Monday, February 2, 2009

Trip, Part 2

(MUST keep on posting about the trip, before I forget it all!)

The other place I most wanted to go in Cairo was the Egyptian Museum, so that's where we headed on our second day. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but it was kind of crazy--jammed with tourists in big, bus-sized groups, illogically organized, and crowded with objects.

We'd planned to rent an audio guide, but never did find the rental booth (and no one Kevin asked thought it existed), so we just went to the highlights as recommended by the Lonely Planet. The building is laid out around a central hall, with 2 layers of rooms around the outside--some connected and some not, some numbered and some not (some numbers in order and some not), so there was a lot of "Ok, so next door is 35... and we came from 21 before that, so this much be 17." "Wait! Do those portraits look Roman to you? Huh. So this much be 14." "Oh yes, I see the 14--it's on that wall."

But we saw what I wanted to see, and I even found the yarn:

And the spindles:

(We spent a lot of time with the bike guide in Israel, and after a couple of dinners, Kevin started telling him just how obsessed I am with knitting. By way of illustration, Kevin told him how I always find fiber-related artifacts--which the guide had never noticed, of course, and didn't quite believe in. But they're everywhere.)

That night, Muhammed, his family, and their other guests/friends had planned to go to something called Sound and Light (a light show on the Pyramids, with the Sphinx narrating the story of Ancient Egypt in various languages). Well, not go, exactly, because their plan was actually to go to a cafe with a good view of the pyramids, have coffee, and watch the show for free. Kind of like the houses in Wrigleyville where you can watch the Cubs from people's roofs.

Unfortunately, the government had caught onto his scheme (perhaps he wasn't the only one who'd thought of it) and installed incredibly bright lights between the pyramids and the cafes, pointing directly into the cafes' balconies. We tried to hang curtains to block the lights (without blocking the pyramids), but we couldn't see anything but the lights (and were too far away to really hear the narration). Nonetheless, we stayed for the whole show--no one wanted to be the one to admit it was terrible.

The next day (December 31), we paid a whirlwind visit to the Coptic Museum, where Kevin tried to find the Gnostic Gospels, then caught a plane to Luxor (further up the Nile), to see the Valley of the Kings.

Beneath the surface of our sightseeing, we had a series of problems: (1) we both felt really embarrassed telling anyone that we were going to Israel next, (2) and we still weren't sure how we were going to get there.

We'd bought a plane tickets from Cairo to Amman, Jordan, before leaving the US, which solved the "terrible Egyptian bus that might break down in the desert" part of our transportation problem, but only got us as far as Amman. Now, Amman is closer to Jerusalem than Cairo is (44 miles vs. more than 200... if Google is to be believed), but 44 miles is still too far to walk. And we weren't sure about any of the border crossings--whether they were open, whether they were safe, whether they were busy. There's a crossing more or less on the way from Amman to Jerusalem, which we'd planned to take--till some website or other said it was terrible, closed really early in the day, and should be avoided at all costs. Other websites, of course, said equally terrible things about all the other border crossings--every time we thought we'd decided, we'd find something telling us our plan would never work.

Finally, we got brave enough to tell Muhammed about our problem (the morning we left for Luxor), and he suggested that a friend of his, also in the travel business, might be able to help. Fortunately, it was the same friend who ran the company that was sending a driver to meet us at the airport in Luxor, so we should just explain everything to him, and he'd fix it.

Relieved, off we went.

In Luxor, of course, it wasn't so simple: the driver was sure he was also supposed to pick us up the next morning for our visit to the Valley of the Kings (he wasn't--we'd arranged that before leaving home), but once we got that sorted out he was still sure he could help us get from Amman to Jerusalem--he just needed to talk to his boss, so he wouldn't be able to finalize anything till the next day. Since the our tour was scheduled to take the whole next day, we agreed to meet him at the hotel at 7:00 PM the next night, and off he went.

Relieved that we might not have to move to Amman, we went for a run--the Nile is right in the center of Luxor, and all the Nile cruises stop there, so there's a wide sidewalk, with lots of shops and restaurants and street lights, and we ran along there. We were probably less noticeable because it was night (although the way was well-lit), but even so, every car we saw honked at us, and we had to fend off a number of very determined taxi and horse-drawn carriage drivers, who couldn't understand why we didn't want a ride.

Maybe they were worried because we were so blurry?

We thought we had to be up at 4 AM for a hot air balloon ride over Luxor (it turned out--at 5 AM, when we finally checked our email after waiting in the hotel lobby for an hour--that it's not light enough early enough in winter to ride a hot air balloon and still see the Valley of the Kings, so that didn't actually happen) and we aren't big New Year's people, so we decided to go to the hotel's New Year's buffet as early as possible, then go to bed. We thought it might be dire (but did it anyway because it seemed easiest), but the buffet turned out to be tasty, and off we went to bed.

1 comment: said...

Wow. This is awesome.

I sense a part 3 coming!