3.12.2009

Egypt


Just a few words about our trip. I made a Flickr photostream of the highlights that you can click on (in the sidebar) and check out more details. I only included 60 of the 500 or so pictures that we took. He, he, he. We're a little crazy with our new camera. (I'm a total Flickr novice, though, so it's not in chronological order, but there are some more informative descriptions and all. If you want specifics.)

We tried to do something each morning and leave the afternoons open for naps or more sites, depending on how we all felt. We were really careful not to overbook the days. We ended up seeing much more than I actually thought we would, and overall, the boys did really well and have some great memories and appreciation for what we saw. Our itinerary was like this...

Day 1 - Flight from Kiev to Cairo (It's only three hours!)

Day 2 - The Pyramids at Giza. They were right across the street from our hotel, the Mena House Oberoi (which I HIGHLY recommend). Came back and tried the pool, but although it was a warm enough day, the pool is not heated and was quite chilly. The boys still splashed and played and still asked to go there every afternoon afterward.

Day 3 - The Egyptian Museum (Mummies are absolutely fascinating. Truly a highlight.) Then lunch at a very good little Egyptian restaurant. The falafel was the most delicious I have EVER had. David had roasted pigeon. Yeah. No comment.

Day 4 - The Pyramids at Saqqara and Dashur, the alabaster sphinx and reclining Ramses at Memphis, picnic lunch at our drivers' "friend's" papyrus factory. Getting there was a little road trip through villages along a canal and it was amazing to watch all the different work going on - gathering palm fronds and loading them on the backs of camels until the camels couldn't hold their heads up anymore, for example.

Day 5 - The Citadel in Cairo, a drive through the City of the Dead, and Coptic Cairo. Lunch at Maison Thomas - wonderful sandwiches! Then a faluca ride on the Nile.

Day 6 - Flight to Sharm el Sheikh, sunshine and water

Day 7 - Sunshine and water

Day 8 - Coral Reef Glass submarine ride

Day 9 - Sunshine and water, David went scuba diving

Day 10 - Flight to Amman, five hour layover (ugh) and flight to Kiev

Clickety click to go see the pictures now...or, read on for a little repetition and a tiny bit of elaboration. I'm rambling today because I don't seem to have two brain cells to rub together. And Henry just rubbed Charlie's head all over with antibacterial soap. Had to take care of that and lost my train of thought...

Mostly, it was just a great family time and adventure together. Especially after David and I relaxed a bit. The only down sides were a little difference in my expectations of the beach (I am spoiled by North Carolina, the only beach I've ever known) and the Red Sea reality, and the resort atmosphere (we're a little more independent than that). Still, the culture and the sunshine and the sunshine and the sunshine were so amazingly wonderful, I will always remember this vacation fondly.

Oh, Henry did fall head over heels over head over heels over head over heels on the up escalator at the airport on our way home. I cried more than he did, but he was pretty bruised up and his head was bleeding. It was sooo terrible trying to get to him, with me tossing off my bags as I tried to walk down faster than the steps were moving up, and faster than he was falling. That was not so fun. But otherwise, no calamities to report. Just a lovely break from the grey of winter in Kiev.

When I was growing up and we would take family trips, my mom had a rule that we didn't eat at any restaurant that was available in our hometown. "No, we're not eating at McDonald's," she'd say. "We can do that at home." She was so adamant and I happen to think it's a good rule myself, so I had some serious momentary guilt the second night we were in Cairo and we went...to Pizza Hut.

But then I remembered - my current home town does NOT have a Pizza Hut. Ha! And this was the real American deal, in Cairo. Except beef sausage doesn't really sit right with me, and they did serve the pizza with a side of Tabasco and sweet ketchup (which we watched the guy at the next table dump all over a Deep Dish Supreme). But it was pizza. I wanted to cry it was so good.

Imagine our delight when we discovered a Hardee's / Pizza Hut / Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment just a ten minute walk away from where we were staying in Sharm El Sheikh. We got us some serious hometown food every night. No guilt, either, because every other meal was (is) a cultural experience. I promise. Little boys and their pregnant mother can only take so many of those in a year.

My favorite places to see were all in Cairo. I thought the big city was going to be the most stressful, and I will admit that even I got a little overstimulated by all the noise, smells, crazy driving and every person offering to help (in exchange for a little bakshish) a few times, but overall, it was awesome.

The Giza Pyramids were so close that we walked to them the first day. Amazing. Huge. We rode camels across the desert just a tiny bit to get some good photos with all the pyramids in a line behind us. Riding a camel was Calvin's main requirement of the trip, so he was quite pleased.

We also took a little part-day trip to the pyramids at Saqqara. These included the Bent Pyramid - the angle of it's shape changes part-way up, and no one knows why - and the Red Pyramid (at Dashur). David took Calvin and Henry up the winding stone stairs on the side of the Red Pyramid and down inside the pyramid (apparently a narrow 80 meter scramble) while I stayed out in the open sunshine and air with Charlie.

On the same day, we stopped to see the alabaster Sphinx and the Reclining Ramses statue at Memphis. I liked these sculptures much better than the Sphinx at Giza. In general, the pyramids down the road a ways are even more of a treat than the famous Giza ones. Mostly because they aren't tourist and tout-infested.

There is a museum at Saqqara that I think is better than the one in Cairo, too.

In Cairo, we went to the Citadel and walked around just a bit, saw a fabulous view of the city. Then our driver (we adopted one for three days!) took us through the City of the Dead - it is the area of the city where all the tombs are, but anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people actually live among the tombs.

We also visited the Egyptian museum and saw the mummies. Seriously incredible. 4,000 years dead humans almost perfectly preserved.

The burial accoutrements are astounding. My favorite were the little statue "helpers" that were put in each tomb, with miniature carved tools. They were meant to help and work for the deceased in the next life. They also made little boxes for each helper. Think alabaster and turquoise and gold leafed Egyptian Barbie dolls and tools. King Tut had 433 of them buried with him.

We also went to Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of the city. There is a phenomenal Christian church, the oldest synogogue in Cairo, and the oldest Mosque in Egypt all within a couple blocks. And they are built on Roman ruins, which you can see below all the "new" (400-600BC) buildings. We topped that day off by sailing a bit on the Nile river in a faluca. It was beautiful.

It was actually really pleasant to have children in Cairo. (At the beach in Sharm, not so much. But I think that's because we accidentally stayed at a place that was mostly visited by Ukrainians and Russians, who go on vacation to put their kids in the resort daycamp so they can pretend they never had them and can lay on the beach in mostly nothing.)

In Cairo, though, everyone seems to adore children. Restaurant waiters scoop them up and play with them. The taxi drivers told us not to tell them to be quiet, that they were children, they can talk and laugh (and wrestle and kick and howl and mimic the million honking horns) if they want. They are children! It's OK! One driver even let Charlie pull apart one of his cassette tapes. (David had locked it in the glove box to prevent the situation and the driver popped it back out and handed it to Charlie. Uh...Charlie's never seen a cassette before, come to think of it.)

Lots of people were enamored with Henry. At Coptic Cairo, a swarm of slightly older school girls surrounded him, touching his hair, pinching his cheeks, asking what his name is. He happened to have a sick tummy that day so wasn't really appreciative of their attention, but it was cute anyway. At the pyramids, a group of Korean teen tourists asked if they could take their picture with Henry. It was hilarious.

I know now what "once in a lifetime" means. I hope sometime we can go back, but I don't know if it will ever be so accessible again. I feel really happy with what we saw and did, and so blessed to have been able to go there with David and my little boys, making fabulous memories together.

Now, really, go see the pictures.

4 comments:

Real said...

Wow. You got me with the attitudes toward children in Cairo. I can't imagine how much stress would be taken from parenting if you were raising kids in such a culture!

S said...

Wow very good detail! I thank you. I can almost still smell Cairo! I am so jealous that it is only THREE hours away.

Helen said...

Thank you for the post and pictures. I am glad you liked it in Egypt. The pictures are wonderful. 500?! uh! familiar to me :)
Look froward to more pics of Ukraine also. Greetings to your men, big and small :)

Gina C said...

I'm sooo jealous! I've written a novel on archaeology and an Egyptian artifact, and well if it sells, and if I get to write a sequel, I'll definitely have an excuse to go to Egypt!

BTW, good connecting with you again! ;)It might take me a while to catch up!