Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Egypt, Day 2

It’s been several days since I’ve written about my traveling adventures. I’ve been caught up in the experience and haven’t taken the time to capture my thoughts here…so I’ll do my best at distilling my vacation down and telling you the good and funny parts, along with everything else. Here goes!

Our second day in Egypt was a little more relaxing for me. I felt like I had some bearings and wasn’t as caught off guard with a strange, new place. We ate breakfast at the hotel, which was in and of itself a big undertaking! There was a large buffet-style spread of pretty much everything Western you could want—breads, cereal, scrambled eggs, fruit, etc.—but no regular bacon. They don’t have pork products over here, so it was beef bacon…and it looked questionable to me! Anyway…the boys had a fun breakfast experience after they discovered the chocolate doughnuts. And these weren’t just normal chocolate doughnuts…they were covered in ganache, not frosting, so they were quite decadent. I had one every morning we stayed in the hotel. Oh dear…here I go on about food in the hotel. Like we care? I didn’t think so.

Laura and I decided to go do the things that Matt wouldn’t want to do, since he had to go sit in meetings all day long (the entire reason we got to go anyway!).
We went to the Egyptian Museum where they have all of the things they found in Tutenkahman’s tomb. We got a guide to show us all of the most appealing stuff and give us the history behind it. If you ever go to Cairo, I would definitely recommend getting guides to show you around. They know so much and you don’t waste your time figuring out what’s what. Our guide at the museum was so good at the private little tour we had. He kept us moving quickly and would practically push people out of the way so we could see what he was describing. It was so interesting! I got to see Tutenkaman’s death mask and all of the statues and boxes and jars and weapons and everything from his tomb that hadn’t been pilfered by thieves. I couldn’t take my camera in there, but it was pretty amazing, all of the history that’s in that building. We dragged the boys along, and they weren’t loving it…as was evidenced by the meltdown that occurred about an hour in. Jameson started crying and screaming that he was tired, and something set Avery off, so they were both in tears. We tried coaxing them along with snacks (thanks for the Swedish fish, Lynne!) and promises, but those only go so far, especially when Avery gets into one of those moods. All of the tour groups kept staring. They have a special room for King Tut’s death mask, so I went in without Laura and the boys while she tried to console them. Then she went in for a minute while I watched the boys. Avery was like a noodle and he refused comfort. People were coming up and trying to offer us tissues (he had a runny nose) and patting him on the head. Side note: when you have two little blond boys with you in an Arabic country, they get noticed. Everyone wants to make noises at them or pat them or kiss them. It’s kind of funny, but also a little wearying! Anyway, when Laura came back out, Avery was so happy to see her that he stopped crying and fell asleep and we continued on our way. Then we went to the mummy room where some of the most famous mummies are. Kind of old and decrepit, but quite well preserved! I saw King Ramses and Queen Hatshepsut. Jameson loved that part. I found it fascinating with a touch of strange. But quite interesting, all around.
After the museum, we decided to walk back to our hotel. What a sight we must have been! It would have normally been a ten or fifteen minute walk, but when you’ve got Jameson trying to hail a taxi—that kid was so tired!—and Avery’s little two-year-old steps (he had woken up by this time), it took us awhile. And we didn’t have the stroller. This was fun, though! Avery was renewed by sleep and was so cute as he walked along. I picked him up during the road crossings, but he always wanted back down. On the subject of road crossing…Cairo is an extremely crowded city. Cars are everywhere. People fill in the cracks where cars aren’t. So getting around is always an adventure. This is what it really means to “walk like an Egyptian”: dart into traffic when it’s slow enough, try to pass through by cars as they are stopped, and hope you don’t get squashed in the process. Seems like they’ve got it down pretty nicely, though. People weren’t angry when you stepped out in front of them. It’s just the way it works, so why mess with the system?

After we got home, it was naptime/Ratatouille time (I brought the movie and the kids watched it about three times on my laptop while we were there…good thing it was in my carry-on!)/reading time. We kind of chilled for a couple hours and detoxed from our crazy morning.
Then we decided to head out to do some shopping, so we hired a driver to take us around for a couple hours. We had a couple galleries that had been recommended to us, and we wanted to check them out. Laura talked to the hotel doorman and had him explain to the driver where we wanted to go. He said he could find it, and we were on our way. Well, he couldn’t find it. We ended up wandering around on our own while he parked a few blocks away and waited for us. I guess the store was nowhere to be found, but we walked up and down and found some pretty fun shops anyway. We took turns watching the boys outside the shops while the other one went in to browse…too many fragile things in too tight a space to have them in there! What I found quite hilarious was the attention the boys got. Jameson and I were trying to play a game outside one of the stores and two men who were sitting on a curb just a ways away started watching the two of us. I kept an eye on them, and one of them pulled out his cell phone and started snapping pictures of the little blond boy he saw. Who knew we’d be such a spectacle?! After we were finished shopping, we went and found the driver and told him to take us to the US Embassy, where we were meeting up with Matt and the other diplomats to do a felucca ride on the Nile. Laura was sorely disappointed at the driver when he dropped us off. He was one we had gotten through our hotel, and the hotel had told us one price, but he charged us almost half again as much! Refusing to leave until he was paid the amount he quoted, the driver remained firm and Laura caved (and Embassy traffic wasn’t allowing much car standing time, so she was getting hurried on by the person directing cars in and out).

After that fiasco, we boarded a bus that took us to a dock where some small boats (feluccas) were awaiting. The sun had just gone down and the lights of the city over the Nile were so beautiful. I was happy to just sit and enjoy the time out on the river after the hectic day we’d had. Laura had heard there was a good pizza place in town by where we had been shopping, but we hadn’t had the time to squeeze that in before we met up with Matt, so we were going to go hungry (or at least just live on the snacks they had said would be provided). Great minds must think alike because a few minutes after we hopped on the boat, they brought us pizza from the place that had been recommended. And it was pretty good! I think the funniest thing about the ride on the river was a little boy I met. He was six and his dad was part of the diplomat group we were with. He was so talkative! He wanted to tell me all about his school and his experience in Egypt and anything that came to his mind. As much as I was worn out by children that day, I found it in me to be interested in the boy. His dad kept apologizing, but I think it was the kid’s personality. I really couldn’t bring myself to be rude.

Well, after being out on the water for about an hour and making our way back and forth across the river (which confused us…we were thinking we’d actually be heading down the Nile and docking somewhere else, or at least heading back up afterward), we got back on our same bus and went back to the hotel. Oh, it should have taken fifteen minutes…ON FOOT. Almost an hour later, through the horrific traffic and difficulty of being a huge, hard-to-maneuver bus, we finally made it to our hotel. Laura was feeling queasy at the smell of exhaust and smoke and Egyptian pollution, and I had a headache, so we went and crashed in our hotel room. Vacations can take it right out of you! But no complaints here. Sometimes it’s good to run hard and then crash even harder.


Blogger Adrianne Miller said...

I have now read to this point.

March 27, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Blogger Erika said...

That museum sounded AWESOME! It's funny hearing you describe traveling with kids. Like, getting worn out by kids is my life so I'm used to it, ha ha... We've only traveled to Texarkana with both kids and while the memories are great, it was hard!

March 31, 2008 at 10:52 PM


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