On the last day of the conference third parties were not allowed to attend so I did a little sightseeing. I hired a car and went to visit the Step Pyramid of Kind Djoser. The Pyramid is billed as the first of the great stone work designed and built in the 3rd Dynasty by Imhotep, you may recognize the name from the first “Mummy” movie, he was the evil wise man who came back to life after coveting the Pharoh’s concubine and suffering the horrible death the “Hum Die” Prior to the discovery of this Pyramid, the older Pyramids were made of mudbrick. Located in Saqqara it is a bit off the beaten path and not as touristy as Giza. Although you are not able to enter the step Pyramid one can enter one of the Pyramids in the complex. Right next to the step Pyramid is a pile of stones called the Philosopher’s Pyramid and a short drive away is the Pyramid of King Teti the first Kind of the 6th Dynasty, which you can go down into. One of the most interesting things at the site was the mastaba (a flat roofed rectangular building with outward sloping sides that marked the burial sites of many eminent Eygptians) of King Teti’s advisor Mereruka, it is the largest private tomb, over 1,000 sq feet of the old Kingdom with 17 rooms dedicated to Mereruka and rest divided between princess Watethathor, the daughter of Teti and his son Meryteti.
During my visit there were many Japanese and Europeans there, but few Americans. I was amazed that some of the young European girls were in tight shorts, a definite invitation in this culture. But the most amazing thing to me, was when a women climbed up on top of one of the smaller structures for the view and when the guard when ballistic she just waved him away. I was completely blown away by her disrepect for the culture and their national monuments, she was either English or American. It was embarrassing and we wonder why they dislike us so much.
What I hate most about Egypt is the baksheesh, everyone wants something for nothing. The man who appointed himself my guide down into Teti’s Pyramid wanted a tip, after I had already paid for my ticket. The guard on the camel wanted money for taking his picture, I had to tip the woman in the bathroom for toilet paper, at least she was doing a “job.”
I had been to Cairo once before, but it was by far my most interesting visit, because I ended up doing a lot of walking around the center of Cairo between my hotel and Tahir Square. The city seems deceptively quiet during the day and then just explodes at night. The money thing makes me uptight, for the most part I paid five Egyptian pounds for a Taxi, except when I went one evening to Kahil en lee market, then I paid ten pounds. When on the way back I gave the driver ten pounds he was upset, but in Egypt you decide what the ride is worth, give them the money and walk away.
At the market everything was for sale. I went with the group from Handicapped International, Darryl the able-body, Rhonda the double-amputee and Lars who is blind. First we explored the textile goods side where there were not a lot of foreigners. There were blankets, clothing, food shops, a sewing repair shop, socks, yarn etc. etc. On our way to the tourist side, where they sell statues, T-shirts, dishdashas, head dresses, hats, chauckeys, refrigerator magnets, jewelery and a billion other things with which to decorate your house, I passed a women with her baby selling Kleenex, the little packages were one pound apiece, but I gave her five pounds for two. I don’t mind paying extra if someone is trying to make a living.
Once in the market the assertive vendors all tried to get us in their shops, but we were discriminating shoppers. We stopped at one vendor where Darryl bargained for six glasses and I walked away five times before buying an ashtray for my colleague in the shape of a fly. I ended up paying 55 pounds or eleven dollars for it. I was looking for T-shirts and we were accosted by this aggressive angry young guy, he was absolutely zero-fun to bargain with, so we didn’t buy anything. The market was good, but they were expensive, I think we would have gotten better prices off the beaten track. I walked away with a couple pairs of earrings, two T-shirts and my fly ashtray. Not too bad. But I remember that last time I was in Egypt bargaining was much more fun and the vendors were starting high. One vendor wanted 250 Egyptian pounds for a statue of a cat. I bought mine in 2000 for 11 pounds. Even with the dollar being so down and inflation there was no way it was worth that much.
I also ended up buying spices, that was my gift for my roommate Vicky, I bought them at three different stalls. I was trying to buy some from a woman and of course this pushy man came over and started bargaining with me, but I got the spices and best of all a photo with the vendor who was fully veiled which is what I really wanted.
After making our way through the market with the work “No” constantly coming out of our mouths “La, la, la.” We sat down for tea and Sheeshaw. Rhonda had bailed earlier because of a headache, but it was Lars first Sheeshaw. It was nice to sit down, but a woman holding an infant with a whiny two-year old kept asking us for money and the vendors were non-stop. I must have looked at the same wallets 10 times and the same necklace and earrings at least five times.
Also, during this trip I was able to try pigeon. One night after the conference Darryl and I went to a well-known restaurant filled with foreigners, we ordered pigeon stuffed with rice and an ordered of chicken. We split both the orders and it was a good thing because pigeon is really a dish for one. It lacks meat on its bones. When I finally discovered the breast it was as big as my thumbnail. At this particular restaurant they offered you the option of shooting your pigeon and then they would stuff the head for you to take home while you ate. We didn’t choose that option. HA! JUST JOKING! The pigeons are somewhat free range, raised in a barn not in cages. I have a theory that the lack of pigeons on the streets in Jordan and Egypt is because it is a delicacy. Not sure if that’s true, but it makes sense.
Overall it was a good trip. My hotel was adequate and it was interesting being right downtown. It was near Tahir Square which houses the Egyptian Museum, but if you stay downtown and decide to walk around make sure you pick up your hotel’s card with the address on it, the first night I didn’t and it took an hour and a half to find it again, with a lot of help from a man who was putting the moves on me. However, Egypt is a good place to go if you want men to tell you, you’re beautiful and ask if you’re married. I said I was.