Egypt...I poked the pyramids!!!

August, 8, 2010  

Ok I just have to start off by saying Egypt was absolutely amazing and completely surreal! For those of you who don’t have time to sit here and read all of this…because as a forewarning this will be a long post lol…I will try and sum up my five days in Egypt in just a sentence or two for you; so here we go…Egypt was amazing I saw the pyramids, King Tut, the Nile, the Sphinx, and just about everything in between along with riding a camel!

     So now for the much less “butchered” version of my blog! I will start off again by saying Egypt was amazing and I loved the country, the people, the food, and the culture that was all around me! We arrived in Alexandria, Egypt the morning of Tuesday, July 27 and after retrieving my passport sporting its brand new Egypt visa Olyvia, Lydia and I were headed for the gangway and stepping out of the port terminal I was surprised at what I saw…hundreds and hundreds of camels followed by miles of desert sand (ok I’m only kidding but many SAS students were expecting this lol) but no really I was surprised at what I saw. I knew Alexandria was a busy and crowded city but I would have never imagined the amount of poverty that I saw throughout the entire city. The streets were flooded with reckless drivers and an overwhelming majority of the tall housing structures appeared haphazardly built and still unfinished with concrete beams and steel wires rising out of most rooftops. After getting past the initial shock of what we saw the 3 of us hailed a taxi and were on our way for a day filled with unexpected adventure!

After arriving at the Alexandria library (which if you have never seen pictures of before you should look it up!) and realizing that our cab driver was not only going to personally usher us inside and then wait for us outside we quickly told him we were meeting friends later and paid him so he would be on his way. After spending some time exploring the inside of the library, making use of their Internet, and then spending some time in their several museums in the lower level, we decided we were ready to venture into more of Alexandria and left the library in search of a less hovering taxi driver! After discussing with our driver for some time what we wanted to do for the rest of the day and assuring him multiple times that we did not in fact want to go to Alexandria’s locations that were closed for the day we were finally able to leave the library headed for Pomey’s Pillar. On the way to the ancient ruins we were able to enjoy a quick glimpse into the life of the people of Alexandria as we weaved in and out of traffic and through countless neighborhoods and market stalls. 

Once at the site we enjoyed walking around the ruins that were left including both the pillar and a set of stone sphinx. After we finished our taxi driver took us to the train station where Olyvia and Lydia bought a set of train tickets and then we headed back to the ship early preparing for the long day ahead of us on Wednesday, but not before having yet another set of taxi issues! While driving slowly stuck in traffic a man ran across the road and in front of our taxi before jumping into the front passenger side door and taking a seat next to our driver. He then proceeded to ask us if we liked to smoke before pulling 50 grams of marijuana out of his back pocket and offering to sell it to us! Needless to say knowing that drugs are closely linked to the death penalty in Egypt we politely declined!

     Waking up early, like super early, Wednesday morning I grabbed a quick 7am breakfast (I told you it was way too early!) and met with a group of almost 200 other eager SAS students headed with a semester at sea trip for Cairo and the pyramids! After a quick three hour nap we were reaching the outskirts of Cairo before I knew it and next thing I know the guide tells us to keep looking out the right side of the bus because the pyramids would be coming into view. Within several minutes we were entering the city limits of Cairo and before I knew it I could see the largest of the Great Pyramids out of my bus window and it was the most surreal thing ever. It was one of those instances where you’ve seen so many pictures of the pyramids before, you’ve talked about and learned about them in numerous classes throughout school, but to actually be able to see the pyramids out of my bus window was something that I had never imagined me doing. 

The rest of the day continued on quickly in this same fashion of surreal sightseeing. After briefly driving past the Great Pyramids we drove on through Cairo and onto the town of Memphis just outside of Cairo to see the step pyramids of Zoser. Once there we were able to walk around the area looking at all four of the step pyramids and were allowed also to go inside two of the pyramids. Going down into the tombs was also such a neat experience! The passage to go down into the tomb was a VERY narrow pathway that wasn’t more than 4 feet high so filling more than a dozen students down into the tomb at a time was more than a momentous task lol. Once in the tomb though it was so amazing! The hieroglyphs and paintings that still remained unchanged in the tombs more than 4000 years after they were created were just incredible to see! After walking around the Zoser Funerary Complex for about 40 minutes we all boarded back on the buses and headed for a wonderful (but sadly non-Egyptian) lunch at a local 5 star hotel. After a filling lunch of meatballs, rice, and tons of deserts we all piled into the buses again but this time headed for the National Egyptian Museum located in the heart of Cairo.

     Once we arrived at the museum and unloaded everyone for the 50th time at the entrance our tour guide, Rhonda, handed all of us “whisperers” so that she could talk in a normal voice and all 50 of us could still hear her via out headset while still being able to wander with a close distance to her. Walking into the museum though I was instantly astonished; first, at the amount of artifacts that were spread throughout the museum, and secondly at the seeming lack of security of the museum. Hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts were just almost literally laying around the museum some behind unlocked glass bookcases while others were simply just laying out in the open for everyone to touch at their pleasure. Walking through the museum though was amazing. Hearing the stories from Rhonda about many of the artifacts and the tombs and the mummies in the museum were fascinating and seeing so many artifacts that I had only previously seem pictures of made my first day in Cairo even more surreal. The moment though that sealed the deal and just made me stop in my tracks was when I walked into the room of King Tut and saw the golden head that had once covered his mummified body sitting behind glass in the middle of the room. I just stared at the head and the decorative case that held his body for a while just in awe that not only were these objects over 4000 years old and still looking magnificent, but also just the fact that I was actually seeing these objects and was face to face with the remains of King Tut. After we finished our guided tour of the museum Rhonda gave us about 30 minutes of free time to explore the rest of the museum at leisure and Heather, Kelly and I headed straight for the mummified animals room that we had heard about! Inside the room was case after case of mummified animals ranging from dogs and cats to crocodiles, baboons, snakes, and pigeons. The most amazing thing in the room though was the several animals whose wrappings had began to deteriorate and show the remains of the 4000 year old animal inside. Seeing that a baboon that died 4000 years ago still has the nails and hair on its toes and that a dog the same age is still in perfect condition with all of its fur, ears, and tail perfectly intact was one of the most amazing things!

     After our visit to the museum we all loaded back into the bus (by this time we were pros at loading and unloading if you couldn’t have guessed that by now!) and headed for our hotel that we were staying at for the night for a quick “siesta” as our guide called it! Once we arrived at the hotel and I got over being upset that my room was just across the hall from the rooms with a perfect view of the pyramids, I unpacked and rested for an hour and a half with my roommate before getting ready for the evening! At 7 that night all 400 of the SAS students that were in Cairo at the time (and that is the real number! Lol) met at the buses and went to the base of the Great Pyramids for a nighttime sound and light show showcasing the pyramids as an amazing backdrop. Although the sound and light show ended up being kind of on the cheesy side I loved being able to watch the sunset behind the pyramids before the show began and it made for some awesome photo opportunities! (how many people can say they seen that!) After the sound and light show that lasted just over an hour we all went back to our hotel for a late but much needed 10pm dinner. After another hearty meal of meatballs and rice and again way too many deserts we all went back to our rooms and collapsed for the night but only after scrubbing all the desert sand from off of ourselves and anxious for the day ahead of us!

     Well like I warned everyone at the beginning of this blog this one would be a very long entry! So I’m going to give you this much for now…go enjoy myself in Marrakech, Morocco for a couple days…and then when your eyes have rested up from reading I’ll finish writing and post the second half of my Egypt blog for you! Hope everyone at home is doing great and I can’t wait to hear back from everyone!