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Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Whoa, We Saw the Pyramids

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Scott and the Sphinx

From Istanbul, we had toyed with visiting other parts of Turkey like Cappadocia, but since it was mid-November we instead decided to buy tickets at the last minute to warmer Egypt. We spent four days in Cairo gawking at the Pyramids of Giza and stuffing ourselves with cheap, delicious food.

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It was pretty darn cool to see the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still remaining. It’s crazy that the Egyptians built these pyramids over 4000 years ago. Or maybe it really was the aliens…

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In front of the Pyramid of Khafre

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Passageways lined by steep ladders led deep underground to the tombs where mummies and treasure used to lie. And I got to say, “I’m in a pyramid!” (We have a weird running joke where I say, “I’m in a fort!” when in a fort)

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We also took a picture of touching the Pyramid of Khufu in the same way that we saw dozens of people do at the Taj Mahal. We told ourselves that we did it ironically, but I think we’re just dorky and found it funny.

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Picture of the street from our hostel window

Scott loved being in Egypt. It had been a long time since we had been in a developing country, and it reminded us a lot of India. Scott enjoyed the vibrancy of life in Egypt, but I quickly grew tired of Cairo’s crowds, traffic, incessant honking past midnight, blow-your-nose-and-it’s-black pollution, and shysters who kept trying to wring Egyptian pounds out of us. I think what Scott especially loved with all his cheapskate frugal heart were the amazing food prices, some of which were on the same level with India (i.e. even cheaper than southeast Asia). The picture above shows the chain restaurant Gad across the street from our hostel, which we must have gone to at least five times.

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There we got falafel sandwiches (pita bread filled with falafel, veggies, and tahini) and fuul sandwiches (with mashed fava beans similar to how Mexicans prepare refried beans) for 1.25 Egyptian pounds each. Considering 1 dollar is worth a little over 6 Egyptian pounds, that meant each sandwich cost 20 cents. And this was at a pretty nice restaurant, so I imagine it’d be even cheaper as street food. Our first night in Cairo, Scott ordered three sandwiches there after already having eaten dinner on the plane, and I tried to stop him from buying so many, but he said he had to order three because they totaled 60 cents, and he just couldn’t pass that up. To his credit, he did manage to finish them, although he was pretty stuffed afterward.

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The fresh pita bread was delicious. We constantly saw people on bicycles carrying large trays of pitas on their heads from the ovens where they had just been baked to the street stands where they would be sold.

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We stuck our heads into one shop where they were churning out fresh, hot pitas hoping to buy a couple. One guy immediately decided to give us a tour around the shop and showed us every step of how they were made. He had pretty decent English, but he used the phrase, “My name is,” to mean “The name of this is,” and so he pointed out different objects in the shop as “My name is oven,” and looked at me and asked Scott, “My name is wife?”

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We were given some tea, too. Afterwards, we were offered pitas at 2 Egyptian pounds per pita, which we knew was at least ten times the normal price (Scott had bought 4 or 5 pitas for 1 pound at a stand the day before), but when a massive overcharge is still 30 cents a pita, we were happy to buy a couple and give the guy a little extra for showing us around.

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Another popular Egyptian dish that we liked was kushari, which is macaroni, rice, lentils, and chickpeas topped with tomato sauce and fried onions with a splash of something spicy. Not terribly exciting, but hearty and filling and a nice vegetarian option – look for big metal vats to find where it’s sold.

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We also loved the mango ice cream from a dessert shop across the street from our hostel. It was chock full of real mango and wonderfully creamy. I have to say that it even rivaled Italian gelato, except that two scoops of this stuff in Egypt cost less than a dollar.

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In addition to food, the huge bazaars sold everything you could possibly want to buy, but I found it a little scary to navigate through the crowds. A lot of people tried to pass through the narrow lanes carrying large loads on their backs or carts, and the way they announced their presence was to hiss like a snake from behind. If I didn’t hear it in time, I could get knocked around by a bunch of bulging blankets.

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But hey, at least I didn’t get run over by a truck full of blankets. Egypt was an exciting way to spend the last week of our trip before we went back to the comforts of home. Since we had such limited time in Cairo, we didn’t have a chance to visit its huge Egyptian Museum, but at least we had an overnight layover in London before going home, and we got to spend a whirlwind hour in the British Museum, which has a completely ridiculous Egyptian collection. Not only did they have a crazy number of mummies and giant Egyptian heads and sculptures, they also had the Rosetta Stone. And seeing the Parthenon sculptures there was pretty neat after visiting Athens. After way too short of a time in London, Scott flew to Grand Rapids to be with his family while I flew to LA to be with mine. I’ll write more soon on what it was like to go on a trip like this and how it feels to be back home.

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