Cairo!

Now we’re in Cairo! I have to say, this place is not how I imagined it. The pictures I always saw made the city look amazing and perfect, but unfortunately, it is not very fantastic. If you ever come here, one of the first things you’ll notice is the permanent fog. At least, that’s what we thought it was at first. But it turns out that the fog is actually smog! When I heard that it was smog, it was completely unbelievable. How could smog be so thick that you can’t see 100 yards in any direction?! But it’s true! The very thick smog is because there are tons of old cars here in Cairo and the surrounding area. The Egyptian government taxes cars almost 100% sometimes, so people have old, cheap and polluting cars. Also, the traffic here is unbearable!!! There is a non-stop flow of old cars through out the city all day. And to add to the smelly smog and endless honking traffic, everywhere you look is mounds of trash! The Nile is probably the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. My dad and I were driving with our tour guide, Rany and we saw dead cows in the river!!! That was very disturbing. Willem and I call the bathroom in our hotel room the ‘Grand Entrance to the Nile’ for a very good reason. But I’m not going to keep going on about the bad things, because the good things here are extremely good and worth telling about!

On our first day…ummm…my dad was sick (We told him not to drink the tap water!). That’s not the good part, though. Willem Janell and I went on a boat ride that goes by a bunch of scenes of ancient Egyptian people doing everyday work, like: herding animals, fishing, making papyrus, carving sculptures, making perfume, and many other things. We also went into a model of King Tut’s (Tutankhamen) tomb. There was also some small museums on mummification and pyramid building that we went to. The next day, Kevin was better. So we set off to see the pyramids of Giza! Giza is part of a group of 4 cities that make up the Province of Greater Cairo. So we drove through the early morning traffic while our guide talked about Egyptian history. I’m sorry, but I will not write 5,000 years of history. That’s what Wikipedia is for. As I was looking out the window of the van, I saw a big pointy mountain emerge from the smog. At the time, I wasn’t really thinking. But after a few seconds I realized I was looking at the Great Pyramid! I couldn’t see it that well because of the smog, but I knew it was big.

The best word to describe this pyramid is awesome’. Other than that, there’s not much to say. I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen pictures, and after we got closer and out of the thickest fog, we got some really good pictures. Next to it, was an even taller pyramid, and also a smaller one. We could have gone inside the Great one, but it was expensive and there wasn’t anything in there, because it’s all in museums. After lots of pictures, we also drove to the near-by Sphinx. I like to think of it as Voldemort on a lion, because it’s a huge man-headed lion with no nose.

Later that day, we went to the Egyptian museum where there is hundreds and hundreds of artifacts, including mummies. In the large entrance hall, there were a bunch of huge noseless statues of pharaohs. Noses tend to fall off statues. It was hard to concentrate on the rest of the museum because I was excited to see mummies. There were lots of empty coffins made of precious stone and many statues of all sizes, including the pharaoh Khufus’ two inch tall statue, which is a funny little thing because the only other artifact of Khufu’s was a pyramid. On the mummy floor, they had two of King Tut’s three coffin’s, all four sarcophagi, and his very famous mask. But his mummy is at Luxor, so we didn’t see it. We were surprised to see how low the security on the whole museum was, considering the stuff inside it. On the display cases that had King Tut’s belongings, there was small rusty wires to hold the latch closed. There were almost no cameras, and the display quality was very poor. The mummies were quite disappointing, also. Of course, they were very amazing to see, but many of them were stacked up to the ceiling, so we couldn’t see them.

Today, my dad and I went to see the Red Pyramid. It wasn’t that red, but it was more red compared to the other ones. This one was free to go in, so we went down the very long tunnel that led to the heart of the pyramid.

They had taken all of the treasure out of the chambers at the center, so there wasn’t anything to see. The ceiling had cool architectural beams that supported the walls better. We also saw the Bent Pyramid, and it gets it’s name because the top half of it has an ugly slant. That’s because while they were building it, they figured out it would collapse if they continued what they were doing, so they had to slant it, which doesn’t make it look that good.

We also went to the oldest pyramid in Egypt, which had lots of scaffolding, but it was still great. I took a picture of a guy with his camel, but after that he chased us around because he wanted to give us a camel ride.

On our long drive back through the desert and the city, we saw enormous amounts of trash on the river banks, and a few dead cows. :'(

So, that concludes our adventures (For now)!

 

Arrived safely in Dubai

With Cairo making the news even more the day we left, we are pleased to have arrived safely in Dubai

Reflecting back on our stay in Egypt, I can honestly say that I am very happy that we had the opportunity to see the pyramids and to see Cairo.  As both Aidan and I mentioned, we really hadn’t imagined the reality of Cairo and our initial disappointment is due mostly to our ignorance rather than an accurate reflection of all the good things Cairo has going for it.

Cairo is the 16th most populous metropolitan area in the world (with around 17 million people) and the largest in the Arab region.  Egypt is the 27th largest economy in the world, but its GDP per capital (in “purchasing power parity“) places it at around 100th in the world, with a per person GDP estimated at $6,000 (in comparison the U.S. is ranked around 8th in the world at around $48,000).  With some natural resources (esp. natural gas), strong agriculture (for the region, they have plenty of water), strategic location and even some heavy industry, they could definitely be a global contender if their political situation settles down (Maybe they could “punch above their weight.” If you haven’t seen the funny video to which I allude, here it is).  However, there is plenty of concern amongst the people we talked with that the current administration could push things in the opposite direction.  Tourism also would benefit from a more stable political climate.

Today we’re beginning our stay in Dubai. The kids have been excited to see the world-famous skyline and I have to agree with my friend Nenad that the buildings are really works of art.  However, the contrast between Dubai and Cairo couldn’t be bigger.  The roads are in great condition, there has been no sign of trash and we can see several miles in every direction.  We’re looking forward to getting out to explore – and to seeing some family friends I first met in the 1970s, Omar and Nadia Mashabi. While normally living a long way from Seattle (in KSA and Dubai), the Mashabis have long been close to our family and Omar  honored my family by flying to Seattle for my father’s funeral last year.

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