Saturday, August 22, 2009

The other side of Egypt

A tip of the iceberg

Plan B

Before I go into the subject, I just want to apologize for not writing for while, not sure what is wrong with me but I have not been doing any of the stuff I like, I am not depressed or anything like that but I have been spending time web serving, playing video games, doing the plans for the house we are going to build and off course lots of my time is consumed with my baby girl.

You don't know what your missing

This post is long overdue and it should have been posted 5 months ago when I went to Egypt. I was there for work again and I went to Hurghada, and the trip happened to also be my last trip with my ex-company. This time though it was different, I wanted to see the touristy side of Egypt and I got an added bonus by having a night with some local flavor. This trip changed the way I viewed Egypt, which was not my cup of tea, coffee or juice. Cairo is polluted, dirty, and overcrowded, with pushy people, the pyramids are over hyped, even though they are impressive, and although Cairo has improved dramatically from the late 90’s in terms of corruption, pushiness and people trying to take you for a ride, I never liked it at all. Saying that, I found the upper Nile part of Egypt, completely different, with the people easy going and it had magnificent historic sites which are mind boggling by any stretch of the imagination.

Working hard for the money

My cousin joined me on my last day of work day in Egypt, and the holiday started by asking a local friend to show us the night life, the typical reaction was to take us to a couple of western night clubs, which were fine but not what we wanted to experience, we wanted to see where the everyday average Mo hangs out and that’s what we got.

The grand entrance

They even mummified crocodiles

It was a belly dancer joint in the back alleys of some dingy building by the sea. The joint was run down and shabby, but lively and loud. We arrived around 1:30 a.m. and the club was happening. We saw a man with his wife and his 7 year old daughter and their infant, in a crib. The 7 year old was dancing away with the belly dancer till 3 am, while the baby slept through all the noise and smoke. People were rolling joints and smoking hashish openly, every time you ‘sprayed’ the dancer with small note of money, the band will call your name throughout the song and if you did it long enough the band leader and dancer will force you on to the dance floor. We stayed there till around 5:30 a.m. and then we had to leave, the ride to the hotel was another 45 minutes long and we had shuttle to catch at 7 am. We would have stayed longer had it not been for that.

Cruise ships as far as eye can see

The 4 hour shuttle ride to get to our Nile Cruse was scenic apparently but we were hurting and snoozing off as much as we can. The interesting part, beside all the pretty villages saw were the number of police check points along the way. There were many towers, concrete blocks, barricades which forced us to slow down every 20 minutes or so. The police hardly asked much but would take a look inside and at times ask for our papers.

Take a balloon ride if you don't like cruise ships

The cruise ship was tacky, and old although it was a 5 star cruise, not sure how they rate their hotels in Egypt since the 5 star is equivalent to 3 star here in Oman, but to be fair we did not pay much for it. Food and board was included but no drinks and I don’t mean booze when I say drinks, they only offered us coffee not even water!!!

The lock before closing

The ship was going in zigzags all along the trip cause the there areas where the Nile was very shallow, it was very interesting to see how the Captain knew his way around the Nile in the 4 day trip. Another, interesting part was using the lock to get elevated to the higher side of the river, I have never experienced being enclosed in an area, closing the gate , having it flooded, then opening the gate to pass to the higher side of the river.


Eating breakfast on the top and collecting trash in the bottom

Another memorable sight was when the boat hawker tied their boats to the cruise ship and started throwing their merchandise, with great precision, through the room windows, even into the 4th floor rooms and onto the upper deck, whether you like it or not, you were going have things thrown at you to inspect, when your done inspecting chuck it back, or throw them money back with the bag they threw along. They took the chance that you might take the merchandise and disappear or that their product might bounce back and fall in the river, if they missed target. This scene happened a few times along the trip and it was amusing as well as annoying after sometime.

Everything pales in comparison

The most famous of them all

With regards to the historic sights, words can not describe the wonders we saw, the mammoth scale and details of these temples will only make you wonder how could this progressive civilization 2-5 thousand year old advance so far, only to disappear without transferring their knowledge to others? How did they advance so far much so long ago? Scientist are still puzzled and can’t find out how they constructed these monuments. One wacky theory was that the Pharaohs were extraterrestrials, however after seeing these landmarks that withstood so many millenniums, I can now I say its not so wacky at all.

These are a fraction of buses we saw that day

Obviously, tourist from all around the world were there, even though there was a financial crisis around the globe. Thousands of them and hundreds of cruise ships where going up and down the Nile. The Egyptian guides were fascinating, speaking in any language you imagine. Their knowledge of history was questionable at times but only because their civilization's history was so rich with lots of details, no matter how long you stayed in the temples there were thousands of questions you could ask.

Private strolls

Our final part of the journey was going to the Aswan's High Dam and the biggest man made lake in the world, Lake Nasser. The dam that turned the Egyptians, and later the Arabs, against the west because they back out of funding them and made them turn to the Soviet Union. Even though the dam supplies electricity to Egypt and controls the floods and droughts, it destroyed and wiped out many of the Nubian heritage and historic monuments, their people, over 60,000 people were dispersed forever. There were other environmental effects caused by the dam, for example , many of the minerals and sands were trapped behind the dam causing some problems with farming , even the Mediterranean fishing industry was affected due to the reduction of minerals carried by the Nile to the sea.

The land is still fertile, but not as much

The temples and people of Upper Egypt were a fascinating experience that made me change my perception 180 degrees about this great country, so take my word, don’t judge Egypt by your Cairo experience…. there is a whole different world waiting on the other side Egypt.