Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Egypt, Day 4

Here it was, our big sight-seeing day. Matt had been in meetings while Laura and the boys and I had been galavanting around the city, so this was the day we let him choose the big things he wanted to see. And it was quite the itinerary we had scheduled. Our driver, Ali, came to pick us up pretty early, and our guide was a very nice Egyptian woman named Mi (pronounced “my”). She was very kind to Jameson and Avery, and they took to her pretty well, too.

We started out at the Citadel, which is like the fortress in the middle of the city on the hill. There are a bunch of stories as to how the location was chosen. They wanted it built in the part of the city that had the freshest air…and how do you find the freshest air? You put a bunch of meat in different areas and whichever spoils last is your golden ticket. And so the Citadel was born, complete with a mosque for worship. The view from the Citadel was amazing. The boys didn’t seem to be in awe of it, but they loved the rocks in the courtyard. So they sat and played while we snapped photos. Some of the native Egyptian women found the boys to be a tourist attraction entirely too good to pass up. They got out their camera phones and started capturing moments of their own with the two little blond boys. I mean, they are pretty cute.

But that’s not the funniest thing that happened at the Citadel… Before our main tour began, we were waiting around, taking pictures, and Jameson let us know he needed to go to the bathroom. We walked up the stairs to the main building and were waiting for Matt to catch up with us. As we were standing by one of the gardens, I heard what sounded like a faucet or hose. I turn to see Jameson with his shorts down, taking care of business. Laura was horrified, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We all thought it was kind of a little funny, and Laura told us he had seen his friend do it. And her good-natured response was, “Hey, at least we don’t have to find a bathroom now!” Kind of humorous to see him with his shorts on backwards and wet.

Next, we headed to the Al-Azhar Mosque. It was one of their prayer times, so they made the women (Laura and myself) wear hair scarves to go in. It was kind of strange to feel like an outsider, but I didn’t want to feel like I was disrespecting anyone’s religion, so head scarf it was. Jameson and Avery found the large open area in the middle of the mosque to be a fun play area, so they began running around. And they were buffing the marble of the floor, so Jameson thought it’d be fun to risk it and jump over the cord of the buffer as the man was walking past. Fun games four-year-olds play! They also gave us some books on Islam so we could better understand the culture.

After the mosque, we walked to the Khan Al-Khalili, the open air market where souvenirs abounded. Men were calling after us as we headed up and down the alleyways with stores on either side, very narrow, stores were all small and cramped. The wares were there for the unsuspecting tourist to try and haggle a price, best they could. Our guide told us to start quite low and work our way up a little bit, and to not act like we loved the item, otherwise the shop owners wouldn’t budge on price. She also didn’t come with us as we perused the wares because sometimes the sellers would try to cut the guides a deal, and she didn’t like that shady business. The kids ending up staying at a café with her while Laura and Matt and I had a little time to see what was available. After about twenty minutes, Laura had made a purchase of a brass plate. She decided to go back and see how the boys were doing while Matt and I continued searching for deals. I couldn’t find anything I loved, but we found a shop that sold copper pots. I was done and went with Avery and Mi to wait while Matt took Laura and Jameson back to the shop for Laura to see what she could find. While we were waiting, I guess Jameson decided to take bathroom matters into his own hands again and used the street as his urinal. Mortified, Laura scolded him and made him apologize to the shop owner whose shoes how gotten splashed on.

So…we made it out of the market mostly unscathed and then headed out to Giza where the pyramids are. On the way, we stopped at a papyrus making factory where they showed us how they made papyrus and then tried to sell us paintings on it. Those people sure do know how to push their wares. And they definitely capitalize on the fact that people love to eat up the history of ancient Egypt and will pay whatever it takes. It was fun to see how they make papyrus, but I wasn’t interested in it enough to invest.

We got back into the van and headed for the big highlight of the day, the pyramids…because seriously, when you think Egypt, you think pyramids. The first one is the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, standing at 440 feet tall. And I actually got to climb up on it! Only 150 people per day get to go into it and see the chambers; we had gotten there in the afternoon, so we were too late to go in. The second pyramid is just a little shorter and quite close to the first one, so we headed over there. They let anyone who wants to pay a few bucks to go see the dark tunnels. We forked it over and went and stood in line. There were no cameras allowed in there, and I hadn’t gotten my camera to the guide to hold quickly enough, so it was in my pocket. The guards (who weren’t labeled with anything official-looking…the whole operation seemed a little shady!) wouldn’t let me in—and even suggested I just leave my camera there with them while I walked down in. I decided it wasn’t worth having my camera stolen, and I didn’t want to fight them anymore, so I turned around and gave up the opportunity. As I later found out, it was probably for the best that I didn’t try to traverse the pyramid insides. It was apparently quite claustrophobia-inducing in there, and I wouldn’t have survived very well. And there were several girls swooning, either fainted or close to it. Jameson took to it like a fish to water and just climbed those steps like a madman. I guess if you’re four, you fit better. :) Laura only made it about halfway through until she turned around and decided it wasn’t worth it for her either.

Then we headed to a point where we could see all three pyramids and the three “baby” pyramids all at one time, and we took pictures (because we were tourists…it’s what we did best!). It was surreal, like being in a movie scene where they get the far away picture of Egypt with the pyramids and the sand. As a side note, my shoes were new; and my heels were raw after all the walking. Stupid, I know. But they were cute. And I was trying not to complain and put a damper on the situation because I knew it was my own stupidity that had gotten me into this predicament.

Close by was the famous Sphinx, where we went next. There’s a temple next to it that we toured as well. Like I said before, it felt as though I was watching something on television, something you never think you’ll see in person until you’re standing there with it staring you in the face. And it’s noseless, just like all the pictures you see. And here I was, getting photos of it, up close and personal. Amazing!

Well, after seeing all Cairo had to offer for us, at least for the time being, we found some food and headed home. Tired were we! Laura wanted to get the boys cleaned up after all the climbing and playing in sand and dirt and rocks (it’s what they do best). And we realized it was now or never for souvenirs, since the next day was Friday (church day in the Middle East). I coerced Matt into walking up the island with me to buy a wooden bowl that I had found in our shopping adventures. I had been hoping to find something at the open air market that would be cheaper, but luck wasn’t on my side in that respect. So, we hiked up to where I had found something I knew I liked, and I made my purchase. It was lovely. And Matt was so nice to put up with my hobbling down the street with my poor, raw feet as I went to buy one small thing I wanted. We had a good talk about their family’s new assignment and travel in general. It was fun to see Matt in his own element, doing his thing.

I had promised I wouldn’t complain about my feet, but when we got back to the hotel, I took off my shoes and they were bloody and hurt like crazy. I soaked my feet and put hydrogen peroxide on them (and they’re pretty good now, a week later!). Bandaging them was a process, but I survived. And I will think twice about wearing shoes because they’re cute. Comfort means much more now! These are notes I need to remember as I travel…especially after my high heels experience during a day in New York (who knew there’d be so much walking?!). Vanity and pride ruled me…


Blogger Adrianne Miller said...

My favorite part of this whole day was the shoe part. You learned a lesson and thats just tender.

March 27, 2008 at 11:40 AM

Blogger Shawn and Brittany said...

I am so jealous about this! I want to see these places so bad!

March 27, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Blogger Erika said...

Wowsiers, so that's what I'm in for with my little boy, eh?? I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go!! Your pictures are awesome. Makes me feel like I'm there. Almost.

March 31, 2008 at 11:04 PM


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