Did the whole “Pyramid thing” today. It was cool and surprisingly a little hum-drum at the same time.
The taxi driver who picked me up yesterday at the airport picked me up again today at 8am to begin our tourist-du-jour adventure. I wasn’t sure whether he was the wisest choice of drivers, but the hostel guy (who has been Mr. “let me help you”) said he was trustworthy and other hostel folk said the price (120 EP or about $24) for the day and multiple sites was a good price. In the end, I was very glad to have had him. In addition to lots of good advice, he brought along Sophie, his 12 year old daughter to accompany me to two of the sites (she pretty much got in for free), as she had never been there before. She spoke very little English and was kind of shy, but I liked having her along. If nothing else, it seemed to reduce the number of hasslers I had.
We did the major sites in chonologic order, so we did Dashur first, then Saqqara, and then Giza (the “main” pyramids). This has the advantage of seeing how they grew in size and fancyness, and also seeing them in order for least-to-most impressiveness. The negative is I was at Giza from 12:30 to 2 in the afternoon which was a tad hot time to be there, as many people go first thing in the morning for a reason…
Dashur was not much to speak of. To get inside you climb up up up, and then go down down down down a tunnel to get to the chamber. Thank god I’m really short as I was able to do it just bending over but I don’t know how most people handle it. Once down there, there was very little to look at.
Saqqara had the advantage of an air conditioned museum and a video that shows hunky egyptian men wearing the kilt skirts you see in the artwork showing how limestone was carved up. Of the main tombs one was interesting, but without a guide you couldn’t get detail out of it. I sat and listened in on the one English guide I heard, but it wasn’t interesting enough to make me get one of my own.
We then drove on to Giza where Sophie didn’t join me her dad said because she had an upset stomach, but as she was eating doritos all day including after he told me she had an upset tum, I was a little suspect. More likely, he didn’t want her in there without his protection, which I can understand. The stories about touts (people who hassle you to sell you something or take your photo for money, etc) are legion. As it happened, I got very little hassle. Maybe because of the time of day, maybe because I have that “don’t f$#* with me” new yorker ‘tude or maybe I just look poor. I had some hassles, but fortunately two of my hostel-mates who are here studying arabic told me the following key three phrases:
La Shakrun (or “la la”) which means “no, thank you” (or “no, no”)
Mish eye za which means “I don’t want any” (feminine version)
Challas! which means “Enough!” for the real hard hasslers. I didn’t end up using this one at all, somewhat to my disappointment.
Saw the Sphynx which somewhere I had read was not nearly as big as one thinks it is, but I thought it was pretty big. The pyramids were fine. Big, walk-around-able, but it was very hot (probably low 100s) and I had to walk up a really long drive to get to them (since my driver didn’t come into the site), so after visiting the whole site for an hour I was ready to go. Since I had another half hour to meet my driver I went to an open air coffee shop at the base of the hill and had a fresh-squeezed orange juice (REALLY good!) while looking up at the site and talking to my mother on my cell phone, so it was a pretty nice ending.
Getting home, another hour drive, my backpack thermometer gadget said it was 103 degrees in the car. When I got back I swear I had heatstroke and sat under a cool shower and felt SO much better.
Then I sat around talking to some of my hostel-mates until a group of us went out to dinner together. Here is a rundown of the people I’ve met so far. Many of them are here studying Arabic. Of those who are here for that we have:
T, getting a master’s degree in San Bernadino which according to her has one of the best national security programs in the country. She seems to have only one desire and that’s to work for the CIA or DIA or some three-letter organization like that. Possibly the FBI or state, but their work cultures aren’t as good, apparently. She also seems to have a great deal of knowledge of lie detector tests (T talks alot!)
C, who is Canadian and goes to school in Toronto for linguistics, and wants to work for the canadian version of whatever 3 letter organizations they have.
T, who is going into his senior year at UCLA in linguistics and would also like to work for the government.
J and G who are both students at U of Washington, but we didn’t discuss what their work ambitions were.
H: who works for an internet company in the evenings (5pm to 2am local time) and parties an awful lot otherwise. He is living in Cairo mainly because it is cheap. He’s been here about a month.
P and M: Two canadians who are here on their honeymoon and then going to Kenya
I had dinner tonight with the first three mentioned above. We had Pizza, ice cream, and a hooka, which wasn’t much to write home about. I learned from T that apparently there are two hooka bars in Westwood, and he thinks they’re better than what he had here. Who knew?
Tomorrow, if I am suitably recovered from today (am TRES tired, much walking in much heat), I’ll go to Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo.
Tags: Africa, Cairo, Egypt, Giza, Pyramids, Travel