Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cairo; the greatnesses of Egypt.

Without a single exception all sailors visiting Egypt are in awe before ancient Egypt and totally disgusted by the Egyptians themselves! But in Cairo, a city of over 20 millions, it was the greatnesses of Egypt that greeted us. As for the Egyptian baseness’s we will talk more about them in our post about Luxor. Cairo is obviously the Great Pyramids and we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to go for the traditional camelback ride at the base of these 5000 years old monuments. It is even more impressive when we think that the Montreal Olympic stadium has a hard time holding 20 years without losing a 20 tons concrete beam once in a while! For those more attentive, it is fair to say they were in fact dromedaries but let’s not go there shall we!

Of course Cairo is not only the pyramid. We left Chocobo at the Port of Suez near the entrance of the canal of the same name and jumped into a bus to Cairo with the intention to take the train from there to the other points of interest, namely the towns of Aswan and Luxor. For our visit of Cairo we were in the good company of Gillian and Graeme who also left their sailboat Kathleen Love in Suez and with whom we sailed on and off with since our convoy in the Maldives. We then enjoyed a good coffee at the feet of the sphinx and the Egyptian Museum was also very interesting especially the section about Tutankhamen with the golden sarcophagus and all. The young pharos’s mommy wasn’t there though since it is in display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Of course one cannot go through Cairo without a short walk along the shore of the River Nile one of the longest in the world. Note that I say a “short” walk since it is nearly impossible to have a quiet walk there without the constant hassle from the street vendors and boat tour operators.

Beside the oldies we were also able to appreciate the unique charm of the city itself which is worth spending at least two weeks visiting. Unfortunately, time constraints being, we could only stay three days. Friends recommended us the City View hotel located directly in front of the Egyptian Museum and we decided to follow their advice. But what they forgot to mention is that the hotel in question also gives directly on Tahrir Square which is precisely where the main protests were held the month before leading to the fall of former President Mubarak. Tensions have calmed down since then with the militaries taking control of the government until the November elections but the population still maintains a continuous protest in Tahrir Square in order to maintain the pressure on the authorities. Thus we were able to enjoy a nice cold beer on the balcony of the hotel, located on the 5th floor of the building, while admiring the majestic museum and especially the crowd of the protest getting excited once in a while in front of us. The mood of the crowd was generally calm, no gunshots such as in Yemen, and we could even observe the street vendors taking advantage of the situation to sell hot peanuts and Egyptian flags at high prices. In the end the biggest impact these protests had on our time in Egypt was the total annihilation of the tourist industry in the country and consequently the tourist sites were virtually empty hence making the visits more enjoyable for us. However, all Egyptians living off tourism ended up with no customers in a matter of days and saw us coming like steaks in Ethiopia. Everywhere we went we were swarmed by the crap vendors assailing us like a horde of mosquitoes that, with their deficient English, had completely forgot the meaning of the word “NO”. However, if we were interested in buying something the negotiations were turning in our favor. Thus the price of a gismo would quickly drop from 15 Egyptian pounds down to 2 pounds after a few refusals from us!