Walk Like an Egyptian
We had a four-hour trip to Cairo, and to say it was smooth sailing would be a lie. Our boys were acting like monkeys after they snorted a few lines of coke (and I am not referring to the refreshing beverage). When we got to the airport, the boys made a friend and we all played catch with a little rubber ball. I love it when the boys play with kids who don’t speak English. It always amazes me that they are able to have fun and interact without understanding each other. It is such a cool thing to see.
On the plane we were able to arrange it so both boys got window seats (which is the only way to make the trip bearable), and they both had their own headsets to watch movies. Hunter is like a little man! He sits in his seat, finds a movie, and puts his headset on. Mason does the same, but is only entertained for 30 minutes. Thankfully, Steve Jobs produced a handy gadget that keeps Mason entertained for a little bit longer. Austin was a trooper of course. He just hung out, ate a snack, and then took a nap. He is such a great baby!
Once we were in Cairo, and past customs (where we didn’t even talk to anyone… seriously, they didn’t even look at our passports! It was crazy), we hopped in a van, and we were taken to our hotel (I will get into the car ride in a second). Guess what everyone?! I stayed at a Palace! No, I literally slept in a palace… at least it used to be a palace before it was turned into the Cairo Marriot. We could see the Nile River from out Balcony! It was really awesome!
After we dropped all of our stuff off at the hotel, we went out for a walk. I feel like walking in Cairo for a couple hours raised my blood pressure to new heights. Driving here is INSANE. Worse than anything I have ever seen. I saw two accidents today… TWO. The first one happened driving to the hotel. This man was standing on the sidewalk getting ready to cross the street. He stepped off the curb, and got hit by a car. The car only aggressively tapped him, but it didn’t look like it felt good. The man just stumbled and kept walking. It was kind of like he was thinking, “awww man, I got hit again. That sucks”. It was the craziest thing. After I saw this, I freaked out a little (I mean I just saw a man get hit by a car and act like it was nothing), and I asked our driver if cars hit people often. He replied matter-of-factly, “Yes it does. All the time”. Insanity. Then, a couple hours after the aggressive game of Tap the Pedestrian, I read this excerpt out of the Lonely Planet Egypt Guide Book:
I feel like using Egyptians as a shield against a car is both inhumane, and dumb. If you get hit by a car, you are going to need a little more cushion than a person, but what do I know…
I had a few first impressions of Cairo. First, this big city makes every other big city I’ve seen look like a joke. Cairo is huge, and by far the densest city I have seen. Bookie and I looked it up, Cairo is about 1/3 the size of Los Angeles with almost double the population. The city itself is very monochromatic, with miles of building that look nearly identical. I enjoyed my time in Cairo, but it is very dirty. There is a lot of trash everywhere you look, and it is hectic. Every moment of everyday there is a symphony of honking horns. I imagine it sounding similar to a troop of monkeys discovering a clown horn for the first time.
My time in Egypt felt like an emotional rollercoaster. Egypt is a magical and historical place. It is rich in history, culture, hospitality, and kindness. It is also dirty, depressing, and angering. We did, and experienced, so much while we were there, that if I described everyday in as much detail as I would like to, this post would take longer to read than the Game of Thrones Series (the last book was 1040 pages, and there are 5). Instead, I will share a metric-shit-ton of pictures (it is an actual measurement, look it up), and share a few anecdotes.
Our first full day in Cairo (the green dot of the map above), Bookie had to work, so I took the boys to a local park called Al-Azhar park. It used to be a huge lot covered in trash, and they turned it into a large park/garden. The boys had jet-lag, so we didn’t spend as much time at the park as I was expecting, but I was glad we went because I was able to see more than the inside of a hotel room.
Once we got to the play area, two older boys ran up to Hunter and Mason, grabbed them by their hands, and took them to the playground. Here are all boys four together:
At first, I thought they were excited to see other kids, and wanted to play. The boys were very attentive. Then, as I watched I noticed something was off. They were a little too attentive. Everywhere that Hunter and Mason went these boys were there to hold their hand, and play with them. I let them continue to play with my boys, but I was paying close attention to what was going on. These boys were obviously very poor. Their clothes were ripped, and I got a very strange feeling about the situation. Mason didn’t enjoy them either. Every time they tried to hold his hand, he would pull away and run to me. I wish I could have better communicated with them, but I couldn’t. Based on my instincts and Mason’s reaction, I felt it was better to move on. I did offer the boys a snack when I gave Hunter and Mason one.
As we were walking, I saw them meet up with another group of kids their age. My final impression of the situation was that the boys wanted money for entertaining Hunter and Mason (although they never asked for a bak-sheesh). I have to say, these two boys will always be a vivid image in my memory because it is the first time I was exposed to impoverished children, and it was heart breaking. I wanted to take them home, give them food, bathe them, and buy them clothes. Sadly, I could only give them a snack and offer them a warm smile. I’d be interested in how other people cope with seeing poverty because it really affects me.
That afternoon we went to the Cairo tower, and got a really cool view of the city.
Here you can see the Pyramids of Giza in the background.
This is the Nile River! Something you will see a lot of later!
My little men enjoying the view. That is Bookie’s smolder look!
Here are a few more first day memories!
Hunter and Bookie also put their butts against the glass, but I have saving those pictures as leverage.
These little treats were delicious! They were a cross between funnel cake, and doughnut holes!
…and then there was this book…
Now, it is time for the real travel to start. During our first day of touring we visited:
Memphis where we saw a few statues including this huge statue of King Rameses II
The Tomb of Ka-Gmni
The Step Pyramid
Next to the Step Pyramids is Roofed Colonnade Entrance. There are 40 columns to represent the 40 provinces in Egypt, and each province was represented by a different Egyptian God. They were beautiful.
I love crafts. I love making things. I especially love learning how to make things. In the 1960s, in order to help preserve the art of rug making, the UNESCO (or The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, but that is a lot to say) helped open rug factories. These rug factories are schools that teach the art of rug making, as well as distributing the hand-made rugs throughout Egypt and beyond. They take in people (starting age 12), teach them how to make, design, and read rug charts. This takes 3 years. Then, the people go out and open rug shops or stay and work for the factory. The rug makers are given both a salary and a trade.
We got to visit the factory, and they showed us how the rugs are made.
The Great Pyramids of Giza
Not only did we get to see pyramids, but we took horse drawn carriage around them and to the Sphinx. But before I get ahead of myself, here are a few boring pictures for you to gawk at (try not to be too envious).
Yes, my boys walked on the pyramid!
And this is the entrance of the Pyramid
At this point in the day, the boys decided they would no longer be taking pictures. I bribed them with everything I could think of, but it wasn’t good enough. This is the best picture I have.
It was surreal being there! To make the trip even better, we took a horse. We thought the boys would like taking a horse to the Sphinx (a 30-45 minute ride), and we were right! About halfway through the trip, the horse started getting tired, and was breathing really hard. I couldn’t blame the poor animal, it was pulling a cart with 3 adults and 3 kids through sand in 85 degree weather. I was hot just sitting in the cart. The man started whipping the horse really hard. It made me really angry, and Hunter and Mason didn’t like it either. Needless to say, the driver didn’t get a good bak-sheesh (tip).
We did get a couple good pictures out of it!
Then, we reached the Sphinx!
Papyrus Painting Factory
We got to see how papyrus paper is made, and we bought a beautiful papyrus painting. I will explain the process because I am now a professional (watching the man do it once gives me this title).
This is the Papyrus plant, which is shaped like a triangle. They start by peel the outer layers off, and then they slice the stem to whatever length they need…
…next, they roll it so it is thin and pliable. After it has been flattened they soak it for a few days. The longer they soak it, the darker the paper is.
After it soaks for a few days, it is placed as seen in the picture…
… put in this smash contraption for a week, and…
TA-DAAAA Just like magic… Egyptian magic
We enjoyed the papyrus factory, and our guide was such a nice man. The painting we bought is Bookie and my first piece of real art. The event needed to be documented with a picture; that, or everyone wanted to take a picture with Austin… I swear, Austin got more attention in Egypt than a hooker does in the Red Light District.
This was also the beginning of a phenomena. Apparently, I look Egyptian. I started a tally, and by the end of the trip I was asked if I was Egyptian 14 times. I will let Bookie touch on this topic later. He will be featured in a section I will refer to as “Bookie’s Corner,” and he has a few things he wants to say.
Believe it or not, that was ALL in one day. It was an incredible, and long (or incredibly long depending on who you ask) day.
The next morning we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. Mason found himself an Egyptian girlfriend. The past two days, Mason ran into two very pretty women. Every time they saw him, one of the women would run up and kiss him all over his face and neck. Of course, my son (who still loves to say, “I love boob-eyes”) enjoys this attention. Well, one of the nights Bookie went to the pub to have a drink, and guess who he saw working there… Oh wait, when I say working, I don’t mean behind the bar, I’m more talking about UNDER the bar, if you get what I mean. I really hope his taste in women gets a little classier. That little boy better not bring home little hoochie-mommas when he gets older! Freakin’ Hookers!
Next on the list in Cairo was the Egyptian Museum, and Old Cairo!
This historical museum was really cool, and we saw so many amazing things. For example, this statue carved out of wood. Look at how real his face looks!
The entire upstairs was the finding of Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Really cool stuff, but everyone’s favorite part were the mummies.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, MUMMIES!!! They were spectacular! The boys loved them. Some of them still had hair, and teeth. You can really see what they would have looked like. We got to see Queen Hatshepsut , King Rameses II-V, and a few others. Photos in this room weren’t allowed. Luckily for us, someone accidentally pressed the button at the right time, and it just happened to come out perfectly. So weird how that happened… The boys were captivated, especially Hunter. Then we came to this mummy…
… This mummy was a 3 year old boy, and based on its size, Hunter knew it was a kid. This led to a conversation about death. I tried to explain to Hunter that death is a part of life, and death is sad, but it is okay to think the mummies were cool because they are a part of history, and they teach us so much about the past. After seeing how upset Hunter was, Mason was confused and asking questions.
Hunter, being the great big brother he is, explained to Mason what I had just told him, but in much simpler terms. It was cute to watch them discuss something that clearly bothered the both of them. My sweet boys.
When we got to the car on the way to Old Cairo, Hunter asked me a few more questions about death, including the question, “Mommy, am I going to die?” On the spot I made the decision to tell the truth, and I did not sugar-coat it. I said, “Yes Hunter, everyone dies just like everyone is born like Baby Austy was born”. This led to a flood of tears. “Mommy! I don’t want to die!” I calmed him down, and said, “it is okay not to want to die, it can be scary, but you cannot think about dying or you will always be sad. Hunter, you need to think about living, and being happy.” Bookie and I tag-teamed the you-need-to-live conversation. I actually think we knocked that convo right out of the park! What can I say, we are perfect parents.
By the time we reached Old Cairo all emotions were under control, and everyone was ready to explore.
I really enjoyed Old Cairo, which can also be referred to as Coptic Cairo, due to the amount of Coptic Christians. While we were there, we went to the Abu Serga Church (where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus hid, and Joseph helped build the church), the Hanging Church (the oldest church in Cairo), and the Ben Ezra Synagogue (where Baby Moses was found). There was a lot of interesting biblical history there. We did learn a very interesting fact about Cairo…
While standing outside of this Synagogue our tour guide was talking about the different religious demographics. We were told that in Egypt there are a quarter of the world’s muslims and in Cairo there are roughly 800,000 christians, and 53 jews. No, that isn’t a typo. This is how the conversation went:
Tour Guide: There are 53 Jews in Cairo
Me: 53? 53 what? 53 thousand or 53 hundred?
Tour Guide: No, just 53.
Me: What? Really?
Bookie: (while pointing at me) Now there are 54!
When I asked why, he replied, “because once Israel was formed they all wanted to leave.” Hmmm he left out the whole wars against Israel thing . I liked him as a tour guide, but there were many times during the tour where I felt like he was giving me the pretty answer instead of the real answer. My impression of him was that he wanted us to leave with a positive view of his country, and sugar-coated a lot of his answers. That was our last day with him for a few days because in the morning we went to Aswan!
Here are a few pictures of Coptic Cairo:
The Hanging Church
Buying some souvenirs. Guess who is the proud new owner is this fertility god…
…not me! I have too many damn kids already! Last time I touched something deemed to help fertility (Juliette’s statue in Verona) I ended up pregnant 2 months later! Please take a second to note Mason’s face. I picture him thinking, “Mommy?”.
Coming Soon: Aswan, Nile Cruise, Luxor, Cairo, and Bookie’s Corner stay tuned!