Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pyramids and Pests

Dahab - Cairo

Our last day Dahab was Kristin's 24th birthday.  She could eat anywhere she wanted in Dahab, but all she wanted was Penguin.  We sat downstairs, and were greeted by a small orange kitten.  Apparently he was a new breed of cat and had developed an immunity to the water spray bottles that they give out at penguin for crowd control.  He would sit there, soaking wet from being sprayed, just straight eyeballing our shish tawook.  This guy was a madman, he even tried his hand at the blogs.

After lunch, we took a stroll down the strip and ran into a very cool American couple (Cooper and Megan) that work in the Middle East.  We had some fruit drinks and shisha at a seaside cafe with them.  We always seem to meet cool people right when we have to leave.  It is really a shame.  

At the airport, we had some difficulties.  We are so into the habit of just showing up with identification that we did not have any sort of printed documentation for our flight.  For this, we were apprehended and stalled at the security check outside of the check-in counters.  Ironically, I had documentation for every flight except the one that I needed.  All of the guards stared us down and took deep drags off of their cigarettes.  People smoke everywhere here, walking through the airport, check-in counter at the hotel, and everywhere else it seems.  So here we were, being harassed in Arabic and broken English by a bunch of smoking guards.  They were just having fun with us though, and eventually let us through.  One of them looks at me and points at Kristin, "How many will you get out of her man?"  Knowing that Egyptians like big families, I told him that we would be back in ten years with 7 or 8 kids.  They all laughed and began chanting "Obama" while we walked off towards the check-in counters.  The whole thing seemed a little pervish.

We land in Cairo late in the evening, and find a driver.  Our drive across Cairo to Giza, where we would be staying, was filled with tumult and near panics.  You know when you are on the highway and you see an idiot driving about 85 weaving in and out of traffic in a crappy quasi-sportscar?  Imagine an entire highway populated only with this type of driver and you can begin to grasp what Cairo traffic is all about.  In the U.S, I would say that we measure our driving comfort zones in feet.  Here, it is measures in millimeters.  Numerous times, my life flashed in my mind, and I thought, "this is it.."  
We made it safely to our hotel, directly across from the Giza plateau.  One thing probably worth noting is the security at every hotel over here in Egypt.  Basically, every time you enter an Egyptian hotel, you must send your bags through an xray and pass through a metal detector.  At the airport this is reassuring, but when you enter your place of rest with similar circumstances, the what-ifs are never to far from the forefront of your mind.  We took the lift up to our fourth floor room and spread out the blinds, the Great Pyramid right outside our window sat silently in the night.  "Perfect," I thought, cant wait to meet him tomorrow.

Cairo - Day 2

The Egyptians built the pyramids and the Egyptians have ruined the pyramids.  I had looked forward to seeing the pyramids my entire life.  I even spent some time in the late 90's as an amateur egyptologist, printing out information about all of the sites, making binders,  and espousing unpopular theories to my drunken fraternity colleagues.  My relationship with these structures has a defined history, at least from my end, and I felt dismayed when I walked among these behemoths.  It was like finally meeting Michael Jordan, only to find out he was a drunk braggart who liked to beat up cats.

This is the last wonder of the ancient world, and I could not really stop and appreciate the magnitude of the experience because I was constantly being harassed.  It may be different within a large tour group, after all, animals migrate in packs because it decreases their odds of being targeted by a predator, but alone, it was brutal.  Basically, if someone is talking to you, you owe them money.  Someone is always tlaking to you.  Kids walk up to you and put things into your hands and demand payment, refusing to take back their useless trinket.  At one point, a kid put a small coin in Kristin's book, and demanded 2 dollars.  I picked up his coin and threw it as far as I could into the desert.  We got out without spending a dime, but it took alot of la-ahs (nos) and mas-salaamas (goodbyes).  We had to deal with corrupt cops, beggar children, and extremely annoying camel and horse riders.  If you happened to take a picture and someone felt they were in your frame, they would demand some money as well.  The whole site needs to be managed better, and they really need to kick out the touts, maybe setting up defined areas for horse and camels rides, trinket sales, and all the other crap.  

Even with all the bad, the pyramids are a spectacular site to behold.  They are just absolutely massive.  It is still hard for me to fathom how these structures even exist.  While I had my misgivings about my pyramid experience, I know once the memories fade, they will fade nicely.  It is hard to stay mad at something this impressive, but seriously, Egypt needs to make the site better.  

On the way home from the pyramids we were followed by a young pervert.  Kristin mentioned that we were being followed, and so we stopped and he stopped.  We looked at eachother and he tried to explain something in Arabic, and I said la-ah (no) and Kristin said la-ah and we began walking again.  We stopped into a convenience store, and he waited for us outside.  He followed us another block, getting closer as we moved passed an empty lot.  He tried to grab Kristin's arm, and I think he asked me for Kristin, like, "Can I have her please?" I got in his face and grabbed him pointing and yelling, holding back my fist just barely, sort of remembering where I was and what could happen if I beat up a dirty Egyptian on the streets of Cairo.  Luckily, an older man intervened and pulled him aside, we walked back to the hotel.  Awful experience.  Why did we leave Dahab? We asked ourselves.

For dinner, we ate at one of Egypt's best restaurants, The Moghul Room.  It was amazing.  We are heading to downtown Cairo tomorrow to make sense of this place.

 Last meal in dahab

 why did we leave?

 Immune to the nuisance of water

 A boy and his pup

 Kristin's birthday shake 

 Harbor view

 Birthday cake at airport 

 Birthday dance


 Pretty beat looking


 mango, guava, strawberry 

 naan and prantha

 murgh tikka makhari

 nori malai tikka

 Fresh Basmati

 Ice Cream




  1. It was such a pleasure to meet you both! I am hooked on your blog, Coop is at Arabic class right now and I love what you guys are doing. I have no doubt you will do well. Please stay in touch perhaps we can collaborate on some projects :-)

    Much love!

    Megs and Coop!

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