Friday, December 10, 2010

First Impressions of Egypt

We are well outside our comfort zone here. Landing as the sun set yesterday was spectacular. The sands stretched out, the Nile snaked, the palms rose up and we landed in a place I have only read about it books. We had arranged to stay at a resort-type place and this turned out to be a good idea. Egypt is not a place to “do it yourself”; at least, not for us.

It was no problem passing through customs and having gaining our entry visa. A person from the resort met us as we entered the airport and slapped the sticker into our passport before we even met the official. We paid him for the visas which seemed odd but nobody else questioned this so we continued. He gave us a sign to hold up on the other side of customs and as we left we met a second man who led us to the waiting cab. Our walk from the airport to the cab cost us about $4. We paid the fellow who gave us our visas. We also had to pay two men who grabbed our bags and pulled them to the vehicle. One complained we didn’t give him enough but Tom stood firm.

We arrived at the resort and the apartment turned out to be a three bedroom place much to the glee of the children. Sadly, there is no internet so in order to communicate we have to plug in at the office for short periods. Maybe this is a good thing? We had some food at the apartment waiting as I had requested but it was mainly breakfast foods. We asked our host to call a cab and set out for dinner. We are several kilometers outside the city so it would be difficult to walk.

The cabbie was a riot. His name is Ahmed but calls himself Ramses IX. I don’t know why but it works. He made us feel a bit more at ease as he gave us his evaluation of what to do first and so on. He dropped us at the restaurant with a promise to pick us up when we were finished. We could pay him when we got back to the resort.

The restaurant reminded me of a movie set. I cannot think of a specific movie but it seems to me someone was chasing someone else. Maybe an Indiana Jones scene? It was similar to the Turkish restaurants in d├ęcor but felt so Egyptian. The upstairs room was open with heavy carpet-like curtains rolled up to reveal the buildings around us in the streets. While we dined we watched a man raise and lower a basket from his third floor apartment, obviously receiving some sort of goods. Another person kept emptying buckets of washing water into the street from the top of a different building. It was clear that when you parked you needed the covers most cars sported. The food was delicious, cooked in clay dishes and similar to the Turkish dinners we had. No alcohol was allowed because it was a Muslim restaurant. Tom dealt with this admirably.

The dinner was reasonably priced but not cheap and the restaurant was filled with tourists. Ramses was waiting for us and drove us home saying he would wait for our call in the morning. As we drove we passed many wagons pulled by donkeys, many people wearing the long gowns and headgear you see in movies about the desert and odd shaped motor vehicles of varying sizes. The cars do not use their headlights at night if the streets are lit. They only flash them at each other to alert the other vehicles they are approaching. They also use the Turkish method of honking on approach. All of this served to create a sort of brain overload for the four of us and we were thankful to reach the safety of our European-like resort and go to bed.


maryanncart said...

Glad you are staying at a place you are comfortable in and that Ramses is "working out." What a wonderful experience...hopefully, you'll be able to recover over Christmas. Did yoga yesterday and fortunately, no one laughed. Love Mom