Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We're in Alexandria now

Since our last post, we spent more one day in Cairo during which we spent the morning seeing Coptic Cairo (the small Christian part of the city, picture to the left), which had a couple of nice churches, as well as Egypt's oldest synagogue. Afterward, we took the metro back into downtown and spent the next 3 hours at the Egyptian Museum (the red building), where most of the ancient antiquities that were excavated are actually housed. The highlight there were seeing the actual mummies, as well as King Tut's tomb. However, most things were not very well labeled, so there wasn't tons of reading on there.

After the museum we grabbed a late lunch of Kushari, which is a bowl of noodles with lentils, chick peas, dried onions, and tomato sauce. It was really good, and lunch for two cost less than $2.

We arrived in Alexandria on Monday night and right away liked it much better than Cairo. It is way less hectic and crowded, and smells much better. The pollution in Cairo was getting to be a little too much. The whole city smells like an exhaust pipe. Alexandria on the other hand, is located on the Mediterranean, north west of Cairo and is a city closer in size to Toronto. The people here don't hassle us as much, so we're able to just walk around and enjoy the city.

During our first full day here, we walked along the waterfront to see the old fort (the white brick building) that sits at the tip of the bay, and afterward just went to get lost in the streets. We found a bustling souq (market) which had tons of fish, seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables. There were also some live chickens and rabbits, freshness is key! After grabbing some felafel and fuul (beans) we went to see the Alexandria Library, which was recently built and is the new cultural centre of this city. It was really nice and also had a planetarium. Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch a film there, but we still enjoyed it. Last night we went to smoke sheesha (apple-flavoured tobacco in a water pipe) and play backgammon for a couple of hours. Sadly, Tara kicked my ass... plenty of time for redemption still.

Now you're basically caught up. Tomorrow, we're leaving to go to the Western Desert and staying at an oasis. Not sure what internet is going to be like there, so the next post might be a long one like this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Islamic Cairo

We spent yesterday wandering around the streets in a part of Cairo known for its abundance of mosques and a giant bazaar that takes up many of the area's winding streets.

The bazaar, Khan al Khallil, was a lot more interesting than going into the mosques, and we spent most of our time getting lost within it. For sale was everything from crappy tourist souvenirs, sheeshas, gold and silver jewelery, metalware, tons of shoes, underwear, belly dancing costumes and food. We only bought a cheap watch, just out of necessity, weren't really interested in anything else, but it was a lot of fun just getting lost in the small alleys for a few hours.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Our First Day in Egypt!

Yesterday was our first full day in Cairo. My body is still wonky from the 7 hour time difference, so I awoke at 4:30 am and soon after, around 5 am, the first call to prayer rang out throughout the country. Every day there is 5 calls to prayer that can be heard everywhere.

Around 9am we met our taxi driver, Mohammed Ali, at the hostel and departed for our first excursion in Egypt - the Great Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara (home of the step pyramid and other Egyptian relics). The Great Pyramids were everything they are cracked up to be and more. Unfortunately, all three of the Pyramids were closed so we did not get to see the interiors of any of them.
We also visited Saqqara, home of the step pyramid and other antiquities. The pyramids here are much older than those in Giza.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Airport insanity!

So we arrived just fine in Cairo yesterday... well sort of.
After getting off the plane and into the airport, we got into the huge mob of people (approximately 400) waiting to go through passport control. We didn't really know what was happening but assumed it was just normal, don't ask why. After a little while we figured out where to go buy our visas, and had to re-enter the mob at the back. Then we waited (pushed, Egyptians aren't into organized lines) there for about 40 minutes, finally reaching the immigration officer who stamps the passports. However he didn't give it back to us at that point, instead he pointed at some other guy who was standing in the middle of an even more rabid mob, screaming out people's names and countries. The computers were down, this is the back up system!
And so, we joined the masses, scared of losing our passports, and pushed and listened as hard as we could, hoping to hear our names called out. Finally, after 2 hours of this insanity, at our wit's end, my name was called out. Still no Tara. So more pushing, more screaming out her name. and 5 minutes later we got hers.
What a way to start our trip! Luckily, Egyptians are also very nice, and our driver (who stood there for 3 hours) was still there and we made it to our hostel just fine.

Monday, February 12, 2007

We're leaving on Wednesday!

At 5:30 pm, we'll finally be leaving after months of preperation for our trip.

First stop is Cairo.

I'm not sure how often we'll get to post during our trip, there will definitely be times when the internet isn't available. Check back every once in a while, and hopefully you'll enjoy what we see.

This is what 6 months worth of stuff looks like.