Egypt

Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Sunday night I flew 5 hours from London, UK to Cairo, Egypt. Today, I wandered around the pyramids and Sphinx, rode a camel near the pyramids, went to an art store where they demonstrate making paper out of papyrus, went to a perfume factory where they make perfume without alcohol, and sailed in a saluka on the Nile. Photos are in the usual place; let me know if you can’t find them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004- 3 Arabs took me out of town
A local lawyer and a cousin of my friend invited me out last night. I thought we were going locally to have a bite to eat or a drink. The lawyer’s younger brother drove us in an old Lada car to see his wrought iron fabrication shop. He started the business 5 years ago at age 20.

Near the shop, people were dancing in front of some apartments with some loud music. It turns out it was a wedding celebration, and we went and watched for a while.

The lawyer wanted me to see his village, so I ended up about 50-60km away from my hotel (about an hours drive). He could live in the city, but his father had lived there, he owns the building that contains his 2 apartments, and the man feels at home there. We ate the take away he had purchased in Cairo, then went across the street to talk to his neighbor and family. The neighbor grows cotton, has birds, and grows grapes. He showed me his turkeys (the father was very protective of the chicks), and some pigeons or doves.

Thursday, 29 July 2004- Life in a small village
At about 0130 in the morning, the lawyer and I went to his house to sleep. Upon awakening, the cousin and I went to sit at the front of the house to watch people go by on the dirt road. I was shocked when I saw two tiny black goats (about 20″ at the shoulders) run out of a room whose door had been left open! There were small black “pellets” everywhere. We then ate breakfast consisting of pita bread, feta cheese, yogurt, and rather large hard boiled eggs. Curiously, the eggs had two spherical yolks inside them! I had a second egg, and it also contained a double.

After breakfast, we had tea and watched the donkeys pull carts of watermelons, machinery, and other things down the dirt road. A neighbor stopped by to chat, and we went to his house.

He had a small cow, maybe 40″ at the shoulders that was quite timid, about 50 boxes with honeybees at work, and green grapes. We put on protective hoods and went to look at how the bees build a honeycomb structure. The man took a device that blows smoke when you pump it (I know people that can do that without a device:) in order to calm the bees. Each box has one queen bee, who is the biggest one in the box. The honey is very nice, and the honeycomb is quite waxy.

He showed us his hand-cranked centrifuge that extracts the honey from the honeycomb. You can pivot all the trays to aim CCW, pull the brake lever, then pivot the trays to aim CW. This lets you extract the honey from each side of the tray.

Later we went to the beekeeper’s home where he and his family served us refreshments and 12″ hard pita style bread that we dipped into honey. I heard chickens and saw some walk past in the house! The room we were in had a refrigerator, a large bed, and a ceiling fan. The ceiling fan was most impressive, as many fancier accomodations in the UK and western Europe do not have any ceiling fans.

These villagers are not rich financially, but they seem to have happy, peaceful lives.

Driving in Cairo traffic
This is an experience by itself. You have to

  • constantly use your horn, even without a reason
  • Lane lines are a suggestion. If you want to recall the good old days of flying a small plane with side by side seating, feel free to drive with your right leg over the lane line.
  • If there are 2 cars in front of you side by side or slightly staggered, and there is enough room to squeeze through, by all means do it.
  • If pedestrians are crossing the street, honk and they will get the hell out of the way.

For any of my smart-aleck friends, this is what I observed, not what I did. I would not want to drive here.

Summary
So, in summary, I am an American visiting an Arab country. 3 Arabs, two locals, one from another country, invited me to go out with them. They took me to small town 60km away where they proceeded to be warm and hospitable to me, introduced me to the neighbors, gave me a place to sleep, and fed and watered me on multiple occasions. The entire ordeal lasted about 16 hours, and without any ransom demands being made, I was returned to my hotel this afternoon unharmed, head still attached, and happy.

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