Saturday, April 17, 2010

Copts and Robbers!

Day 3 and 4: Downtown and Coptic Cairo’s

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum!

For this entry, I want to discuss the next two days at one time. Neither day was particularly eventful but this makes the Pyramids entry a lot quicker to get to.

In Egypt, the weekends are recognized as Friday and Saturday so when we went into town on Sunday morning, we anticipated that everything would be bustling as normal. It wasn’t the case unfortunately as many of the stores were closed. As it turns out, Easter Sunday still has some weight on whether or not a bagel shop is open. Go figure. Regardless, we were waiting outside of it because today we were meeting a very special person.

Many of you may know that I went to boarding school. Many of you may also know that Dawn went to the same school as I did. Well today we were meeting a 3rd alumna from the same year: Zoe. Easily one of the geniuses of our class, Zoe was in Egypt for a fellowship as well as working for an NGO. She was super busy all the time from what it sounds like but she was also to be our tour guide for the day. Thanks, Zoe!

Zoe took us all around the downtown area of Cairo and showed us the nicer side of the Nile. It was also great catching up with her again. Here we are:

We got to see her apartment and meet her roommate. She also showed us around her neighborhood and got us acquainted with the metro system. Cool fact: the metro system has cars that are only for women. She also provided me with the only real regret of the entire trip. I regret not filming her cross the street. Egyptian drivers are crazy and it can be terrifying doing something as simple as crossing the road but Zoe seems like she has developed the ability to do just that while blindfolded. It was amazing. It was graceful with a touch of terror. As I said earlier, it was a comparatively short day so we bid her farewell and headed home before long.

The next day, however, we spent in the Egyptian Museum and the Coptic Cairo area. The museum is a sprawling building with artifacts from hundreds of tombs and temples. There are statues, gold and mummies scattered throughout the display cases placed in (assumedly) chronological order. I should also mention that the tour we got was somewhat boring. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, there were no areas to just sit around and take a break, and the tour guide was knowledgeable but no fun at all. The only truly interesting thing I saw there was the Mask of Tutankhamun. It was gold and shiny and harkened back to a time when I was super interested in mummies. Unfortunately, that interest has waned since to the point where I am definitely not willing to put out an extra 100 Egyptian pounds (approx. 20 USD) to see the mummies in the museum. I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer, not a doctor!

Our next stop was to the area of the city called Coptic Cairo which is basically the old Christian area. The Copts were the Christians in the 6th c. Egypt. Lots of old churches and synagogues are in the area that date back to those times. There’s not much to say about the area. It’s… nice?

It could’ve been a pic of the day but Anna had to go and ruin it.

One of the last remaining walls from ancient Egyptian times.

We had one final stop to make. It was the end of the tour but we had a couple hours before we needed to give the bus back so we asked them to take us to the Cairo marketplace. This area is crazy. There are hundreds of vendors and they were all selling some variation of the same crap. It is, however, a great place for bargain hunters if you can get around the damn ripoffs that they all start you at. It's absolutely criminal. It’s also a great place to take pictures.

This is apparently a normal day in the market.

We ended the day with something different. It was an apple-tobacco flavored hooka, or shisha as they call them in Egypt. It was nice.

So it was a good day, but it was admittedly one of the least interesting days of our time there. But in retrospect, the low-key two days we had were what we needed because the next day would be our busiest.

Pictures of the day!

This is Zoe again. We were all having lunch at a restaurant she recommended. Good times.

There were so many people in the market.

You guy’s have seen this picture already but I really like it.

Next post I'll be talking about the Great Pyramids and how freaking awesome it was. Until then I've got tests to grade.

This is a vacation but we don’t have to end everyday unable to stand up.


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