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Michael’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 12 Mar 2006

Location: Cairo - Downtown, Egypt

MapG'Day guys....

Well this is my thrid day in Cairo, and I'm just killing time till my Egypt tour starts. It's just after noon here, and the check in at the hotel is from 1pm onwards, so I figure this may be the last chance I get to update this for a while as the internet access on the tour may be minimal (I can hear you all sigh... that is if anyone is still reading my long whinded crap).

Anyway, Cairo.... GET ME OUTTA HERE. There no other way to describe my initial thoughts. I take bak anything negative I said about the Dubai airport. Cairo airport is a dump. Building looks as old as the pyramids, but much less impressive, and getting there without a visa suddenly seemed liek not such a good idea. However, I just handed over $15US and got one, when if I did it in Aus it cost $40AUD and I had to fill in 3 pages of paperwork... finally I had a win!

I got nailed by the taxi scam to downtown, paying 50 Egyptian Pound instead of 30-35.... but the state i was in with major lack of sleep, I didn't see the point in haggling over what equated to 4-5 aussie dollars.

Got to a hostel (Meramees, one I chose, not the cab driver) and checked in at 830am... by 9am I was asleep, and didn't get up till 2pm. The first day was quiet, and I figured rest was good. Went to a Restraunt (Western) and spent 50 pound on lunch for a burger and beer (AUD$12.5).

That night I met a Gabrielle who was staying in my dorm with her 4 year old daughter (Polly - can you imagine backpacking with a 4 year old???) and she showed me where and what to eat. We went to an Egyptian Restraunt and had a full meal for just 8 pounds (AUD$2). And the food was good... except that felafel crap, but even that was better than at home.

Then we went to some back street alley and had shai (egyptian tea) and sheesha pipes. Not bad, and it was good to see the locals. They were really friendly, and loved playing with Polly. It's not something i would have been confident in doing myself, but she'd been to Egypt for a month every year the last 4 years, and knew alot of the people down there.

The next day I had to change hostels as a huge American group came into the hostel and I no longer had a bed. Changed hostels to the Lilay Hostel in the 2nd bussiest roundabout in Cairo... and trust me, you can here the noise ALL NIGHT LONG. You can't go more than 5 seconds without hearing a car horn - any time of day or night.

In the avo, i headed to the Egyptian Museum.... man that place is cool, but expensive and someone needs to show the Egyptians how to run a museum. It's like they have just dumped a billion and one Egyptian artifacts in the middle of a huge building and let you wander around! But some of the stuff is amazing, given some of it has to be like 5000 years old, and the statues are still (partially) intact.

But to pay the 40 L.E. (Egyptian Pounds - 1LE equals 25cents Aussie) to get into the museum, and then another 70 to go into the mummy room seemed a little steep. However, to see the mummies, and how well preserved they are is incredible. They had the mummy of Ramses II there, and he still had hair! This guys died over 3000 years ago. All in all the museum was cool, adn really a must see if you have any interest in Egyptian history, or just like artifacts and museums.

On the way out, I looked around the garden and walked down the side of the building. The palce was empty except for a security guard at the end. Around the back they have a few artifacts (sitting there, getting rained on) that I went and had a look at. Then as I walked back to the front the securityu guard stands up, gun slung over shoulder, but in hand (machine gun of some sort??) and starts talking to me, the only word I could understand being 'money'.

At this stage I try reasoning with the guy and ask what for and play REALLY REALLY dumb. For 10 minutes he kept saying money and pointing at me and him, and said words in Arabic. I pulled out the Lonely Planet guide and started flicking to the Arabic language section to get a clue.... He continued playing with his gun and I figured if I played dumb long enough he'd give up. It was about this stage he made out like he was asking me to give him money cos he didn't get paid enough and not cos it was payment to enter or anything. With one 2-letter word it all ended some how... La.... or no in Arabic... I just said "La, La" to which he sat back down and let me go. It was still pretty hairy there for a while tho.

Then I went and got a coke from the cafeteria at the museum and opened it on the way to the counter and was asked to pay 10 LE. Considering I know where to get them for 1LE, I wasn't happy. But there were 4 Africans behind the counter, each 6'6 and weighing about 120kg. I ain't gonna beat em up, and being Africans, they've been running from lions and tigers for years, and you chase me down in a second.... I paid this one.... Strange four big Africans scared me more than a young copper with a machine gun?

Funny moment in Cairo... met a girl in first dorm room who was from California, and when I asked where she said Orange County... of course I laughed and started rolling on my bed. She's like it's not like that, I've never seen the OC... blah blah blah, but either way she was snobby and really the only person so far I have come across in dorms that didn't have the time of day to chat. Anyway, I wake up the next morning at 8am and she's there doing yoga on the bed, and the tai chi.... HA, my ass it's not like that. Who in the world goes back packing and then does tai chi in the hostel dorm at 8am and says "it' not like that when I give here crap about being from the OC"

Anyway off to tour, and I'll give you a rest from my ramblings for a while. Love you all,


P.S. How come noone told me Cairo had casino's? I know what I'm doing tonight!