When we were in Los Angeles for a few days a couple of people told us they wanted to see more photos on ‘the Squid’. So, doing what any good market research team does, we multiply those numbers by 1000. So we treat it like 2000 people just asked us for photos. Needless to say we were subsequently thrilled to realize more than 2000 people read our blog!
We’re moving on from Egypt, but not before you get a wealth of photos from mystical Luxor! (Be sure not to miss the often-hysterical comments underneath each image!)
Just wanted to let everybody know that we made it back to Cairo tonight. We stayed an extra night in New York City—it turned out to be easy to change our tickets and we didn’t feel the need to rush. We caught our overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday evening from JFK, then spent the day seeing just a few of Istanbul’s sights (all on the European side of the Strait of Bosporus, though—we realized that we have not yet set foot in Asia). We were both barely able to keep up our tourist march through Istanbul, though, because we didn’t really sleep on the plane the (partial) night before, so we headed back to the airport rather early for our late night flight to Cairo.
General impression of Turkey, though so far we only saw the more touristy areas of its largest city: nicer and cuter than Egypt, but rather expensive.
We spent the weekend in Luxor and our room was only $14 a night!
Of course, that’s pretty typical for Egypt, actually, and overall Luxor is a bit pricier than Cairo.
Luxor is a 10 hour train trip from Cairo and was the seat of power for many hundreds of years in ancient times. It was amazing to experience and I would say it should be nearly mandatory for anyone coming to Egypt to see the sights here. It was quite breathtaking. A highlight was a 3 or so hour bicycle trip we took into the beautiful rocky hills where they uncovered Tutankhamoun’s tomb (Valley of the Kings) among other things. The photo you’re looking at is from the so-called Rammeseum, a temple dedicated to Ramses II, the ‘buildiest pharoah’! We also visited Luxor Temple (which is smack-dab in the middle of town) and Karnak, a huge temple that features a “Hollywood-style sound and light show” after dark. We went to the show but the fact that we couldn’t find Sushi ANYWHERE afterwards ruined the illusion.
“Smell the Hot Taste!”
“As Good As it Takes”
That second one is the tagline on the bottle of Demy’s hot sauce I am right now pouring on my fried egg and cheese sandwich this sunny Saturday morning in Cairo.
The first is confidently emblazoned on the menus at a nearby upscale cafe/restaurant.
Most packaged products sold in Cairo are labeled primarily in English and very often Engrabic.
There’s also a bizarre parallel phenomenon of ‘rip-off liquor names’ for locally made hard liquors. Strangely they seem compelled to even avoid the word “gin” in many cases, like it’s trademarked! (not that Egypt usually concerns itself with trademarks). Some examples:
Gordoon’s Dry Gin
Admiral’s Dry Kin
[another brand] Dry Din (bottled in a used Gordon’s Dry Gin bottle)
Red and Black Label whisky (but not Johnny Walker)
“Hey, I swear I saw that same guy yesterday!” But I hadn’t. The new man passing me in the streets of Cairo just had the same very prominent bruise in the middle of his forehead. Once you start looking you find it on about half the men you see, often slanting more heavily towards men over 40. It’s a marker of devotion to prayer and Islam. During prayer a muslim touches their head to the mat on which they kneel repeatedly, and if you do it fast, hard, and enough (5 prayer calls per day for the pious) you develop a welt that passer-bys can’t help but notice. Haven’t noticed a similar mark on women but the devout are the ones most certainly shrouded in a head scarf.
The second Heroes of the Expedition, Jason and Junko Schugardt, left this morning back to London. Over the past week we’ve been having lots of adventures around town together.
One day we zipped down to the pyramids at Giza and jumped on some camels and horses. After 3 hours of that our butts were feeling it. A sand storm even whipped up for a minute or two and we were rained on. Wonder if frogs would have started falling if we hung around. (Sue stayed home to study like a trooper).
Just the other day as we strolled down one of the delightful shopping boulevards near the Mediterranean in Alexandria, Egypt what should we pass by? The Arabic Demi Moore Store! Holy nose job Batman!!
Maybe this is what’s replacing all those defunct Disney Stores across the U.S. but I’ve never seen one. In my wildest dreams involving has-been actresses I’ve never dreamt of such a thing.
We went in close to confirm there’s not some Egyptian starlet from the 40’s coincidentally named Demi Moore. Sure enough, I saw a few fashion glam shots of her on the windows.
I wonder if she even knows?
One of the first things we desperately wanted to set up in our new living space in Cairo was internet. Everyone said that DSL would be a sure way to go, as long as you have a phone line. However we discovered there was an internet wireless signal, and a fairly strong one, wafting through our apartment already. We connected and were online and happy. That is until we got sniffed out! A few days later the network stopped accepting our connections. That’s when my Egyptian friend Ahmed, at my coaxing, asked the proprietor of the “internet cafe” just down the street what had happened to the wireless that we assumed was emanating from his shop. He had no wireless, he said to our surprise. Must have been from some other tenant. But my friend Ahmed continues chatting with him and the proprietor proposed what has now become our internet solution: a 75 meter ethernet cable strung from his shop across the entire front of one building, to the roof of ours, then down onto our front balcony, in under the doors and into wireless router of our own (see photo and hover mouse). So far it works great. 40 pounds ($8) per month. Egyptians are a crazy people.
It’s Thursday, which is the Egyptian equivalent of Friday, because Friday is mosque-going day. (And they broadcast the sermons given at the mosques at noon on loudspeakers throughout the city, so there’s no escaping Allah on Fridays. They didn’t do that in Morocco.) I have class Monday through Thursday, so Len and I treat Friday and Saturday as our weekend and Sunday as a work-at-home day.
On Thursday afternoons we have a habit of going over to the British Council, an institution that teaches English to Egyptians and otherwise promotes British culture. They have a library, which we joined for $25 for six months, where they lend books, DVDs, CDs, and even PlayStation 2 games. It’s nice to have a source of English-language books to borrow, because although there are tons of books in English for sale at various bookshops here in Cairo, they are rather expensive, and anyway we’re not into acquiring a bunch of books after unloading so many before we left L.A. The British Council is pretty strict, however, about stocking mostly British products. Much of their video collection consists on British TV shows we’ve never heard of, and their history section is U.K. history only—the closest thing they have on the history of the Middle East is a book or two on T.E. Lawrence.
Fortunately they do stock English translations of some novels by Egyptian authors, so I am now reading “Palace Walk,” the first novel in the “Cairo Trilogy” by Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s most famous novelist (he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, the first writer in Arabic to win the prize).
Thanks for the encouraging comments on my last post—from them, I have concluded that I should keep studying hard, relax about my speaking ability while I’m here, and then move to Hawaii. Not a bad plan.
You know that feeling you get sometimes on Sunday, when you look to the week ahead and the very thought of it makes you tired because you’re not ready for the weekend to end? I’m definitely in that mode today. This whole week I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed than motivated about my Arabic study—it just feels like it’s going to take much longer to get anywhere with it than I have the patience and stamina for.
And, I admit, the initial excitement of being in a new place has worn off. We take heat and restaurants for granted again after feeling their absence in Morocco, but that just leaves Cairo a big, noisy city where we hardly know anyone. We did go to a pretty rockin’ party on Thursday night, hosted by one of my classmates and his housemates—they have a huge party-pad apartment downtown with amazing Nile and city views. And while we had a good time and met some cool people, it’s a young and ephemeral crowd of Arabic learners, most of whom will go home (to the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S.) in May or so. It’s weird to be in essentially the same boat as all of them, while still feeling a little too old for this sort of thing!
But what to do? One big reason we left L.A. was to get out of a big city and find more livable places in the world, but the other big reason was that I wanted to go somewhere to learn Arabic. But these two goals right now feel mutually exclusive, and ultimately the big question is: Where can we live where both of us can find satisfying work and a good home? And what to do in the meantime?