About My Blog

I Spent six weeks in Egypt before spending a year in Germany. This blog covers the best summer of my life. If you are looking for my posts while I was in Germany ask me, and I'll be happy to share them but I have been asked not to share them publicly. Feel free to visit my brothers blog of his year in Germany or my new blog

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The weekend

Any weekend where you have at least two firsts in your life should be
a good weekend. When you start to have three or more firsts in a
weekend it should be classified as great. Well I had at least tour
firsts but still this weekend was only good. Not because both days
were bad but rather one was fantastic and the other miserable. On
saturday Kayla and I got up at 9 and went to the pyramids at 10.
Originally yalda and Sara were going to join us but as we like to call
it here in Egypt they were they were being schlob-kebabs and stayed in
bed. We hailed a cab and were off to the pyramids. We got a metered
cab but about five minutes in he wanted to make his own price. He
asked how much and when we said thirty pounds the car screeched to a
halt and he said in his Arab accent "you crazy!!! 100 pounds
Egyptian!" we promtly got out and walked back in the direction we came
from so he couldn't follow us. But what do you know, the little devil
came at us in reverse. "okay okay 75 and we have deal" he said this
time. "la'a" Kayla and I said in unison and again walked away. I guess
he was adamant and he stopped us again and we negotiated him down to
fifty pounds. I was against accepting fifty because my experience with
taxis and the stories I have heard basically say that if you get out
of a cab because of disagreement DONT GET BACK IN!!! Why? Because
they will find ways to annoy you more or pay more. The fourth minute
cab ride was tense but calm. Kayla thought maybe he would take us to
the wrong place and then make us pay more when we finally got to the
pyramids. I told her that if he tried any more bullshit on us we would
get out and refuse to pay. He took us to the pyramids which we knew
even before we arrived. Starting a mile away people stop the taxi,
talk to the driver and then tell you "you must get out here my friend,
taxis cannot go any further you must ride a horse" and each time we
gave a one word answer "la'a". Soon enough our taxi driver realized we
were not idiots and didn't stop to talk to any more liars, smart man.
He did stop a bit before the gate, but for this we forgave him and
were almost thankful because it would have taken twenty minutes to
move the 100 yards through the horse ride hagglers. We got out and
paid fifty without any argument but the next hundred meters were
horrible. People yell at you from either side and say "no where you
going? Zee entrance here, must take horse". We knew these were lies
but still they are very convincing and I know lots of European, Asian,
and American tourists get ripped off and scammed everyday.

We finally got through the hordes with all of our money and no horse
rides. We bought tickets to enter the area (this was legit no worries)
and then began taking pictures of the last standing wonder of the
ancient world. It was HUGE. The middle pyramid was the only one to
give a hint to their grandeur of old. They are all still standing
perfectly but the great pyramid and small pyramid have become a sort
of step pyramid with jagged slopes. The middle pyramid is also like
this except the very top where the smooth sides are still visible I
hadn't realized that they weren't all still smooth but this didn't
dissapoint me. We took a ton of pictures and even got some with a
camel in background and us wearing turbans. We didn't mean for this
to happen but like most things in Egypt it happened too fast for us to
stop it. It cost us twenty pounds after we argued with he man that
fourth was too much. All of this while the tourist police stood by and
listened and did nothing. Because he didn't intervene he was probably
paid a commision (bakhshiish anyone?!). On the way out we haggled for
a cab to take us to the metro and got one for fifteen after jitneys
offered us rides for thirty and fourty pounds. The cabbie was sweet
and in his fifties but his taxi was older than him and much less
welcoming. We hoped on the metro and were back home by 1 30. We had
spent 20 dollars to see the pyramids, get there, and back all in less
than four hours. Plus no sunburn!

That night we went back to the movies and luckily didn't have any
bakhshiish problems. Instead we had four egyptians who laughed at us
the whole time. I wish I understood more arabicfor this movie because
the way the Egyptians were laughing at some scenes you wold think it
was the greatest comedy of all time. To us it sucked and was a boring
American plotline, so we left early and went back home.

This morning we woke up at 7 and were to be on the bus by 7 30. We
didn't leave until 7 45. Today was supposed to be a surprise trip
Buber had figured it out in advance and it turns out the only surprise
was that it took 4 hours to get there when originally we were told it
would take 2. We found out or were reaffirmed that we would be
visiting an oasis. Let me tell you one thing, oases are not like they
are shown in Tintin! But before that, the trip to the oasis. We got
stuck in Cairo traffic for a good hour and then less than an hour
beyond the traffic we are pulled over by a blue Toyota with three
armed soldiers in the back. We stopped for half an hour while three of
our egyptian friends talked to the men in the truck. Apparently they
were worried for our safety as tourists and would not let us go on
without them (I smell bakhshiish). They began driving ahead of us
leading our bus through back country roads rather than the highway.
His was pretty and much more scenic but also prolonged the bus ride by
an hour. Basically from the time we left Cairo until the oasis we
were surrounded by sand, sand, and more sand. It was amazing to see
the oasis suddenly like we did, in the middle of dunes. I don't know
how big most oases are but this one seemed rather large with a lake at
least the size of lake Arthur. There weren't many trees but the
desert was greener around the edges of the lake. We got to go swimming
and to my dismay it was saltwater. I thought oases were freshwater!
My only explanation forthis was that the sand from the desert makes
the water salty. The sahara isn't like the saltflats of western USA
but it is also a dried ocean bed and definitely has large quantities
of salt. It wasn't saltly like the medditeranean but the found was
disgusting, cover with knee deep muck. Once you got past this it was
fine and you could swim but then there was issue two, the water. I'm
spoiled by pool water, lake erie water, and Mediterranean water and
this was none of those. This was like pond water, I wasn't going to
let this ruin my one chance to swim in an oases and so I did my best
to keep my head above water.

Being there was the weirdest feeling, my body until my neck was cool
and refreshed and my head, untouched by water, was sweating. Being
that this was a lake in the sahara the sun was right above us and it
was hot. I put on sunscreen and left on my shirt and was oy in the
water for half an hour before showering and returning to the bus. We
didn't stay long but none of us wanted to, it was nice to be refreshed
by the water but I can't imagine spending the whe day there. I used
three layers of sunscreen on my face and was only in the sun for
thirty minutes but I still managed to get a sunburn. We headed back to
Cairo but stopped to eat lunch/dinner, see a show, and ride a camel.
Meanwhile the soldiers are still leading us around in their truck. The
system is very corrupt and even the Egyptians we were with couldn't
explain it entirely. Either way we bought them drinks everywhere we
stopped and offered them meals when we at as well. They did come in
handy because we had our own section if the beach where they prevented
other Egyptians from coming. Still the women had to wear shirts and
shorts but at least we didn't feel like we were being watched except
by the police.

After dinner we drive back and managed to ditch the police. How much
or if we paid bakshiish I'm not sure but it was a very interesting
experience not unlike the DMZ in Korea where soldiers also lead us
around. The drive back was four hours but this time we spent two hours
in Cairo traffic which was so slow that some people got off our bus
and walked along side just so they could stretch their legs. I know
today didn't sound horrible and the things we did were all exciting
but siting on a bus in the sahara with no AC sucks. The only thing to
male I worse? Moving slow enough that now air blows in through the
windows. The only thing worse? Having no empty seats and a girl fall
asleep on your shoulder. Malish, it was still a good weekend I guess
and now that I have had time to wind down from the stressful bus ride
and write this I can enjoy it much more. I will have stories to tell
about the soldiers and camel but I'll save those for later or for when
I'm back home. But for now Im going to lay down and put an end to a
good, okay a great weekend...

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Early morning for you, Pantje? Thanks for a most interesting description. Look forward to pictures!