Saturday, October 22, 2005

Our Man in Cairo...

Here is the latest from The Senior Boy

Tuesday morning we awoke to heavy smog and could barely see the great pyramid of Cheops, only about a half mile away. Cleared quickly and we were at the entry gate at 0800 along with the long line of tour buses. great line of people lined up for tickets at a little cinder block building with two wickets and no signage at all. Pass in hand, I headed across the dust to a second wicket for the ticket to go into Cheops. Entered a tight opening up a few stone blocks from the base of this enormous structure. Not for the claustrophobic. Hunched over with bent knees scrambling up a long 30 degree slope to another huge ceilinged inclined passage-way to the burial chamber lined with huge blocks of polished black granite. The ceiling is formed by even larger granite blocks, maybe 8 to 10 feet by 15 to 20 feet that span the whole room. How they made this place is beyond me. The joints between these blocks is so perfect that you couldn't get a piece of paper between the blocks, and this was make 4300 years ago!

We've had very full days here with many sights and experiences. After the Giza pyramids on Tuesday, we connected with Arthur Farrow's sister, Heather and her Egyptian husband, Sabri, who live only a half mile from the pyramids. the provided very valuable advice and offered to store our bikes while we're here. We arranged to rent a taxi on a daily basis to take us to & from our downtown hotel and our places of interest. In the downtown, we also used the Metro/Subway which is very modern, clean, efficient and inexpensive (15 cents one way).

On Wednesday, we went South to Memphis and Saqqara where there are ancient tombs of kings and early pyramids, one of which is about 4700 yrs old, and the oldest stone monument known so far. Some of the tomb chambers had very elaborate art carving on the interior stone walls. In the afternoon, we went to the Citadel fortress started by Salahdin, 1160 a.d. and expanded by the Ottomans. Visited the great 19th C mosque with a very good guide who explained many aspects of Islam under the incredibly beautiful five-domed ceiling.

Yesterday, Thursday, we went to the huge Cairo Museum and were totally awestruck by the size of the exibits and incredible beauty of the artwork. Saw an art carving on a large arrowhead-shaped stone that is 5100 years old. It puts the hassles of daily existence in a different perspective. Later in the afternoon, we visited a 4th C Coptic Christian church that's suspended over two huge Roman tower bases that serve as foundations. Tradition is that the Christian faith was taken to Egypt by St. Mark. Wood from the church has been carbon dated to 150 B.C. and it may have originally been a roman temple. Finished the day with a short sail on the Nile.

Today, Friday, we visited a couple of military museums which put a very patriotic slant on the 1973 War with Israel when Egypt regained the Sinai. During one one of the stops, some of our things were stolen from the trunk of our taxi while the driver was in a mosque for prayers. This caused some quick replanning and a search for replacement boots for Roy. We can survive without the stolen items, but it's a dark cloud. Tonight, Heather & Sabri guided is to the old market/Souk area. What an experience! Very crowded, narrow streets, ancient stone-arched gates, aromas of spices, flashing colours, piles of merchandise and sparkling jewelry. Stopped for tea in a crowded street cafe and watched the parade of people go by.

Traffic here is hard to believe; very agressive, seemingly uncontrolled, horns blaring, most cars scraped and dented (especially the hords of black & white taxis). However, we didn't ever see a collision, as impossible as that is to me! Saw a couple of shoving altercations and one heated argument with a very angry driver punching a policeman through the driver's window. We were very glad to be in a taxi and not riding the bikes! Tomorrow we hope to escape before the traffic gets intense. It's now 0035 and I have quite a walk back to the hotel and sleep. It may be a couple of days before we see another internet outlet.


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