Thursday, May 22, 2008

Welcome to Egypt

[As promised last week, I’m going to blog my Egyptian odyssey. I’ll do one a day chronicling our adventure through the land of sun, sand, and really old monuments. And if I’m feeling really inspired, I’ll throw a few all-original pictures in, too. I kept notes all the way through, so I’ll write as if it were contemporaneous.]

When we landed in Egypt it was late, maybe 10 PM local time. Unlike developed countries, Egypt is more like Detroit in that there’s no tunnel that you walk up; you go down the stars to a bus. Then the bus takes you all of ten feet, to drop you at the Terminal. We spent more time waiting for the bus to move than we did driving. Oh, well, you just learn to accept the quirks of other cultures.

Once inside, you have to give your first bribe to the guy selling visas. At least it feels like a bribe. Apparently this is all legal and above-board in Egypt, but to me it felt seedy. Twenty euros later we had our Visas and were quickly through security.

Once we’d left security we did two things: first we met the nice couple who would be traveling with us the next eight days, a pair of retirees who had recently sold their hotel and were living their dream of touring Egypt. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them Chester and Susan. They were, I’m guessing, round about 70 years old.

Then we met our local travel contact in Cairo, from a company called Naggar Travel. If you ever travel to Egypt, AVOID THIS COMPANY AT ALL COSTS! I’m not kidding. This guy was the first of what we were to come to know as the seven dwarves of Naggar travel. This one was Dummy.

Why Dummy? Well, I got the feeling that I knew more about Cairo than he did, and I’ve never been there. Typical of our conversation was this: “what’s that big building over there?” Him: “um, it’s old.”

Yeah, I can pretty much tell that, dipshit. I kind of wanted a little more detail.

We hopped on a little minibus that inexplicably had shag carpet on the inside and a huge tissue holder that said I LOVE AUSTRALIA on it, bracketed by a kangaroo and a koala, and we were off into Cairo traffic.

You need to know two things about Cairo traffic: the paint on the roads is for decoration, and the drivers all navigate by radar and not by sight. I know this because our bus drove for an hour without ever turning on its headlights (and it was dark) yet honking his horn all along the route. Even that late at night the roads are clogged with cars. Several times I prepared myself to die in a flaming crash, and my only solace was knowing that the news reports would say “a thirty-car pileup in Cairo leaves forty dead, among them two Americans.”

And that’s something, right?

As we went Dummy pointed out various old things, saying “there’s an old thing of stone, and there’s another old thing, and look! A fountain!” He also told us sexist jokes: “only women have traffic accidents in Cairo traffic, because they get scared.”

My wife, in a rare moment of pique, responded “when do they borrow all these guys’ cars, then? Every damn one of them has a dent in it!”

He stopped narrating after that, which bummed me out because I couldn’t tell which stuff was old and which was really old without his help.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, a little after midnight, we were given some vile-tasting red juice while Dummy checked us in. Because in Egypt, you never check yourself in. I don’t know why. Probably bribes change hands or something.

Dummy returned and proposed, for the next day, a visit to Saqqara and taking in the magical Pyramid Sound and Light Show in addition to our already-scheduled tour of the Giza plateau. We, eager tourists, accepted.

Finally, tuckered out from a long day of travel, we turned in and I made a horrible discovery:

THE ROOM HAD DOUBLE BEDS! What is this, Ozzie and Harriet go on vacation? Ultimately I was too tired to move them that night so we slept apart.

End result: no sex for me.

Not an auspicious start to the vacation.


Anonymous said...

We live in Cairo and your first day sounds right on! Anyway, it is good for others to get the real poop. Carry on. It will be an experience for sure.

Kate said...

Now I know who NOT to book my fantasy trip with. Thanks for the info....keep 'em coming! :)

Darell said...

I live in Cairo Egypt, If coming I can recommend 2 companies that I have used for arrangements locally or flying international. "Panorama" Thomas Cook has a good presence here but have no first had experience but are globally known.

Wonder what happened to our travelers posts. Maybe can't find a wifi to connect to. If reading this try cafes such as Cilantro, Beano's La Costa.

Kate said...

Thanks darell, I might be putting that info to use in the not too distance future. :)

I'm wondering if he got lost and was eaten by a camel. :/

Darell said...

Think the camel, or mini death (minibuses) cars, or local water, beer (no I drink enough to know that is not problem), or just got traveling outside of Cairo to never never land and it gets so basic a shitter that works is real plus. Carry your own toilet paper and bottle of water for relief,

Welcome to egypy

Darell said...

Kate ,or anyone reading - how do I start a blog? I am old 65 year newbie, but full of fun and go for it's. I tried with Daily Dollop but all I got was Arabic shit. Maybe have to change countries on my computer. HELP


Kate said...

Arabic? Well, ya wouldn't get a lot of readers in the US, now would ya! :)


I found WordPress wasn't as easy as blogger, which I'd give ya a link, but it keeps pulling up my stuff, and that won't help ya. :/

Ya know, being where ya are, you could keep us informed on the goings on that we don't get here.

Plebian said...

I'm all right, it's just that I don't post on weekends.

As for starting a blog, you can do it easily in Blogger but you need to set your language to English instead of Arabic. After you do that it should be no sweat.

If I can figure it out, anybody can!

Darell said...

Hey Plebian - thanks - are you the traveler on shit boat. I will change countries. But - how , where is "daily dollop" - is that yours because I love the name.

Not hanging, as had 4 sakara beer - and Iris is helping me type and she is 10 yike do I need help or what. But really could help folks coming with the real poop!

Good luck Plebian

Kate said...

darell, if that Sakara beer is anything like they make in Thailand, you've already had 3 too many. LOL Who knew you could make beer out of formaldehyde?

sphinx said...

hey babe...:)
sakkara beer is not like tiger beer in Thailand or whatever its called.
this beer just gives you a buzz , stomach ache , and a headache and next morning you throw up simple. i love the stuff. they have other brands like Heineken , and actually there not to bad here. avoid the wine at all costs!!!!!!!!!!!! i got my blog going just click on darell see if it works and let me know :p

sphinx said...

sorry click sphinx not darell...

Kate said...

Most excellent! I've bookmarked ya!

Now, time to get down to business. LOL For your first BIG post, ya might want to explain how a Canadian ended up living in Egypt. :)

sphinx said...

Plebian - now figured out how to see just your Egypt posts under label choice. I am really enjoying your take and is a scream - to other readers it is also all truth, as I have seen all of it before just like written.

sphinx said...

Plebian - hope you and wifey got over pharaoh's revenge. I get the runs now when going to Europe or across the pond as local bugs love company and none strong enough in more civilized places.

Got the blog going - thanks. Still an rank newbie adn it needs more humor.