Sunday, November 8, 2009

Did you know they had pyramids here?

Today was a full day. I actually got some sightseeing in. :-) I went to see the pyramids in Giza and that was pretty wild. No matter how often you see the pyramids on television or in print, it's totally different in person. You're definitely in the desert out there, as evidenced by the fact that I'm fairly certain I still have sand in my contacts 12 hours later, and the pyramids are larger than life. But at the same time, it almost seems like they're not that big. I think it's because on tv it seems like the pyramids and Sphinx are in the middle of nowhere and that's just not true - there's a city all around it!

So I'm at the pyramids and of course a guy wants to get me to either a) buy a ticket to see the inside of the pyramid (I'd heard it wasn't worth it because there's nothing to actually see), or b) agree to a ride on a camel or horse. I told him I didn't have any money and I wasn't interested anyway and he told me to at least sit on the camel for a picture (using my camera). Ok, so I did that, but then he wanted me to give him money anyway for taking the picture! Uh, no. Moving on. . .

There are actually nine pyramids here, not just the Great one and the two others that most people are familiar with. Besides going into the pyramid where you can't really see anything, you can also go into the trap doors where you can see stuff. Check Flickr for pictures as my connection seems to be incredibly slow and nothing is uploading very fast. I'll try to add a couple to the actual post later.

I didn't hang out in Giza too terribly long because Dina was waiting for me and had Nadim with her in the car. Right about the time I decided I was ready to leave was also the time I decided I'd had enough wind in the desert (see above: sand in eyes). She popped me into a bus headed downtown so that she could put Nadim down for a nap. That was. . .an experience for sure. No one on the bus really spoke English and I didn't really know where I was going or when I was getting off, so it was interesting. (Plus, driving is different here in a big way. I'll have to talk about that more later.)

I did eventually make my way to the Egyptian Museum. It's a lot bigger than the Acropolis Museum in Athens and I easily spent 2 1/2 hours or so there. I don't think I even saw everything there was to see. I think perhaps the coolest part of the museum was the animal mummy room. You do know that it wasn't just humans who were mummified, don't you? I had heard this before, but I didn't realize there were different levels of animal mummification ranging from food (so a person would have something to eat in the afterlife) to pet to honorific (which isn't the right word, but it was when animals were mummified because it was believed that a god had manifested itself in that animal). There were mummified cats, dogs, shrews, baboons, birds, snakes, even a crocodile. Walking through the museum and thinking about how a lot of the antiquities were between five and seven thousand years old. . .just amazing.

I had some time to waste after the museum before meeting up with Gaafar, a friend of a friend, so I decided to go ahead and book my trip to Sharm El Sheikh. I'll be leaving by plane on Tuesday of this week and returning on Saturday. Sharm is a beach town and I was thinking that with all of the go go go (and rain!) that I've been having, that a few days to chill and do nothng might be just the ticket. I'll also check out the nightlife and may even go snorkeling or for a dive, but it will be mostly low-key - me and a book on the beach!

Anyway, then I met up with Gaafar and we went to Khan El Khalili, Cairo's bazaar. It's not as big as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but it's more interesting because the shops tend to have a wider selection (instead of all the same stuff like in GB). Gaafar had talked about maybe meeting up with a friend for dinner, but the friend bailed so I invited myself along. :-) I told him that I was up for anything as long as it was traditional Egyptian food.

At the restaurant, Gaafar was trying to be really sensitive to what I may or may not like, but I told him that after what I ate (and liked!) in Istanbul, I would seriously try anything, no worries at all. (Which reminds me - I have a food of Istanbul post planned, that I really need to get posted while it's all still fresh. Keep and eye out for it and someone remind me if you don't see it by the end of the week.) None of the food that we tried was particularly weird or anything, but some of it isn't very common in the US. We started with pickles, but in Cairo pickles means any vegetable that's been pickled. In our case it was cucumbers, onions, something purple that I forgot to ask about, and lemon (also known as preserved lemons). They were all pretty tasty, even if they were a tad too salty. Next was smoked herring and more pickled onions eaten as a sandwich on pita bread. The smoked herring actually tasted a bit like smoked salmon which I wouldn't have guessed (I also wouldn't have guessed that I'd like the way a smoked fish and onion sandwich tasted, but there you have it). Gaafar said he doesn't like either of these two things very much individually, but that he really likes them together. There were chicken livers; they can also be eaten as a sandwich with onions. I tried them plain and in sandwich form and I gotta say - the texture is a little weird, but these were also better than I expected. We had a rice dish that had hazelnuts, raisins, and maybe a bit of liver of some sort, and an orzo dish that had beef in it, but it's kind of hard to describe. I told Gaafar it was kind of like jambalaya, but that didn't mean a whole lot to him lol. What else? A soup that had spinach and (lots of) garlic. And a drink made from hibiscus flowers and a splash of 7Up. Everything was very good. This whole try-everything-because-you-never-know-you-might-just-like-it thing is working out well for me so far!

I have no real plan for tomorrow yet. I might reach out to some CSers, local and foreigners, and see if anyone wants to hang out.


  1. OMG! The pictures are awesome. And I love the one of you "touching" the top of the pyramid!

  2. Judging by how windy it looked in the pics, I'll bet your eyes were a dried-out mess. The camel pics are all very cool. The pics in general are cool, but a real camel IN EGYPT! (-:

    The food certainly sounds interesting. A herring and onion sandwich. Ew. The last time I tried herring (with you) was disgusting. But good for you for being adventurous.

    Love ya!

  3. Actually, ToadMama, the fish you tried with me was sardines (if I'm thinking of the same scenario as you) because I don't think I'd ever had herring before.

    Glad you guys like the pics! I'm still trying to get them loaded to the blog post, but it's just not happening right now.

  4. I think you might be right about the sardines now that I think more about it. But they were gross. (-:

  5. Your pictures are fantastic wish you were here beside me telling me all about them. Love,