09 January, 2011

Egypt, condensed

Just one more Egypt post, I promise. Well, from me, anyway. Stu kept a written journal of his thoughts on our trip to Egypt, which seemed like such a great way to keep the ideas and feelings fresh. I didn't, but I think the pictures we took helped a little with that. We took nearly 1000, but there were so many things we didn't capture! I didn't get a single photo of any of the souks (bazaars) we went to, despite that they were overwhelming, colorful and fun. No pictures of our ridiculous donkey ride...too nervous to take my hands from my crappy reins. No pictures on New Years. No pictures at Valley of the Kings or the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (due to site regulations, but still!) We had an AWESOME tour group and tour leader for our trip (company link here), so I'm hoping a few of them will have pictures to share of those things we missed.

We would have been happy with simply the sun, blue sky, sand, and warmth. But wow, Egypt has so many beautiful parts. Just the history, not to mention the temples and monuments and mosques and sea. Horus became my favorite Egyptian god, and we visited several temples dedicated to his falcon-y awesomeness. I didn't buy nearly enough stuff, but the spices and scarves and jewelry were all so beautiful and cheap (it was just too exhausting to bargain at every corner.) And the food! Such good food in Egypt. And no one got food/water poisoning, as far as I know. We ate so well the entire trip, even on our 4 day bare-bones felucca cruise down the Nile, where we were treated to amazing food from a boat captain wielding a single gas burner and a few old pots. And I ate a pigeon.

And Egypt has some not-so-great parts. I fully recommend a trip there, but when you are a pampered westerner (even one without a job, like me!) you get a little humbled. The average Egyptian annual salary is not much more than $1,500; the average annual American makes at least $32,000. We were SO sick of everyone asking for baksheesh, but then you have to remember that those few coins they get from offering you and your other rich vacationers toilet paper might be what allows them to feed their children. Even little, tiny kids were begging (or trying to sell us touristy junk in perfect English.) And the housing is unbelieveable (in some areas, made up of only palm fronds and mudbrick, since it never rains.) The water is not good. We drank only bottled for nearly 3 weeks and racked up a small mountain of plastic refuse, which I can only imagine was dumped on the banks of the Nile. There is no such thing as recycling. The motor-powered Nile cruises would speed by us on our sail-powered felucca, leaving trails of oil that found its way onto the sand in black globs. Our toilet on our train was just a seat on a hole to the speeding track below. It was also my first time in a Muslim country. What was the appropriate behavior for us as tourists during the warbled call to prayer? And we were in the country during a terrorist attack, which is a little scary. Although I didn't experience anything too unpleasant aside from the challenge of finding a restaurant that served beer, our new friend Jess was refused service at a cafe because she is female (her brother could order, though.)

So, good with the bad, we could easily go back, since we missed several big sites, Alexandria, Sinai. I'd even take kids there (just with a slightly amended itinerary.) It was a great way to spend Christmas and New Years! Though if we are still in Sweden next winter, we owe the family a trip back State-side.

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