Monday, July 4, 2016

DAY 3 - Museum and Mummies!

I tossed and turned into the wee hours of the morning, grabbing a few hours of sleep at the most. I kept checking my laptop that I had left running to see the time. Earlier I had made a conscious decision to not do any trip reports while on the road. Most of my updates would be among friends and family on Facebook. Over the past few months, I had received emails and visits to my blog by Egyptian and Israeli people. These people were strangers to me.

It was after 8am and I was impatient to start our day! I started to explore our room. I opened the shutters to our bedroom window and felt chills. On our 2nd floor loft facing a dark alley, there was food and wrapper debris. Someone had once climbed the sloping walls and torn staircase right below our window eating and possibly sleeping? Examining the latch on our shutters, I realized how easily someone could have slipped into our room. It gave me the creeps, and I made a decision right then that we would NOT stay another night in that room!

Rummaging Pamela up from her bed, I reminded her that we were in CAIRO, EGYPT! No time for sleep, we came here to EXPLORE! We dressed, brushed our teeth with bottled water, and packed our bags. I told Pamela we were MOVING to another room. We climbed the two flights of stairs to the office of our hostel and greeted the morning desk attendant. I explained that we wanted another room and he was very accomodating. He apologised as he showed us our new room that was right down the hall from the front desk. We would be sharing a double bed, and even though the room had a shower, we would have to share a toilet with other backpacking guests in the 4th floor hostel. Knowing that the front desk was operated 24 hours, and that others were staying on the same floor, I told him that our room was PERFECT!!

We excitedly dumped our packs on the bed, and I plugged in my laptop to update facebook and email home. We then walked outside our room into a hallway of deli sized tables and chairs laden with lacey Arabic tablecloths. We were being served a complimentary breakfast of hot tea, a mini loaf of bread, butter, jam, an orange, and a variety of cheeses.

After we ate, we talked with our desk clerk about a ride to the pyramids. He explained that we should go EARLY in the morning as already the day was going to be too hot! It was already going on 10 am.

We agreed to go the next day and decided that today, we'd walk to the museum! Asking for a map and directions we headed down the flight of stairs onto the street of Talaat Harb.

Walking outside of our hostel of the famous Yacoubian building. Pamela and I did our best to not draw attention. Wearing long skirts, sleeves, scarves, and sunglasses, we walked briskly down the sidewalk, taking in the sights and sounds. I had been warned of the culture shock, but didn't experience it that bad. Perhaps it was so much advance research, videos, and talking to fellow backpackers. What I wasn't prepared for though was the pollution, and poverty to the extent that I looked into some shops and alleys and shuddered. Hanging onto each other's arm, we walked into the direction of the museum. Crossing the street became a game. Find others waiting to cross, stand on the side (away from the cars) and WALK FAST when they walk. If anyone gets hit by a car, it will be them first, as we were on the other side! Sounds cold, but it helped us build our bravery to do this on our own later. We were taking baby steps! Little did I know that a week later, I'd be sitting in a hostel in Israel, talking with a Mennonite girl who said she felt EMPOWERED after visiting Cairo, Egypt! We both laughed about how we felt we could do ANYTHING after learning how to cross the street!

The museum! How I had dreamed of going there someday! After passing through heavy security, and a bag check, we were in the gated property of the museum! I needed more Egyptian currency to pay for our tickets and was pointed to an exchange bank at the 2nd floor of the building. After we got our money, we decided to take a snack break first. The day was already sweltering and we were THIRSTY!

We climbed a flight of stairs to a small snackbar and got some cokes and chips, sitting by an open window to enjoy the breeze. Then we people watched. Busloads of tourists from every country poured onto the property and filtered into the snackbar. We took our time enjoying our cokes.

NO CAMERAS allowed in the museum. In fact, after passing through heavy security, a woman sits at a booth and holds out her hands. Everyone is required to hand over their camera! The lady was distracted with another customer and I slipped past her. There was NO WAY I was going to hand her my camera. I'd be honest this time and not take pictures! (I cheated in Israel at another museum!)

All I can say is that the museum was everything I had expected and then some! Of course, I was warned in advance that the Egyptians are not very good at indexing and identifying their antiquities for the public, so it would be best to hire a guide to assist at the museum. I decided to wing it myself, as Pamela and I had read and watched countless books and video's on ancient Egypt!

We spent almost 5 hours exploring each massive room, climbing the huge staircases to yet another wing of amazing antiquities. Some of my favorite rooms were the dolls. Hundreds of wooden dolls on wooden ships, portraying the ancient sailors. These dolls really gave a glimpse into the culture, clothing, and occupations of these Egyptians. We stared in wonder at King Tutankhamun's treasures, the jewels, and the pottery.

Although we were exhausted, we paid extra to see the mummies. We entered a glass room and solemnly stared down at the descendants of Ramses, and Queen Hatshepsut. Earlier that month, Pamela and I had viewed many videos with compelling evidence that Hatshepsuit might very well be Moses's stepmom. We read about the lives of these former kings and royalty, and how they lived and died.

After the mummies, we were ready to go.

Now to cross the street again into the maze of traffic and find our way to our hostel. We walked along the sidewalks, peering into the shops. A women's clothing store drew our attention and we walked in. Several women in burka's were shopping. Pamela and I were impressed with the clothes hanging from the racks. Beautifully embroidered tunics, long flowing skirts, silky longsleeved blouses. Pamela tried on a denim skirt but it was too long and I talked her out of buying it for later adjustment. Our backpacks were too heavy as it was!

For lunch, we wanted to try out the Mc Donald's nearby our hostel. This was something we had been looking forward to doing! We wanted to see if the food tasted the same wherever we traveled. In Germany, everything tasted the same at home, except for the Fanta orange soda. It tasted almost watered down.

In Cairo, we ordered big macs, fries, cokes, and a strawberry sundae. Everything tasted the same, except for the ice cream! I took a few bites and didn't like mine. Couldn't put my finger on why. Just wasn't like at home.

After we arrived back to our room, we decided to take a break! Pamela and I took turns logging onto our emails and we skyped with Alan through the video. Talk about free long distance phone calls. I turned the laptop around so Alan could see our room. It was the evening for us, but early in the morning for Alan.

Pamela protested as she felt tired, but I insisted we were going to hail a cab for Khan el Khalili! This is the ancient market place that closely resembles medieval times. It was also the place where a terrorist attack had taken place a few years back. But I felt safe with all the tourist police around. Arab nation or not, the Egyptians do NOT condone terrorism. Were it not for tourism, the Egyptian economy would crumble.

During the day, the place is full of tourists. At night, the suq becomes alive with local shoppers! I became quite good at hailing a cab. I asked first the price and gave up on asking for the meter. It's a well known fact that a cabbie could take advantage of a tourist by driving the long route while on meter. Since I didn't know my way, I'd just say how much I wanted to pay. 15, 20 Le, and usually they accepted. Of course, I checked with others on what the going rate was. If the cab driver changes their mind, AFTER the ride, just pay what was agreed, ignore their protests and walk away quickly!

Cab ride to market!

We saw a lot of stray animals while in the city. Didn't appear to be any animal ordinances.

At the market. I refrained from taking too many picures as we were trying not to draw attention to ourselves so late at night.

We found the famous El Fishawy cafe and ordered hot tea. This cafe has been opened non stop since the 1700's.

While at the cafe, we met an American couple and talked with them. I forget what state they were from, but they were very impressed with our trip and wished us well.

Mosque outside the market. The call of prayer happens 5 times a day over loud speakers throughout Egypt. Always a reminder to me that we are far, far away from home!

A man approached me offering a shoe shine. I refused and he became angry and muttered something about the shame of me wanting to walk with dirty shoes. Always someone approaching us to sell. Boxes of tissues, head scarves, necklaces. Everything's a mom and pop store here. No chain stores. Just people trying to carve out a living and so much competition! I became very good at saying, no.

After our cab ride home, we impulsively checked out the nearby bakery and admired the delicate cookies and pastries.

Pamela, holding the two cookies we purchased and agreed to share. We had a very long day and was very tired. Anxious to retreat to our room, check our emails and go to bed. Tomorrow would be the pyramids!


Anonymous said...

I like her top.. did you make or buy it?

Helen said...

Paid $2 for it off the clearance rack at JC Pennies.

Patty said...

I am just too excited about reading all you have to say.

Like mom, I too like Pamela's blouse..and only $2 Wow!

The WoodLand School said...

So glad you decided to switch hotel rooms ... your description of that first one creeped me out, too! I feel tired after reading about all the bartering and negotiating required ... whew!