Friday, July 13, 2007

Cairo outings

I really must admit that I am getting sick of Cairo. Trust me when I say that I am as excited to leave as you are to hear that we are leaving. Too much monotony :(
We've been here since leaving Alexandria nearly 2 weeks ago (how the time flies.....). There are a few reasons for our delay here yet again. We are showing Clayton some of the more interesting sites around Cairo and doing the few things that we hadn't gotten around to before (more on that in a bit). We are also stalling a bit waiting for Grady. He's coming back on the 17th and Clayton is actually leaving then too. So sad. Clay is cool and we've had fun. Too bad he's taking off already. And of course if any movie gigs come up then we were going to try that too but we haven't done anything lately. We've been pretty busy as tourists actually.
Been to the pyramids (I missed that day, think it was gall stones, not good, very not good), sufi dancing and coptic Cairo and islamic Cairo again.



On the "new stuff" front we made a little boat trip down the Nile to the barrages (it's where the Nile splits and forms the delta), where they have some very nice Victorian bridges and gates controlling the water flow. It's a local tourist trap. It was like being on the love boat with all the Egyptian couples going on an outing. We were pretty much the only tourists there and the restaurants were charging tourist prices. Funny to see local tourist traps like that because they are so different from what foreign tourists want. We don't want loud music and little dance floors for an afternoon outing. We were hoping for peace and quiet in a park that was supposed to be on site but, as it turned out, we got nothing. Can't believe we saw kids swimming and even a waterskier. That river is so gross that we'd be lucky to live if we jumped in. I'm not kidding.
Yesterday we went out to see the Citadel finally too. It's a lot bigger than I thought. It's the fort built up on a hill overlooking the city from the east side. Built by Saladin in 1176 to stop the crusaders (he was the guy that eventually defeated the crusaders and drove them out of the middle east), it must've had amazing views before the current smog phase of the city. We had decent views though and could make out the Giza pyramids and could also just barely see the ones at Dashur and Saqqara. It would've looked so great 100 years ago. There is something awe-inspiring to see those things there behind all the rest of this massive city, knowing that they have been around longer than anything on earth and will probably last longer than anything else in view, no matter how modern or towering. Sad that they have to sit in all this pollution. Still surprised that it isn't on the new 7 wonders list that just came out, sure they aren't special looking, but longevity has to count for something.......
We also went to the dead city in the northern cemetary area. People living in and around all these tombs and crypts but it's not like you imagine. No vampires, ghouls or Michael Jackson's Thriller but if you ignore the graves you'd think it would be anywhere else. In fact, it is so mainstream now that they even have a post office. Must be kind of strange to send a letter to a cemetary.....
This morning we finally made it to the friday camel market. We failed last week because we had to get up really early (5am) and it is way out of town and we ended up at a dead end and got stuck. This time, better prepared, we made it. Pretty wild. The camels are brought up all the way from Sudan, trucked in after a market in the south of Egypt near Aswan. The road to the market is littered with half decayed bodies. The ride up is pretty tough and there is no mercy for the weak. There are literally thousands of camels there and hundreds of guys beating them with sticks. Very savage. Imagine camels bleeding from the neck and with one front leg tied up bent so they can't use it and run around, and all these guys beating them with long cane sticks, often for no apparent reason. Not hard to imagine stonings in villages. There was one healthy looking camel that just dropped dead near us (they claim it was accidentally electrocuted by a pole) so they just slit it's throat and later hauled it away in the back of a pickup. A full grown camel is worth about $1000 but the weak ones are sold as food I think. The whole thing is very ancient market feeling, no tourists, no hassle of us, very dirty and basic. Probably hasn't changed in hundreds or thousands of years. The camels are the commodity now but back in the day, they used to be just the transport for slaves and other goods coming up from the south. It wasn't too hard to imagine all that going on still.
The villages we had to drive through to get out there were definitely the dirtiest we've seen on this trip. A whole village with garbage piled sky high. I think there we plastic bags in that pile that had been there since the invention of plastic. The canals were also super polluted and horrible smelling. You wouldn't believe it. It was a flashback to India where any sign of water was a guarantee of a horrible smell.
We are trying to set up another video of the camel market outing for you guys. Hopefully soon.....
Ammon

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