As you can tell, between being in Egypt just before the elections and being the sole Canadian in a sea of Americans experiencing Egypt – and likely Africa – for the first time, there is so much to think about besides the tomb and temples they keep dragging us to under the hot sun 🙂 So the proper travelogue keeps getting sidelined…
Let’s see if we can correct that. Finally, some details about my travels. The tour has been wonderful. We’ve seen a lot. The A&K staff are excellent and Sonia is like a character from a film. She knows a lot about Egypt and is very proud of her country and its history. She tells us we are her children and she protects us like we are.
When she yells “pharaohs”, we all come running. Apparently she started doing this on an A&K trip called “Pharoahs and Kings”. She sings it out in a really loud voice and it’s far more entertaining and effective than shouting “A&K group”.
One of the first things she taught us was how to deal with merchants. Apparently things were more civilized prior to the revolution and you didn’t have to deal with a gauntlet of people trying to drape a scarf around your neck, thrust something into your hand or get you to tell them your name.
It’s hard to not be friendly but at most locations it’s a bit like a mob and any signs of weakness will have you targeted as the easy prey.
It all began when we left the sanctuary of the Mena House to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. That location not surprisingly is the biggest zoo. I ignored the merchants but was fascinated by camels so caught the eye of a boy named Mohammed. He wanted to take a picture of me with his camel and actually said “no money.” Instead I got a photo of him – and a close up of Mickey Mouse (his camel) – and he got a dollar cause he hadn’t asked for it.
Our next stop was a different location where you could see all three pyramids at the same time for a photo. There I met Abdullah and his camel Daisy and got more photos. He asked for a pen for school in addition to his dollar. It’s a bit challenging in Egypt right now to have friendly exchanges with the locals but Mohammed and Abdullah proved it is possible.
They opened the gate for Adriano in the afternoon when we toured Memphis and the step pyramid (the first pyramid ever). I was still a newbie at the vendor game and made the mistake of saying maybe and telling him my name. He then told me his name in a loud, singsong voice at least eight times before we went into the ruins. He popped up again in the middle of the columns : “it’s Adriano!”
And then he found me on the way out so I decided I would reward his efforts and buy some necklaces from him. Sonia said I got a good price – and I even got a bonus necklace – a gift with purchase. I also got a marriage proposal and a lot of entertainment for $30. Cheaper than a ticket to the theatre 🙂
Here everyone introduces themselves and wants to know your name. It’s just part of the culture. I’ve noticed the same thing in Europe. It’s a nice practice. Manners are a wonderful thing. And North Americans could learn a thing or two from Africans. People in Egypt are happy and hopeful for the future. I guess they can’t afford Prozac 🙂
Day 2 was jam-packed with activities. It was cool to see the Pyramids. I got eaten alive by bugs while watching a cheesy show where they lit up the Pyramids and a neon green Sphinx told us the history of Egypt in an imitation of James Earl Jones. We went to the Solar Boat Museum, Memphis and a few other places as well but the highlight for me was using the telephoto lens I had lugged to Egypt to get some face shots of the Sphinx.
We also toured some venture where rural children go to school and also learn how to weave carpets. So I confirmed the information Nizam and gang had told me in Istanbul was accurate – and even got a demonstration of the process. The sales process was really low key so quite a few of us bought carpets. Mine is a weaving of King Tut! It’s hard to resist charming Egyptian guys 😉 And the purchase led to a delightful conversation about the current state of affairs in Egypt. He told me I could use it as a mouse pad. And it will last forever. The coolest mouse pad I have ever owned!