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Sunday, 13 May 2007
Now Playing: day 2

The second day in Egypt dawned with a burst of sunshine that was not to last long.  We found a restaurant for breakfast.  The hotel had at least eight restaurants.  Just about any type of food you could ask for was available somewhere in the hotel. Mohammed showed up at nine am and we started our first day of sight seeing.  We did the first day without a guide and I have to say I wish we had had a guide.  On Mohammed's recomendation we started out going south to Memphis (Egypt not Tennessee.)  This was the seat of power in early Egypt.  I think I should say something at this point.  Egyptian history is overwhelming.  There is so much history that it is very easy to become so overwhelmed by it all that you just tune most of it out,  that happened to us on the first day.  The ride to Memphis was in itself a sight seeing event then you add the main attraction and it becomes ho hum.  In the first place all the big name sights I had already seen numerous time on television.  Close up and personal became almost impossible because of the peddlers.  Memphis was still worth the visit but only as a brief stop.   

The second stop and one that was a little more interesting was Sacarra the home of the famous step pyramid.  this was one of the earliest pyramids .  Here is another point about Egyptian sight seeing.  Pyramids are meant to be seen at a distance.  A pyramid up close is little more than a couple of rocks.  We could look out across the Giza platerau and count numerous smaller pyramids.

That is downtown Cairo in the distance.

Posted by mendotraveler at 8:53 PM PDT
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Saturday, 12 May 2007
Now Playing: Arriving in Cairo

Cairo.  We really had no idea what to expect of Cairo.  I don't think anything really prepares one for Cairo, certainly not the travel sites or travel brouchers.  We arrived in Cairo aboard a Lufthansa flight at one in the morning.  It was raining,  that was a suprise.  We got our visas, changed some American money into Egyptian pounds  and went through customs.  We had booked the marriot hotel.  We walked out into the airport lobby with the intention of finding a cab.  By now it was 3 in the morning and we are tired and grumpy and it is raining.  Before we could find the taxi stands we are met by a tout pushing his travel agency.  It was a long walk to the cabs so we agree to let his driver take us to our hotel.  Mohammed, the driver for sun travels was an incedibly personable guy who could have sold us anything by the time we got to the hotel.  By the time we got to the hotel Mohammed had convinced us that we should hire him and his car while we are in Cairo.  He will pick us up at anytime we want.  He has been driving tourists for twelve years and knows Cairo and the sourrounding area very well.  He is not a guide but when a guide is needed he will supply a guide for us.  The price we agreed on was 200 Egyptian pounds per day for car and driver and that included all tips and parking fees.  200 Egyptian pounds is $35.00 US.  When a guide was to be supplied for the day that would be another 70 Egyptian pounds.  $11.90 US. plus tip for the guide.  We decided on a 30 pound tip making the guide $17.00 per day.  The deal is done.
  We rode through Cairo in the rain heading for our hotel.  Cairo is a city with an official population of about eight million.  the unofficial count is more like fifteen million.  At four in the morning there was very little traffic as we rode along on a raised express way that led to the bridge across the Nile river which flows through the middle of Cairo.  We got to our hotel which was a five star hotel.  The security was impressive.  When we exited the highway for the hotel drive we were stopped and the car was searched inside and out.  Mirrors were placed under the car and our passports were checked.  We drove approximately 100 yards and went through another security check, this time with a bomb sniffing dog.  Our driver could not leave his car at the entrance to the hotel.  The bellman came out and got our luggage.  We and our luggage went through metal detectors at the doorway of the hotel. Our bags were opened and we had to verivfy that our cameras were cameras by showing them the batteries and cards.   No person was allowed into the hotel without going through this type of security search each and every time you entered the hotel.  It did not matter if you walked out the door and turned around and came back in, you went through the whole procedure.  This was not long after the hotel bombings in Jordan.
It is now about four thirty AM and I assume the hotel will allow us into our room if it is vacant and available.  Nope!  the earliest we can check in is Seven AM.  Evidently everyone arrives in Cairo in the early morning hours because we joined a crowd of people in the lobby waiting for Seven AM.  There was a Sheik looking guy in a long flowing robe and his wife who looked like she just came from Paris.  There was a couple from somewhere.  He was dressed in the full robes with the head dress.  He had a jewel encrusted knife stuck in his belt.  His wife was covered completely.  Not ever her eyes were showing.  What was strange was they had two children and they would have fit in in California or Europe.  There was a guy sleeping on one of the many couches who was dressed as though he might be a bedouin and just left his camel parked outside.  He had a long multi colored robe on and sandels on his feet.  There were a couple of european couples and us.  Us was silently going "Wow" taking in this strange land we had arrived in.  Finally seven Am came and we checked into our room.  We were not dissapointed.

More to follow...

The scenery from our room was really spectacular.  We watched the day come alive and watched the traffic on the river as the ferry's transporting people to work plyed up and down the river beneath our window.  There are many things about Cairo that are incredible but the one thing that everyone that has ever been to Cairo agrees on is that the traffic is something beyond descripltion. I am not sure how to describe Cairo traffic.  First off there are no traffic lights in the city.  Imagine a city of 15 million people with no traffic lights.  There are no traffic lanes.  If eight vehicles will fit side by side in a give space then that is how many traffic lanes there are, never mind what kind of lines are painted on the pavement.  The lanes are shared with cars, trucks, pedestrains, horse drawn carts, donkey, camel caravans and here is the most amazing thing of all.  In three weeks Joyce and I spent in Egypt we never saw a single accident. 

Posted by mendotraveler at 12:47 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 May 2007 6:16 PM PDT
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