end of the Mortuary Temple
Additional ruins at Zoser's Pyramid Complex
After finishing Saqqara, we drove to the Jeep safari and I snapped this desert picture.
Picture of the lead Jeep from our FJ Toyota Land Cruiser
The Jeeps behind us in the mirror with our busses in the background.
Entering the Sahara
Following behind another caravan
Pyramids in the background
Dessert Skylines with Cairo on the horizon.
Barreling up and down the sand dunes.
If you're not careful, even a 4x4 can get stuck.
Driving up to the camel caravans
Camels sure look funny.
Mounting a camel is a bit awkward
Getting ready to head out.
My sis and I comfortably mounted on our camels.
Heading out with the caravan
Nice view of Cairo beyond the caravan.
Our camel guide
Kicking a camel that got a little too close.
My sis's camel chewing as we go.
Seriously, what is he chewing?
Camels have odd feet, designed for the dessert I suppose.
The camels relaxing in the grass after the caravan.
Giant fake palm tree, not sure why they built it.
Nice little cactus garden.
A truckload of water buffalo driving next to us.
Not sure what plants those are being carried
There are lots of carpet schools in Cairo which teach a skill that can be a consistent source of income.
Making Papyrus starts with the stalks.
The stalks are peeled and then cut into strips.
The strips are rolled flat.
Strips must then be soaked in water for three days. Water is changed daily to remove plant chemicals.
The strips are rolled again to flatten and dry them, then they are woven with perpendicular strips on a pad.
The pad is then pressed for three days.
The resulting paper is strong and flexible.
An example of cartouches painted on papyrus.
A large papyrus painting
I think my parents bought this one.
Street vendors selling large guava (not pears) and watermelon
An example of one of the poor uneducated areas of Cairo (which are quite common) resulting in large amounts of trash and litter filling up the canal.
Carrefour seems to be everywhere except the US. At least we have Hardee's and KFC.
The central internet hub complex for Cairo, just down the street from Oracle
Gas exhaust from an oil refinery.
The Jade at night.
Dinner at Grand Pacific starting with a beef consomme with dumplings. The beef broth was dark, rich and flavorful. The dumplings were small and a bit mushy, but still tasty.
They called this Beef Stroganoff but it was so much better. Large tender chunks of beef and green peppers with a jus sauce over wide tagliatelle egg noodles drizzled with sour cream sauce. This was the best Stroganoff I've ever had.
Filet of Sole with Asparagus. The fish was pan fried and pretty tender. I didn't try the asparagus.
For dessert I had the strawberry souffle with a vanilla creme anglaise. The souffle was tender and airy though the strawberry flavor was mild and seemed to be artificial. The creme anglaise was smooth and thick and made up for the artificial flavoring.
A cheese plate with a blue cheese, a feta, a swiss, a cheddar and another unknown cheese.