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  #1  
Old 08-18-2010, 11:40 PM
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Greetings from bustling Cairo, Egypt...

Greetings,

Here on business briefly - only 3 days. My hotel room is overlooking the great Nile river in all its glory.

Arriving yesterday mid-day we had some time to kill so we arranged the taxi cab that the hotel trusted to take us to Giza to see the pyramids - turned out not to be a great trip but one I won't likely forget...

The traffic here is crazy - there are no rules, just drive very fast, push your way in and use the horn a lot. There are donkeys, pedestrians, cabs, trucks, all competing for a very narrow space they call a road.

After about 45 min of dodging traffic and speeing along in a nice MB C200 Kompressor diesel (great pickup) we arrived near the pyramids but were not allowed to enter the compound - some type of makeshift checkpoint blocked our way - our driver argued, but to no avail. We tried walking in and at first they let us, but then there was some type of problem, they wanted money, yada, yada, yada... we ended up piling back in the cab and moving on. The driver took us to another place where we could see the Sphinx from a distance but could not go in... oh well.

We were dropped off at a "firend's" shop where they gave us a hard sell on some perfume, and then papirus art - I ended up buying a little something for my wife - I bargained pretty hard for it at one point walking away - the deal got better so I bought it, as for the papirus art as nice as it was I wasn't buying...

One thing about the Egyptians, they have an uncanny ability to part you with your money - if the price is 200 Egyptian Pounds and you pull out 200 + 20 accidently, they will be in your face repeatedly so you don't put that 20 back in your wallet... : "how about that 20 to the girl here that has been pouring your coffee"... "Please give me something for the camel ride" - yeah, we did the camel rid... it was pretty cheesy and not a choice transportation for any distance (not for me)...

Anyway, there is a famous bazaar not to far away - Khan El-Khalili - we drove through it yesterday... we may muster some courage to go there today or tomorrow - we'll see. There is also the museum of Egyptian Antiquities - they say that if you spend one min on every exhibit there it will take 9 months to see it all - and I believe it... we may just see that if time allows. Insh'allah (God willing)... as they say here.

James

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  #2  
Old 08-19-2010, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MercFan View Post
Greetings,

Here on business briefly - only 3 days. My hotel room is overlooking the great Nile river in all its glory.

Arriving yesterday mid-day we had some time to kill so we arranged the taxi cab that the hotel trusted to take us to Giza to see the pyramids - turned out not to be a great trip but one I won't likely forget...

The traffic here is crazy - there are no rules, just drive very fast, push your way in and use the horn a lot. There are donkeys, pedestrians, cabs, trucks, all competing for a very narrow space they call a road.

After about 45 min of dodging traffic and speeing along in a nice MB C200 Kompressor diesel (great pickup) we arrived near the pyramids but were not allowed to enter the compound - some type of makeshift checkpoint blocked our way - our driver argued, but to no avail. We tried walking in and at first they let us, but then there was some type of problem, they wanted money, yada, yada, yada... we ended up piling back in the cab and moving on. The driver took us to another place where we could see the Sphinx from a distance but could not go in... oh well.

We were dropped off at a "firend's" shop where they gave us a hard sell on some perfume, and then papirus art - I ended up buying a little something for my wife - I bargained pretty hard for it at one point walking away - the deal got better so I bought it, as for the papirus art as nice as it was I wasn't buying...

One thing about the Egyptians, they have an uncanny ability to part you with your money - if the price is 200 Egyptian Pounds and you pull out 200 + 20 accidently, they will be in your face repeatedly so you don't put that 20 back in your wallet... : "how about that 20 to the girl here that has been pouring your coffee"... "Please give me something for the camel ride" - yeah, we did the camel rid... it was pretty cheesy and not a choice transportation for any distance (not for me)...

Anyway, there is a famous bazaar not to far away - Khan El-Khalili - we drove through it yesterday... we may muster some courage to go there today or tomorrow - we'll see. There is also the museum of Egyptian Antiquities - they say that if you spend one min on every exhibit there it will take 9 months to see it all - and I believe it... we may just see that if time allows. Insh'allah (God willing)... as they say here.

James
" Yahdii kumullah wa yush-lihu baalakum" (May God guide you. And keep you safe)
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  #3  
Old 08-19-2010, 02:35 AM
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What's the air like there? I've heard it's pretty bad.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:35 AM
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" Yahdii kumullah wa yush-lihu baalakum" (May God guide you. And keep you safe)
شكرا - Thank you Chilcutt, blessings -
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  #5  
Old 08-19-2010, 11:45 AM
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you staying at the Cairo Hilton? that place rocks
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  #6  
Old 08-19-2010, 12:27 PM
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That traffic there sounds like the traffic in Brazil! Except...Brazil has stoplights. Any of those around there? Brazil, the roads were small, and confusing, and there were horses, pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, and everything else at once. People drive crazy and I am actually surprised that I did not witness accidents. I guess they ALL drive at the same level of crazy...? Speed bumps every few miles in the middle of the road just keep drivers in check.
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  #7  
Old 08-19-2010, 03:09 PM
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Except...Brazil has stoplights. Any of those around there?
No, there are no stop lights that I saw anywhere - at one point our gutsy driver took great care and a lot of pushing to get his shiny Benz accross 4 lanes of traffic to get through a seemingly impossible crossing to the other side. On his final sprint he actually caused the oncoming truck and another speeding taxit to come within inches of the side door - something to see. I have to say that despite the craziness, I was impressed with drivers control of the car - many a time he came within inches of another car, pedestrian or a parked truck - it must be the sound of the horn that give him that extra inch or so to squeeze by those tight places... Glad I'm not driving -

TxJake - yes, I'm staying at Hilton Ramses here - we're doing work for the Hilton chain so I'm staying on the property and yes, it is an impressive hotel from the posh facilities to the very friendly and very polished staff, everything is right here and the view out the window is great - Nile river down below and tonight they were doing a light show down there, party boates floating up and down all lit up like Christmas trees, all to the sounds of endless, I mean endless honking...

Cheers -
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  #8  
Old 08-19-2010, 03:18 PM
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What's the air like there? I've heard it's pretty bad.
It's very humid here - unusually, I'm told - on the way to the pyramids we saw great clouds of smoke up ahead and traffic wasn't moving for a while, my colleague and I both thought that there was an accident with a car on fire as it looked like a burning tire with smoke billowing up - after a while the traffic started moving and it turned out that it was a bus belching smoke from both tail pipes - I could not believe it but the driver just chuckled...

I sense there is some pollution but it's not like it's choking you although my colleague (who is from India) - his allergies are flaring up and he says it's similar to what he experiences whenever he visits Bombay back home....

Mornings are quite foggy the fog just hangs in the still morning air until it's burned off by the sun by mid-day so it's been quite hazy, so much that we couldn't see the pyramids in the distance like we normally could... maybe tomorrow.

We've arranged to go see the pyramids with the hotel-arranged guide for the second time since we got rail-roaded the first time.. hehe - that's tomorrow - looking forward to it.

Cheers -
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Old 08-19-2010, 03:57 PM
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I remember going to Cairo in transit back in the early 90's. All I remember is that after we landed (it was very dark) they took us to a glass room terminal gate where they took every body's passport and processed them all at the same time. The westerners freaked out because they could not see their passports.

When we took off a couple of days later, the airport looked like an airplane grave yard with a bunch of disused air planes off the side of the runway.

Other then that, it seemed nice but hot. I picked up a box of cigarettes called Cleopatra for about $3 for a box of 200. I think that those caused more damage to my lungs then a years worth of smoking western cigarettes.
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Old 08-19-2010, 04:04 PM
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I was under the assumption that Zahi Hawass Closed the pyramids to tourism due to the humidity raising hell with the paintings, least thats what they showed on the TV show "chasing mummies"
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  #11  
Old 08-19-2010, 05:24 PM
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Sounds interesting.

It reminds me of my travels in Morrocco, Paris and Rome. Morroco for the primitive thing sighted on the roads and the "friend with a bargain". For heavy traffic, hard to beat Rome or Paris.

I don't think I could stand the bad air with my resperatory allergies.

Camels are very strange animals aren't they! In Morrocco one day we saw about eight guys trying to push/pull a camel into a horse like trailer. the camel was complaining verbally and his legs were going every which way to avoid going into that trailer. It looked hilarious!

On the open road in 1973 there was not much traffic but occasionally we would see a big american car taxi rumbling along with about eight people crammed into it.

in the Rif mountains we saw goats grazing in trees eating the leaves off while climbing and walking on the limbs.

One day we came to a small town out in the middle of nowhere and it was market day. Off to one side of the road was a 20 acre or so field with hundreds of camels, horses and burros grazing with verious contraptions on them such as saddles and cargo racks. At first I thought, WTH is that????

Then...Aaaaaahhhh!

Parking!

It is a different world, and I imagine it is not much better now.
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  #12  
Old 08-19-2010, 05:52 PM
waterboarding w/medmech
 
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"TxJake - yes, I'm staying at Hilton Ramses here - we're doing work for the Hilton chain so I'm staying on the property and yes, it is an impressive hotel from the posh facilities to the very friendly and very polished staff, everything is right here and the view out the window is great - Nile river down below and tonight they were doing a light show down there, party boates floating up and down all lit up like Christmas trees, all to the sounds of endless, I mean endless honking..."

Its a snazzy operation. I was assigned TDY to Cairo in the early 90s and I "bunked: at the Ramses for about a month before moving out to Giza and the Forte Gande. Cool place too, esp since you can see the Great Pyramid from most of the rooms. Didnt like being that far out, since I had to go the US Embassy a bunch and that was a hike from Giza. take one of the dinner cruises on a riverboat, it is usually pretty cool and great food.
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  #13  
Old 08-20-2010, 01:29 AM
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take one of the dinner cruises on a riverboat, it is usually pretty cool and great food.
Yeah, I see the boats going up and down on the river - all night long - I mean they quit about 6:00am with party-goers dancing and singing on them all night - these guys really know how to have fun - it looks like they work themselves ragged all day so they party at night.

Last night we went walking around with my colleague - about 10:00pm at night - at first I didn't think it was a good idea but it was just fine - never felt unsafe at any time. It was amusing to mingle with the traffic and dodge the cars like the locals do. The highlight of the walk was crossing a busy street on the bridge over the Nile - it had 4 lanes going in each directions packed with screaming cars/taxis/trucks/buses... we made it a goal to get across... I jumped across first to the thin median separating the traffic going in both directions but then I got stuck there as the 4 lanes of oncoming traffic kept going strong with the ever-present horns blaring like they were urging me to go for it... About 10 mins went by and it seemed like I was gonna be there for a while when all of the sudden, a local teenager went right past me and I knew this was my chance to follow him - I tailed him as he bravely stepped right into the oncoming traffic moving diagonally across the lanes (clever). We played 'frogger' with the cars/trucks in all 4 lanes and they all swerved around us as we managed to get safely to the sidewalk. I then watched my colleague make the desperate crossing finally getting to the other side wide eyed and a bit terrified but otherwise OK... It was a bit silly but for us it was exotic and memorable. We watched a great light show going on on both sides of the Nile with neon party boats moving at perilously close range (just like the cars on the road...

Hehe - later this morning (it's still very early) we're going back to Giza with the guide - this time we're going to get close to the pyramids for a closeup look (or so we hope). In the afternoon we plan on going to the Museum of Antiquities for at least a couple of hours, then get ready for the 4:00am departure for home.
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Last edited by MercFan; 08-20-2010 at 10:52 AM.
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  #14  
Old 08-20-2010, 03:33 AM
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I've read that the interior of the pyramids reeks of stale urine as there's no place to go and you're way the hell inside and what can you do. But I've also heard about all the moisture from people's breath not being good for the inscriptions, paintings - whatever and I imagine water vapor from urine doesn't help matters any.
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Old 08-20-2010, 06:51 AM
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I've read that the interior of the pyramids reeks of stale urine as there's no place to go and you're way the hell inside and what can you do. But I've also heard about all the moisture from people's breath not being good for the inscriptions, paintings - whatever and I imagine water vapor from urine doesn't help matters any.
Yes, our guide told us that there is only one empty sarcophagus and not much else to see in there so we didn't go inside the pyramid but we did see a number of them (Cheops being the biggest one) along with the smaller outlying ones and of course the Sphinx - that was the highlight of the day.

It blew me away to think that it is this very same object that stood here in this spot for over 4500 years and that once the great Pharaos, Alexander The Great, and Napoleon all looked upon the very same object that I'm looking at right now... it was quite an amazing realization for me. The place is crawling with merchants that besiege you about every 200 yards. They want you to take a photo with them so you give them some... wait for it.... yes, you guessed it - money...

At one point I got so tired of their badgering that I started speaking Polish to them (my native language) hoping that I'll finally shake them off of me - I thought no one would be able to touch that - wrong: to my amazement one dromedary spoke back to me in the Polish language - I was a little shell shocked. His sentences were good and he was funny - unbelievable... I guess they learn all kinds of phrases in as many languages as they come in contact with... it just surprised the heck out of me and made me chuckle...

We finished the tour in Khan El Khalili market - there are just over 500 shops there and they all want to sell you something.. had quite a fun time bargaining with few shop owners for some trinkets that I need to take back home - it was fun but at times a bit trying. Oh and most of these shops stay open 24hrs a day... why you have to have trinkets available all 24 hrs I'll never know but there must be great demand for it there... it's something else.

We thanked our guide and he was off to the compulsory prayers at 12:30pm in the main mosque.

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