6/14/10: Cairo, Egypt
We started the day with a visit to Khan el-Khalili, a huge souk (market) in Cairo. We got straightforward directions from our hostel – “Turn left, just keep going straight, and it’s at the end of the bridge” – and after less than five minutes, came to the foot of the aforementioned bridge. “This place is really close!” I thought excitedly. We walked underneath the bridge to stay out of the sun, simultaneously inching around the huge support pillars and narrowly avoiding being knocked over by any manner of vehicles. The bridge went on for a long time – maybe forever – until it suddenly ended, and we found ourselves on the outskirts of one of the biggest markets in Cairo.
It’s been awhile since we’ve been in a market like this, and I was a teensy bit overwhelmed. Ok, maybe a lot bit overwhelmed. We had a list of gifts we wanted to buy but only managed to buy one before calling it a day. I think I’m losing my shopping edge.
Our other big plan for today was to visit the Egyptian Museum. I didn’t want to walk all the way back there in the heat, so we stood outside the market and tried to hail a taxi. It was so unsuccessful, it’s not even funny. I won’t go through the particulars, but I will say that it was pretty awful. Standing outside at the hottest time of day + trying to communicate with people who are trying to rip you off = NOT fun. We eventually gave up and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle, we’d just walk. I’m not ashamed to admit to you that at this point, I was probably 75% of the way to tears. So we bought me a Fanta Blackcurrant (not as good as Fanta Apple) as a cheer-up drink, and Kevin got himself a 1.5-liter water. The total came to 4 EGP (1 USD = 5.67 EGP), and Kevin handed a five over to the shop owner. The owner dug around for some change, but couldn’t find any. So he handed us a package of crackers. Kevin and I looked at each other bemusedly and then back at the shop owner. He shooed us off, so we left.
We got back to the museum awhile later, and I think Kevin and I were both feeling a bit burnt out from the shopping and exhausted from the heat. I wish I could say we deeply appreciated looking at all of the ancient artifacts and that we are better people for it, but that would be a lie. It’s not the fault of the museum. The museum itself was packed with stuff – almost an incomprehensible amount of stuff – and a lot of it was pretty interesting, but I just don’t think it was our day for focusing. It was also hard to get interested because we don’t know a lot about ancient Egyptian culture and there weren’t very many explanation cards (maybe one for every fifty objects). The ones that they did have contained about one sentence each and looked like they were typed on a typewriter back in the 50’s (which they probably were, now that I think about it). We skipped the mummies section – Kevin because it was too expensive, me because I had “seen” (that is, glanced at for a second) one mummy at another museum and wasn’t too thrilled with that experience. I was pretty sure being in a room with a BUNCH of mummies would probably just make me ill. That kind of thing really creeps me out, I’m not sure why. Oh wait, I know why – because those people died four or five thousand years ago but their bodies are still here fully preserved for us to stare at, and their ghosts are probably wandering around the room resenting the staring and wishing people would just leave them alone. Don’t worry Ramses II, I’m not going in there! Please leave me alone!
After the museum, we walked back to our hostel to pick up our bags and got on the metro to Giza station, where we’d be catching our overnight train to Luxor. I love metros, and Cairo’s was really easy to use and so cheap – just 1 EGP per ride. I insisted that we get to the train station forty-five minutes early, which means we ended up waiting around for our train for over an hour. It was so worth the wait. The train was air conditioned. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
I’ll leave you with our conversation over train dinner.
Z: Looking at this food makes me feel like…NOT eating.
K: WHAT? This is a feast for a king! Now we know what King Tut felt like when he was seven.
K: Wow! There’s a piece of MEAT in this pasta! It’s like a pasta surprise!
a few seconds later
K: Oh wait. I put that piece of meat in there earlier and forgot about it.
Picture of the Day: Tucked into my bunk.