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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Cairo

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cairo, Egypt - 2012

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 22/12/2012 00:21:22
Updated by Joel Dixon at 31/10/2018 03:38:11

It has taken almost two months to start writing the final blog of EuroJoel 2012 - the three incredible days I spent in Cairo, Egypt. It is much harder to find the time to write when I need to re-introduce a full-time job into my weekly schedule. This has helped me put in to perspective the European Adventure, especially cities such as Prague, Dresden and Bucharest. I had such a wonderful time in those cities - but I wonder how much of that was due to the 0 hours of work I was required to complete each day. I could commit my day towards having a delicious lunch, dinner and dessert, see the sights and try to catch some of the city's culture (in between my naps, siestas, snoozes and brief comas).

Cairo (well, all of Egypt really) was different. Even though I was feeling pretty tired after 10 weeks of living out of a suitcase, my time spent in Egypt took my holiday to another level. I had an amazing time in Cairo and it certainly wasn't just due to my time away from work.

Although amazing not everything was particularly fun at the time - arriving at Cairo airport is the prime example of this. I normally organise a detailed plan of attack to take me from the airport to my hotel room in the cheapest / easiest way possible - but I neglected to complete this preparation for Cairo. Big mistake. After our flight from Luxor, Pao and I landed in the midst of a feeding frenzy of unlicensed taxi drivers. The airport is tricky to navigate, and as far as I could tell there is no official taxi rank. Although mentally draining - Pao and I were able to laugh off the unwanted advances from our hopeful chariots and eventually found someone that didn't seem too dodgy (I was confident we would only be overcharged and not robbed).

I had organised a tour of Giza's pyramids for my first full day in Cairo - something I wanted to make sure I would not miss. As far back as I can remember I was fascinated by the pyramids and the Sphinx - never thinking I would have a chance to see them in real life. When I was debating whether or not to join Eastern Europe onto my itinerary I realised I could also tack Egypt on to the end of my trip and have a chance to see the pyramids. This inclusion made the idea of taking a month of leave without pay deliciously palatable - my hindsight now confirming an excellent decision.

"Meh - the middle pyramid is a tool. He can lick my half-man, half-lion balls! He ... he's behind me, isn't he?"

I've always been more interested in the Sphinx than the pyramids, and the stone kitty certainly didn't disappoint. But not only did I get to see the pyramids up close and stand on one of the stones (larger than I expected) - I actually entered one of them. Over 4,000 years old and the only remaining wonder of the ancient world - and I had the chance to walk inside it. The inside of the pyramid was actually a little underwhelming and surprisingly did not result in me gaining any superpowers - but I am glad to have had the opportunity. After exiting the pyramids we were almost swindled into taking a camel ride ("Just sit on the camel and we'll take your photo" ... ten minutes later ... "Now that you've had a wonderful camel ride - I would be happy to accept any tip you wish to give") but I'm actually glad this happened because it was quite an enjoyable experience.

As the Sphinx only has the body of a lion (while the head is that of a man) - I was actually just pretending to be patting a dude on the chin. I regret nothing.

Camel is now my preferred method of transportation

We also went through the Egyptian museum on the way home from the pyramids, which was interesting but nothing compared to seeing the monoliths (they probably should have started the tour with the museum). King Tut's mask was expectedly flashy - and few other exhibits caught my eye - but by this time I was starting to get a little museumed out. Upon arriving back at the hotel I had a meal that probably made the top 5 from my whole Europe trip - a delicious Philadelphia Cheesesteak sub from room service. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the delicious sandwich as it was devoured too quickly, but I'm happy that the lazy option of getting room service paid off.

The second day in Cairo was spent on a road trip to Alexandria which was a lot of fun. The Necropolis was pretty incredible, with a mixture of Egyptian and Greek Gods carved into the stones. I'm glad this occurred after my time in Luxor and Aswan because it meant I had a (tiny) bit of knowledge around the inscriptions. The main attraction of Alexandria - the Bibliotheca Alexandrina - was very cool and worth a visit, but at the end of the day it is still just a library. The architecture of the building was the best feature - apparently being modelled around eyes and eyelids. After a fantastic meal overlooking the Mediterranean we made the long drive back to Cairo.

It was actually interesting taking the tour of the library to see how much effort they are putting into the online componenets of their collection

The best thing about the Dewey Decimal System is that it allowed for the creation of this rap video!

For both the Giza and Alexandria tour we were taken around in a mini-van by the same driver. The traffic in Egypt was as to be expected - extremely crazy with a constant sound of car horns - but I think there was still method to their madness. We were never in an accident - and never even witnessed any fender benders. Our driver was an ultimate professional, he took us around all day with the same stoic expression and sensible approach to driving. He didn't speak to us at all (except to say "No English" when I tried to initiate polite conversation) but all that changed on our final drive back from Alexandria.

Looking out the window we saw dark clouds that led to rain and eventually thunderbolts and lightning. The stern look was wiped from our driver's face and replaced with a giant smile while he pointed at the sky each time the lightning flashed. I didn't really think much of it until our guide informed us that this kind of weather is extremely rare in Cairo - he'd only seen it once before while back in primary school. It was also pretty clear that the traffic was not used to driving in this weather as everyone slowed down and the window wipers did nothing at all (I doubt they'd ever been used). Our guide suggested we were very lucky and must have brought the rain with us - and as corny as it sounds - I did find it a perfect finale for such an amazing journey (which was further improved by an amazing dinner).

I tried to capture the falling rain - but it turned out a bit blurry. At least I got a shot before the windows were covered in water

Pao has accused me of concentrating too much on food when discussing travel - I fear I do not concentrate on the food enough

On the next day Pao flew back to London while I had a final day in Cairo. I decided to go into the city centre and just walk around (like I loved doing in places such as Lisbon and Venice) which was a bunch of fun. I was in a pretty good mood, so wasn't as grumpy as I might normally be to strangers that came up to chat with me. Sure enough - all of the friendly locals were interested in nothing other than my money. I got caught up with some pretty common scams ("Where are you from? Australia? I am going to Australia tomorrow, tell me about it. Come back to my shop so I can give you my business card!"). I ended up sitting in a perfume essence shop (I had already purchased some essence prior to this so was not interested in acquiring any more) and him and his "brother" were trying every trick in the book to get more money out of me. Long story short, I eventually stood my ground and we came to an agreement that we were both unhappy with - which I'm going to count as a win.

Not wanting to risk a taxi - I decided to walk back to my hotel. I knew the basic direction (North) and my building was pretty tall compared to others so I was confident I would find my way back without issue. I clearly took a tour through the dodgy part of Cairo as after walking down a number of tiny alleys I got to the point where there were no fellow tourists walking the streets. The locals were staring at me for most of this time as I begun to start feeling fearful. Thankfully it turned on ok - one old man followed me while screaming and pointing while a number of other younger people came up to me with exclamations of "Hello America" wanting to shake my hand. Kind of a sureal experience - I was pretty happy when I finally arrived back at the hotel.

Very odd! Egyptians don't secure their valuables with a bike lock as we do in Australia

Thus ends my European Adventure. 16 countries, 38 (or so) cities, countless planes, trains, buses, ships and bicycles later I can finally say I've experienced Europe. I saw pretty much everything I set out to witness, never missed a train or lost my wallet and ate my way across a continent in style. Many people have since asked me what my favourite place was: Barcelona was a pretty tough city to top, and Egypt was definitely the best country (as far as my experience went). Three months of living out of a suitcase was surprisingly difficult (two months would have been a better length) but I had such a wonderful time that I wouldn't really mind if I never get to leave Australia again (even though I still have a lot of places to check off). Without question, the best part of this trip was meeting Paola - who is, as I type, on a plane bound for Australia! Apparently Mark Twain once said "I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.". While I am surprised at the grammar utilised I couldn't agree with the sentiment more - there will certainly be further travel for Pao and I in our future

This is the 32nd in the EuroJoel - 2012 series
City 1 - Lisbon, Portugal - 2012City 2 - Porto, Portugal - 2012City 3 - Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012City 4 - Valencia, Spain - 2012City 5 - Barcelona, Spain - 2012City 6 - Naples, Italy - 2012City 7 - Rome and Vatican City, Italy - 2012City 8 - Florence and Pisa, Italy - 2012City 9 - Milan and Bologna, Italy - 2012City 10 - Venice, Italy - 2012City 11 - Prague, Czech Republic - 2012City 12 - Dresden, Germany - 2012City 13 - Berlin, Germany - 2012City 14 - Legoland, Denmark, 2012City 15 - Edinburgh, Scotland - 2012City 16 - Nice and Monte Carlo, France - 2012City 17 - Lyon, France - 2012City 18 - Dijon, France - 2012City 19 - Provins, France - 2012City 20 - Paris, France - 2012City 21 - Ireland - 2012City 22 - London, England - 2012City 23 - Killarney - Ireland, 2012City 24 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2012City 25 - Brussels and Bruges, Belgium - 2012City 26 - Warsaw, Poland - 2012City 27 - Krakow, Poland - 2012City 28 - Vienna, Austria - 2012City 29 - Budapest, Hungary - 2012City 30 - Bucharest, Romania - 2012City 31 - Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012City 32 - Cairo, Egypt - 2012

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