Monday, November 2, 2009

Pyramids: never-before-seen photos!

Don’t worry, yes of course we went to the pyramids.

We opted against the hired driver service offered by our hostel [£160] and decided to take the public bus [£2 each] to Giza. This involved locating the public bus station [not obvious], figuring out which bus to take [thank you google], learning the Arabic numerals so we could recognize our bus [we needed not 357, but ٣٥٧], and then, of course, finding it [trust me, harder than it sounds].

I still don’t have a clue where one is supposed to find ٣٥٧, but eventually we asked for help from several uniformed “Tourist Police” who insisted on waiting with us and flagging down our bus when it drove by their post [under 2 intersecting overpasses next to the bus stop]. I assume this isn’t standard procedure, but it worked quite well. In general, being female and sweetly asking men in uniform for help usually works out okay. And in this region especially, there seems to be an indirect correlation between the rights women have in a particular culture and the willingness in that culture for officials to help out a lost-looking American female.

Honestly, the bus ride was kindof miserable – hot, loud, crowded, and filled with an almost overwhelming amount of car exhaust – but it was cheap and it got us to Giza relatively unscathed. I say “relatively” because I suffered a bit of personal discomfort after being groped by an old man with a bandage on his head sitting behind me. Without thinking, I immediately turned around and yelled “stop touching me!” publicly embarrassing both him and myself. After my outburst, the man immediately got up and exited the bus and I looked around to see dozens of Egyptian male faces staring back at me. Ick.


So… the pyramids are cool.

I don’t really know what else to say.

They are definitely big, impressive, and…pyramid-shaped. I mean, you know what they look like.

When I was there, I kept thinking about that book, Ways of Seeing, where Alan Berger writes about the irony of making a pilgrimage to the Louve to witness the “authentic” Mona Lisa after seeing millions of reproduced images over the course of one’s lifetime…only to feel disappointed by the diminutive size of the original.

We went inside the great pyramid to see the tomb, which was cool and bizarre, and a bit claustrophobic [not much air flow in there]. The surrounding area was, like the Egyptian museum, strangely devoid of signs, maps, and explanatory information and, surprisingly, filled with scantily-clad white foreign tourists. I mean, I’m not an overly modest person, but when traveling in Muslim countries I tend to observe a rather conservative dress code [in an effort to avoid, for example, getting molested on public buses.] I figured this would be standard in Cairo, but it’s not…we saw all sorts of women wearing all sorts of things I would never think to wear in public in the U.S., let alone in Egypt – bikini tops, see-through blouses, shorts with the same approximate coverage as my underwear.

Seriously?! Who goes to a museum wearing a bikini? At Matt’s request, I’ve included the following colorful description: “One girl, in particular, was wearing shorts that would make a stripper blush; a full 1/3 of each butt cheek was hanging out at any given moment. In fact, she was wearing less than any of the strippers we saw in Vegas last week at Dan’s bachelor party.”

I know I haven’t said much about the pyramids, but that’s all I got. We went because when you’re a foreign tourist in Cario you can’t not go to the pyramids. And we had a pretty typical experience – we looked around, took photos, and got hassled by tons of Egyptians hawking various incarnations of a super-aggressive tourism industry [private guides, “super-duper” camel rides, photo ops, cheesy souvineers]. But…now when we go home and everyone says “Egypt, wow! Did you go to the pyramids?” We can smile and say yes.

And then we went to Dahab, a.k.a paradise and changed our plans for the rest of our trip, editing out Petra and opting for more time in Sinai and Wadi Rum. One Middle East uber-tourist extravaganza per trip is more than enough.

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