Tuesday, December 12

Day Trip to Cairo

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Among the many old photographs in my family’s archives, I understand there to be a picture of my grandfather standing on the top of one of the pyramids! Climbing them is no longer allowed, and so there can be no such photo of me!

Took a ride on an arabian horse – my Arab head-scarf lending some authenticity to the scene. The ride was great, though I am sure that my poor horse was not feeling well. Galloping was clearly too much effort for him. Never thought I’d find myself empathising with a horse. Maybe there really is a soft side to me!

Had to cope with lots of ‘sellers’ who go about pestering you to buy from them. Quite menacing really. They offer take take a photograph of you, with your camera, and then ask for money. Once or twice might be tolerable, but when you have said “No than you”, about ten times, it does become irritating.

Got talking to a few young Egyptian students while we were taking photos of the Sphinx. One of the students was particularly talkative. He is studying tourism, and part of his course involves his learning Hieroglyphics, – he called it Egyptian Grammar. I was even more impressed when he said that he supported Arsenal!

Just down from the pyramids, there is a very luxurious hotel. It was just asking to be visited. We succumbed! The thought of our sitting in an air-conditioned lounge with cool drinks was just too inviting to be ignored. Once inside the hotel, I must have slipped into some sort of trance – something to do with coming in from the heat. I dreamed that we were supposed to staying in this hotel, that some mix-up had wrongly led us to our hotel in Alexandria. But then, I woke. Oh dear, the stark difference between fantasy and reality!

From here, it was a remarkably long taxi journey into Cairo, and to the Museum of Egypt. The Museum is a huge and imposing building, housing relics from Egypt’s long and eventful history. Security took the protecting of this priceless collection very seriously. For some reason they did not like the look of me. There was the usual airport-type scanners and things, and I should have taken off my shoes since, this is normally the only problem, but I was searched. The guard asked me if I had a knife! Of course, I did not have a knife!

Tutankharmun and much more. Stunning! Great to see the real objects after being familiar with the photographs for so long. Added to all this, from the many different periods were: baskets, pots, bowls, glassware, models, boats and even furniture, surviving still. One has to marvel at the skills and abilities of so ancient a people.

We find a restaurant. Nice relaxed atmosphere, clean and well-run. With the rush outside, it was such a pleasure to be somewhere calm, and free to enjoy good company.

Later, we were out and about again to explore evening Cairo. An awe-inspiring encounter with the gritty end of life. This must be one of the most crowded cities on the planet. Sheer volume of activity. Sellers, out to entice you ‘just to look’. The colours, the lights and sights, the sparkle and glitter, tempting you to spend. Talked with a few more locals, and found them all so polite and welcoming. Beginning to lose the sense of strangeness, and bewilderment I felt at first. This is a marvellous place!

Taxis here are more crazy than in Alex, – great fun though. I will miss the daily astonishment of a taxi trip when I get back home. Saab drivers never quite generate the same edgy moments of alarm that are so prevalent on Egyptian roads. Finally get to Cairo station and hop on to our very hot train to take us back to Alexandria. it is 11.20 PM. and we have an hour and forty minutes to go. 

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