Monday, August 13, 2012

Turkey

             Border control is an interesting experience. This is my first time in a long time crossing an international border by anything other than airplane. It's cool that it's almost a continental border. As I type, a Bulgarian official is going over our bus for illegal goods. I don't know what it is illegal to bring into Bulgaria, but judging from the other people on the bus, I'd guess there is some rule against cigarettes. One woman ran into the duty free shop at the Turkish border and bought several cases which she passed out among the passengers who promptly stuffed them down their shirts, pants, bras, bags and anywhere else they could find. I can't believe that Bulgaria doesn't have cigarettes, but I guess they might simply be cheaper in Turkey.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Egypt


Mohamed, my spontaneous city guide
Aug 1 -

Today was a long, long day. I woke up at an undetermined hour and set off on my first Cairo adventure. The streets were almost entirely empty of people and cars. I met up with another walker, Mohammed from Yemen/New York, and he offered to help me find a map of the city since every shop was closed. When we failed to find a map, he changed his offer into a personal tour of the city and its sights. So I know, don't get in cars with strangers is the biggest and most important rule of travel. In a foreign country, with no phone, no language, and without the protection of even a single friend, it's about the stupidest thing a person can do. But we all know that I'm a trusting person, trusting the point of being an idiot. So I went on a tour of the city and Mohamed was a wonderful guide. We took a ferry across the Nile river and I rode a camel at the pyramids. A great start to my trip.
It was hot out though and I had been trying to fast, so I was tired and went back to the apartment to rest. I gave up the fast and grabbed some food and rested for a few hours watching American tv shows and playing on the internet. But I had a short time in Cairo, so I decided to brave the big city again.
Terrible idea. I got lost despite the map I had finally acquired and spent hours wandering in the terrible hot sun. I did get to Cairo tower eventually and got some lovely sunset pictures. The smog of Cario actually made some pretty rings in the photographs.

Aug 2 -
The Egyptian museum isn't air-conditioned! Call me whatever names you'd like, spoiled, ethnocentric, what-have-you, but museums are supposed to be air-conditioned. I thought it had something to do with protecting the artifacts. They have to be in a controlled environment, not subject to the whims of mother nature. Well, the Egyptian artifacts have survived 3000+ years without the benefits of AC, so I guess they'll survive for a while longer, but it was a shock to my American way of thought. I did make a quick loop through the museum and saw so, so many relics from the time of the pharaohs with a few Romans thrown in. There were statues, vases, jars, games, boats, palanquins, tombs, jewelry, coffins, and lots of mummies. I didn't even buy the extra ticket to see the royal mummies because mummies are just dead people and I think that it's creepy to stare at dead people. But the general admission ticket had plenty of mummies anyway. Please...never let me be mummified because thousands of years later someone will find that mummy and put me on display no matter how insignificant my life was.
The Egyptian museum (no cameras inside)
Couch Surfing friends by the Mediterranean sea


Evening - wandered around and got lost again...

Aug 3 -
Went to Alexandria! Saw a concert! It was wonderful. We spent the morning on a bus, paved roads the whole way, one seat per person. Great beginning to the trip. We were met by a friend of our host who took us all around the city. We saw the citadel where the famous Alexandria lighthouse used to be before they gave up rebuilding it.  We saw the catacombs: creepy but so much cooler than staying above ground. And we went to the beach and chilled by the shore of the Mediterrean Sea. And then in the evening we drove over to the Jesuit Cultural Center and watched a performance by a local dance/song/music group.



Aug 4 -
Morning - trip back to Cairo. Another nice air-conditioned ride down a paved road. We arrived and rested for a little while before heading out again on a shopping excursion. The bazaar was simply huge. People calling out from all directions claiming to have the very thing your heart desired and at a very reasonable price too. There were pyramids of all shapes and sizes (excluding life sized) and made out of all types of materials. Usually they came in sets of three to match the 3 at Giza. There were also sphynxes, golden bracelets, Egyptian gods of all varieties and sarcophogi (including a little toy mummy inside). I don't understand the fascination with mummies; they're corpses wrapped in bandages. Anyway, after all the shopping was an amazing concert in a mosque.






Aug 5 - Took an overnight bus to Hurghada by the Red Sea. Woke up and spent the entire day just laying either in or near the water. Then another night bus back to Cairo
Sunrise over the Red Sea

Aug 6 - Today I went and saw a lot of religious sites. Churches, Mosques, a synagogue and even the baby Moses well. Then I went to a big couch surfing gathering on a  boat in the Nile before having a final goodbye meal with my host. Great time in Egypt, but my 3am flight to Istanbul awaits.


My final meal in Cairo