Monday, November 16, 2015

Thank you Egypt!

Egypt is a country of extremes - It's miles and miles of desert with a thin meandering oasis following the Nile.  It's motorcycles, bicycles, carts pulled by donkeys, barking dogs, honking horns, hoots of 'hello", "welcome" and "how are you?" in a constant pollution of noise.  It's smoke from burning fields, the stench of camels and horses, spice souks and perfume factories.  It's sun searing days and cool nights with a pleasant breeze, just strong enough to keep the flies away, sometimes.  All of this pierces your senses in a crazy kind of way.  It makes you want to get the hell out of here but it also makes you want to stay and see more.

The cities are quite different.  Cairo is an absolute mess, but one that seems to work.  Traffic is crazy -honk, honk, honk. Everyone tries to hussle and wants to help, but what they really want is you to come into their shop and buy something that is no different than in any other shop.  It's hard to stay polite.  Moving south, Luxor is quieter and has a great souk as well as the Karnak and Luxor Temples and Valley of the Kings, Queens and Workers.  Aswan is the most relaxed and floating down the Nile is super peaceful.

The food is chicken, chicken and more chicken with the occasional pigeon thrown in to change things up.  Salad is - you guessed it - tomato, cucumber, and feta.  Drinks are pretty standard - coke, 7up and Fanta as well as in the 'diet' form.  Stella and Luxor beer come in big bottles and taste pretty darn good!  French fries are also popular.  There's lots of felafel and breakfast usually includes a hard boiled egg.  Pita bread is used for dipping into everything and often forks are not part of the meal.  Coffee is Nescafe but tea is more popular, especially with lots of sugar.

The people are hungry for the tourist's dollar.  Since the Revolution in 2011 and constant threats and occassional successes of terrorism, people are staying away.  85% of the country relies on tourism and so prices quickly drop while bartering in the souqs as they try to at least make something.  "Just 10 pounds for a ride to your hotel - 5 pounds for my horse and 5 pounds for my family!"  Everyone is friendly and they yell out what little English they know.  One of our drivers seemed to be understanding what we were talking about until I asked him if his eyelashes, which were long, lovely and dark, ever interfered with his vision.  His reply was "you're welcome!"  Note to self - keep that in mind when you think you're getting somewhere with your questions!

The weather, at least now in November, is perfect.  The days are pleasant and the nights cool down.  There has rarely been a cloud in the sky.

The call to mosque, 5 times a day, is quite annoying, especially if the minaret is within a stone's throw from your hotel window!  Devote Muslims have carpet burns on their foreheads from rubbing on their prayer stone and carpet.

The Red Sea is a great place for diving and popular with Russian tourists, at least it was until just recently.  It's a modern resort area and diving is fairly cheap.  There was a lot of beautiful coral and many fish as well.

There are 2 prices at many places - those for tourists and those for Egyptians.  355 ml of Coke Zero costs 68 cents and two falafel sandwiches in pita bread with tomato and herbs cost 34 cents.  A Big Mac full meal deal costs $5.28 and 500 ml of Stella beer is $3.41.

Men wear jellaba - long dresses, usually with something underneath and a head scarf of some sort, while most women  are muslim and fully covered with a head scarf and long dress.  Thankfully tourists are not required to wear the uniform!

Leisure time is spent in cafes drinking tea, playing backgammon and smoking sheesha.  
At least that's what the men do.  The women are kept busy with the children and are not required to go to mosque 5 times a day.  They can pray at home.

The country is one big museum of ancient sites, dating back to the Palaeolithic time - 6000 BC.  Temples, pyramids, statues, souqs, carvings, the Nile, Pharaohs and gods- Isis, Amun-Ra, Hathor, Horus, Seth, Sobek and Osiris are what one comes here to see.

I've enjoyed Egypt and am glad I came here.

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