Monday, October 4, 2010

The Pleasures of Egypt...

We arrived last night in Cairo around 9:15, and were met by our guide who then escorted us to Pyramids Park, our lodgings for the next three nights.
As we left the airport building, Dan and I noticed that the air was dense, and filled with a scent of incense or smoke. It was as tho' we were looking through a light cloud of dust blown in from ages past.
That first trip I take from the airport into a city is always memorable, and this one did not disappoint. The way was lined with palm trees and sand, with a surprising cactus or two. About a mile in we noticed huge white block letters that spelled "Cairo Airport" (think: Hollywood). And then came the real surprise a few miles later. Out of the misty night appeared the three tips of the Giza pyramids...almost surreal, as if we were seeing an apparition. They were flooded with lights, rising up behind apartment buildings and businesses. Not at all where I would have expected them to be located. One forgets that the city has changed since the time of the Pharaohs!
Very tired after our long but successful journey, we headed off to bed, hoping to escape the effects of jet lag.
10/5/10 1:57 PM
This morning we awoke fairly rested, and enjoyed a lavish breakfast buffet of various breads, salads, lunchmeat and cheeses, along with the expected oatmeal, omelets and fruits.
The hibiscus juice was unexpected, but refreshing.
We set about the task of finding the free shuttle into town, only to discover that it had left the hour before, and the next one would be at 3 pm. I was chagrined...too late, and now we had to take a taxi instead. Well, as God would have it, our taxi driver was a Coptic Christian. It was such a blessing to hear him say, "If there is no Jesus, there is no life". His name was John, and we were surprised to hear that many years ago, not only did Egyptians speak a form of Greek, but the Coptic church was prevalent in this county. I had forgotten my history!
The Egyptian museum reminded us of an enormous dusty but orderly antique shop, with that ever present musty scent that is so familiar. Dan and I joked about buying " this stela to hang above our fireplace, and oh, yes, wouldn't that statue look great on our front porch?" And so it went.
The museum, although having the world's best selection of Egyptian artifacts, had not changed their arrangement since the early 1900's. Many of the faded typewritten signs were unreadable.
I was intrigued to see Muslim women taking charge of the artifact restoration in a few areas of the museum. Some were cataloguing, and others restoring statutes with water based paint that was creatively blended to represent stone. But, alas, I was not impressed with the lilac color someone had chosen to repaint the walls!
Since we didn't find the museum exceptionally exciting, we decided to take a walk through some Cairo neighborhoods. During the experience, we noticed many Muslim young people taking a lunch break along the River Nile. I was impressed with the way the women made the best of their wardrobe choices, wearing bright clothing coordinating with their scarves. A few older women donned the traditional black clothing which covered all but their eyes.
The excitement began when we tried to walk across the busy street. We were told that Cairo was home to 25 million people, and it seemed they were all on the street that day. There were no stop signs/lights on any of the busy thoroughfares, so the traffic never stopped. Finally, after watching the pedestrians for awhile, we followed their lead, and headed directly into the flow of traffic when we found a short break. It worked! Don't ask us how, but it did...flawlessly!
At one point, as we crossed a bridge, a young man said to Dan, "You walk like an Egyptian", as he pointed to his feet. We weren't sure if he was talking about his gait, or the ability to cross traffic skillfully. We will never know.
We were hot and tired, glad for the shuttle to return us to our hotel. Tomorrow will be the first day of our official tour, so we better get our rest.

Good night! Tis bah a la kheyr!

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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel