Our first day in Cairo - Mia Mia

Trip Start Mar 08, 2008
Trip End Mar 24, 2008

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Todays highlights included the Dodgy Lift, Cairo Museum and nearly being run over by a bus!

After finally getting to sleep at around 2.30am (a bit longer for me as Mum was snoring loudly), we were awoken at 4.47am by the call to prayer.  My Egyptian friend had arranged for our room to be away from the traffic so it would be quiet but instead it is beside a mosque!  The call to prayer sings out 5 times a day and is now a tape recorded message (refer attached) in the cities as it is more melodic than some of the droning calls to prayer I have heard previously.  It wasn't a bad way to wake up (do you believe that I am saying that) as it immediatley made you aware that you were in a different country. Our room is so small.  Two single beds about 1/2 a metre apart and a table is all that fits into it.  The bathroom isn't that much different!  Although dated, it is clean and neat and that's all you need really. 

We went down for breakfast and the croissant was spoiled by sour butter.  I wasn't game to try anything else afterwards and just had juice and tea (chay).

The view from our room is not much to speak of; Dirty and dusty roofs, satellite dishes, dead trees and multi story living.  This morning we saw a lady and her daughter making bread (for breakfast) in the tiny backyard of their multistory home.  The dishes looked like that hadn't been washed for years and the dirty old bench looked worse than any I have ever seen.  Dust and dirt everywhere.  This is Cairo!

Today was very overcast but no rain.  The visibility about a kilometre.  Sal told us it was the wind from the Western Desert blowing in the sand and fog.  We just think it is the pollution!

We had our first (of many) moments of excitement for the day. The dodgy lift. We got stuck in the hotel lift.  The door wouldn't open.  From the Lobby, they yelled out to us to go up a few stories then come back but this didn't work.  Eventually we got off two floors up and walked down the stairs.   We've since had several laughs at the dodgy lift.  It has a mind of its own.  Sometimes it just keeps going up and down, without you even pushing a button and once it does you just have to stay with the ride until it decides to stop somewhere! Then you get the stairs.  We're six floors up so we always try to get as close to the sixth floor as we can so we don't  have to climb too many (steep) stairs!

We met my Egyptian friend this morning in the MIDDLE of the bridge that crosses the Nile.  Imagine what would happen if traffic just decided to stop on the Westgate bridge! It doesn't matter here! He was pulled over on the bridge and we just pulled up behind him.  He came over and gave me a sim card for my phone, which we've tested and it works.

We then drove on to the museum with Saleeb.  Mum and I spent about 5 hours with Sal telling us about the many many exhibits.  It took him 4 years to be able to read Hieroglyphics fluently.  He is a wealth of knowledge and as he works for the museum (amongst other places), he knows all the best things to see.  There are approximately 1.2 Million exhibits on show (most unlabelled) and another 4.2 Million in storage in the basement.  The new museum which opens next year will be 160 acres (compared to the current 3 acres ) and able to show more of the exhibits.  The museum is just so fascinating.  Everything is so old (up to 6000 years old) and alot of it is just sitting around (no glass cases).    The King Tut exhibition is the most impressive part of the museum.  The amount of gold is just unimaginable.  The mask that we have all seen and heard about is nothing compared to the other items found in his buriel chamber.  The mummies are also very interesting.   King Tut was only young when he died and only ruled for a short time so imagine how much gold must have originally been in the tombs of the other kings and pharoahs!  

The driving back from the museum was another experience.  As Sal said "There are no traffic rules in Egypt.  Drive how you want, just don't hurt anyone.  Their judgement is amazing.  If you imagine a one way street in Melbourne with cars parked two or three deep on each side of the road with only enough room for one car to drive through.  Somehow in Egypt, they fit two cars and pedestrians in this space.  It always involves alot of tooting and sometimes reversing. 

We are lucky enough to have Sal as our guide for the tour group for the next week.

We met my friend for lunch.  He was thrilled with the Kangaroo skin hat.  He has just been fantastic and when we get back to Cairo at the end of the tour, he is inviting us for an evening meal at his home.

I saw my life flash before my eyes today and had knees of jelly for quite some time afterwards.   The normal procedure in Cairo for crossing the road is to step onto the road and put your hand out for traffic to stop.  There is no such thing as working pedestrian crossings.  The first two lanes of cars stopped no worries but not the big bus in the 3rd lane!  I was standing between two lanes of traffic (a car nearly ran over my sandals that's how close it was!).  I had no idea where Mum was, I was too busy weaving back and forwards dodging speeding traffic.  She was doing the same.  After the speeding bus passed, the remaining lanes stopped and we were able to cross.  It was all probably over in seconds but at the time it certainly seemed like alot longer.

We met the rest of the tour group tonight.  There are 13 of us with 5 Americans,  2 Canadians, 4 Aussies and 2 from England. Our tour leader is Siobhan from South Africa.

Oh Yes,  Mia Mia means Great or Fantastic or 100% in Egyptian.  My new saying for the day.
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