I have arrived in Egypt! And I am living in a palace! It looked like a palace… and then I finally read the tour info. And, yes, a getaway spot for Empress Eugenie. The world is a pretty mixed up place. You see these places from the past built for monarchs and you really wonder how someone could think that was even remotely fair.
I feel a little guilty and displaced in a setting like this. I can see the Pyramids from my room!!! But you just have to be yourself and treat everyone respectfully and you can be part of the economic development of the developing world. It’s all about jobs. When people have jobs, they have a life. So while it feels a little evil living like a princess, there are a lot of staff here and I expect this is a good job if you live in Egypt. I still remember standing with Alex at the Ngorongoro Crater as he was chatting with friends and he stressed how they had a good life cause they had jobs.
I spent the afternoon photographing like mad so there will be photos too once I upload some.
I arrived around 2am. I usually try NOT to arrive in developing countries in the middle of the night but apparently it is the norm for flights from Europe to Cairo. I am booked on a tour with Abercrombie & Kent. It really pays to spend the big bucks when you are going to a developing country for the first time. I knew I needed a visa and figured I would have to sort it out on my own but my guy found me immediately, I slipped him 15 euros very quickly, we moved to a different line – and we had cleared customs in no time.
That’s when I saw Mubarak’s house… my god, these Africa dictators are a piece of work. It looked like a palace too. Arriving in the dead of night in Cairo actually has its benefits I discovered! Normally the traffic is a nightmare (this is a city of 25 million people, the third largest in the world apparently) but at 3am you can drive through the city. So I got the free “Cairo by night” tour. It was fascinating. Lit up mosques like in Istanbul – but many were modern, not ancient. Lots of incredible old architecture. Buildings from the 12th century. And lines of vehicles. And people milling about. The 24 hour shops. People stumbling out of nightblubs. At 3am Cairo is alive!
It is not the Africa that I know. It’s very modern. There are poor areas for sure but it is such a different arrival to Arusha last year. And now I am in my gilded cage 🙂 I am not sure how much of the real Egypt I will get to see but the concept for this trip is old Egypt in its glory days – and I think that is assured.
As I type this I am waiting for my dinner reservation at one of the best Indian restaurants in Cairo apparently. The hotel group who owns this property is based in India so I am assuming the intel is likely accurate. While I wait I am listening to amazing classical music in a bar that comes from a completely different century. Most people look like grubby tourists but I think my carefully chosen Egypt wardrobe fits in really well. And the new dress I bought at Esprit really does work in the heat – and was a great bargain. They closed all the Esprit stores in Canada before I got to use my $27 credit so I was on the lookout for an Esprit store in Amsterdam – and it worked!
I spent the afternoon roaming the property and snapping photos. I saw a little bit of Islamic architecture in Spain and in Istanbul but mostly it’s new. First I tried to capture the grandeur of the palace and the amazing shadows created by the elaborate lighting fixtures and the low lighting. Then I went outside and played with the reflections in the pool. One of the gardeners was keen to take photos of me so I have a bunch of tourist photos I don’t normally get. Once I get the photos up, you will see me in front of the Pyramids! 🙂 Everybody is eager to help. There are golf carts to take you around the property. You have to make a point of stressing you would like to walk!
Back from dinner now… listening to BBC World News and talk of the Arab Spring. Means more being here. Ricardo from A&K organized for me to have dinner with some Americans who are also part of my tour so it was a lot more fun than anticipated. Dinner was good – but I am so spoiled coming from Vancouver. It’s no Vij’s 😉
The bar was more fun… although very quiet since it is Friday night. But this is not exactly the real world. I did establish a connection with one of the bartenders though so we had a lively discussion about what it means to be Coptic, why they built the Pyramids and the role of religion in society among other topics… my life is never dull… so no need to liven up the trip by hitting Tahrir Square. Today is protest day and Egypt isn’t in the news so apparently things will be pretty tame. My first day in Egypt has been wonderful. The people are quite formal but really warm and excited to have me here – exactly what I expected 😉
Internet in Africa is wildly expensive so I will try my best to keep writing the posts but they may appear in groups as I decide to buy a little internet time…