The loud and overwhelming.

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Cairo, what a crazy place. So noisy, so crowded, so polluted, so overwhelming yet so full of fascinating sites.

I landed in Cairo by late afternoon. Once again, my hotel shuttle never showed up. With Istanbul that was 2 in 2. I had to wait for a couple hours before someone from my hotel picked me up. I was soon going to find out for myself that Egypt is not an easy destination, really not.

They drive like crazy. They're the worst I've seen. 5 cars in a 3 lane highway. No one mind the traffic lights. They won't even make a stop on a red light. They all keep their sealed beams shut at night, so they can flash them better when they follow someone. The horn is most important piece of the car. They hunk so often that they call it Egyptian music. It's total anarchy. And they drive real fast. In 4 days in Cairo I witnessed 3 accidents. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is quite an adventure. One must have faith...

With retrospect, as I'm writing this on January 15th 2007, I can honestly say that I haven't met a single egyptian I could trust. If someone talks to you in Egypt, he's trying to get your money, period. It's very sad cause that forces you to always keep a distance between you and them and that therefore prevents any good contact with the local population. And that's in essence the reason why we travel so...
But they do have unbeatable attractions. Fascinating is the word that kept popping in my mind as toured Egypt. Absolutely fascinating. Too bad the people are so tough with the tourists. They have no clue the damage they're causing to their country. Tourism is the only industry they have, that's the only thing they have to save and they seem to do every thing they can to screw it up. Of course the people of Egypt are extremely poor. And it's hard to think long term when you're hungry...

Every time I exchanged money, the local currency I was given back was short at least a major bill. Every single time! When you protest all they have to do is apologyse for the mistake and surrender the missing bill. When you think about it, why would they not give it a try? But after 10 times, it gets very irritating. The first time they did it to me was in the Cairo airport 5 min after landing. I had to exchange some money in order to pay for my tourist visa. A good 10 min had passed when I realized I had been ripped off and I was now waiting in line for immigration control. I still went back to the money exchange counter. They didn't argue for a second and handed me the 50 pound bill right away. It's like they were waiting for me. I couldn't believe it.
And they can be very aggressive too. At all the major tourist sites, crooks hang out at the door and ask for your ticket. No one wear a uniform so you think they're the door man and naturally hand out you're ticket. And then they take off when it, asking you to follow them. Some speak a little english and as they go they tell you a few words about the stuff around but you don't really understand anything. You think they're taking you to a major entrence or something but then they stop in the middle of nowhere, generally far away enougyh from everyone else, and say something like:"OK, the guided tour is over and you owe me $50.00 US". Then most people, usually newly arrived in Egypt, will be happy to settle for $10.00. No matter what you give them at first, they'll demand twice that much. Sometimes resorting to physical abuse. Some people, especially ladies, get shaked pretty bad. Let me just tell you that the first one that tried that on me was in for a big surprise...

Another strange episode is when I went back to the pyramids by taxi. Shortly before we arrived the driver warned me that there were going to be some "bad people" trying to steal me at the entrance. A quarter mile before we got there a guy jumped in front of the car and forced us to stop. He then got into a strong argument with the driver who was evidently trying to protect me. As the driver pulled the gas and tried to escape, the bad guy forced the back door open and tried to reach me. The driver kept accelerating while the idiot was hanging from the door. He just wouldn't let it go. Not until we went fast enough, that is. He rolled down the road as in the best Hollywood flicks. And all this time, the driver was looking at me yelling: "this is a baaaaad maaan, verrry baaaad". And he was waving his finger just like Baboo in the famous Jerry Seinfeld episode. LOL. I laugh now but it was not particularly funny then. Especially that I had to get out of the car a few hundred feet further. Only to get hassled by the touts at the base of the pyramid again. You got to love old Egyptian ruins, let me tell you.

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