Standing on a busy intersection looking a bit overwhelmed, this Egyptian man walked up behind us and said, “Close your eyes, run across the street and look to Allah!” Then he grabbed my hand, as I quickly grabbed Simon’s and we ran across 5 lanes of insane traffic. “Welcome to Egypt!” he said laughing then passed on a ton of local Cairo knowledge and sort of jokingly offered to buy me for 20 camels. He said I looked like I could be a hard worker but Simon thankfully thought I was worth a bit more than just 20 camels! He then sent us on our way to find the “Fellafella” restaurant. “Good, cheap food for tourists!” When we came upon a falafel place that we thought could work just fine, we realized that’s exactly what he meant! A-ha! Fella fella!
Egypt was a whirlwind of incredibly generous people, race-car taxi drivers, astounding history, 40 degree dry heat, streets filled with camels, horses, donkeys and piles upon piles of trash, smog that outdid LA, lots of invites for tea and coffee, blank stares and big smiles when we waved and a superb introduction to Luxor by Mr. ‘Scottish’ Bob at the local bus station. He was a man of persuasion, and even though we had a reservation at a camp on the Nile on the West Bank, we ended up following him to his hostel, ditching camp and staying there for 2 nights. The Everest Hotel, Bob Marley inspired. Bob had a bootie to match his belly and without either I couldn’t imagine him walking upright. A bit dazed from our five hr. bus journey, he wasted no time jumping in and efficiently organizing our time for us. It was impossible to say no to this man, and before we knew it, we were both sitting on the back of his little Honda 125 whose back tire was near flat, crisscrossing through the streets like a mad video game. We circled the Luxor Temple, he said “What you see outside is same as inside, so no need to see”. Sweet, that was an easy cross off the list. Made a few stops, caught a nice breeze, and then came back to await our Banana Island guide. Bob assured us we needed to get on a Fluka on the Nile, ride a camel through the village and then see the Karnak Temple at night. We nodded and said yes, and drank the welcome tea. With a couple of hours to kill, we strolled through town and met Jusseim, the owner of a sweets stand. He literally demanded we join him for coffee and try some of his sweets. After loading us up with sesame, peanut and nougat bars, as a gift mind you, he invited us to his house to meet his family. His mother, father, grandfather, sister and niece were all sitting around the TV watching the news about the revolution it looked like, supposed to happen on the 30th and the sister quickly jumped up to make us coffee. The Turkish coffee is no joke and cups of it we were having. We stared at each other a lot, smiled, took some pictures, a couple of me solo with the men -wink wink, received a tour of the house and Jussein’s house upstairs along with his 50 page wedding book, and were told that we would be staying with him for our stay in Luxor. Hmmm, that’s very nice, but we already have a place to stay. “No problem, OK, you stay with me!” But we already have a hotel… “No problem my friends. You will stay with me! Hmmm…. We finagled our way out the door, walking backwards, nodding, smiling saying thank you and met up with Mr. Bob #2 – our Nile guide, who also had an affinity for Mr. Marley. A beautiful, cool ride on a small sailboat, dangling our feet in the refreshing river Nile, when all of a sudden Mr. Bob #2 starts playing footsies with me! What? Did that just really happen? It seems that girlfriend/boyfriend bares absolutely no weight. You are free to be flirted with, as we both were quite a few times already directly in front of each other. So here we are, going on 6 weeks of dating, now ‘married’, on our one yr. wedding anniversary and working on ‘making babies’! “Making babies is very important and maybe your time in Egypt will be lucky baby making time!” Laugh laugh. But it worked, and we were no longer aggressively flirted with. The Karnak temple was absolutely magnificent but I’m sure we could have seen a lot more detail during the day. Bob was worried about us sweating our asses off, but it’s all good, we got a taste of its magnificence. Day 2 consisted of The Valley of the Kings, the real mummy of King Tutenkhanum, tomb of Hotsheput, the Hebu Temple and a papyrus museum. It was mind-blowing! You’re standing there amidst all the grand-ness, everything you’ve read about in school and it’s surreal. I may have to side with the point of view that the Egyptians had extra-terrestrial help because it truly leaves you feeling speechless. The rest of the day was spent stuffing our faces with delicious Turkish food and hiding from Jussein. He was like Tony Soprano, every corner we turned someone was nodding to us that he wanted us to join him for coffee. We left Luxor on a night sleeper train and walked past Jussein to say goodbye. He pulled Simon in very close and puckered up his lips for a kiss. Simon pulled his hand back so fast, looked at me with this dumbfounded face, I wish I had video rolling. It was a good laugh. Making our way to the train station it was and sleeping on a bumpy train ride we did, like straight out of an old classic film. We woke up to a dirty, bustling Cairo bright and early in the hazy, heavy smog filled morning. Trash everywhere and just outright filthy, we couldn’t believe our eyes, when all of a sudden, there they were, the infamous pyramids, right in the middle of it. Our hotel was surprisingly clean and our view from our room was trash, broken down buildings and pyramids. We were wiped from the heat and it wasn’t even noon yet. Moving slowly and tired of being harassed and having to say no every 5 minutes, we somehow got wrangled into a camel tour through our hotel and thankful we did. It was definitely a highlight and the perfect option to seeing the pyramids. Again, magnificent, and guides believing there was ‘outside’ help, it’s hard to imagine how they did it without. On the way back we got picked up by horse and carriage and stopped off to get some more bottled water. Simon took a sip and his face turned sour, I took one next and wanted to spit it out right away. Smelled of mildew which led me to thinking they reused the plastic bottle. Seems it was tap water, seamlessly bottled, and it turned our last little bit of our Egypt trip into days of recovering. We were SO close to not getting sick! Ugh. The last day in Egypt was spent strolling through the museum. Overwhelming amount of artifacts, we bolted for King Tutankhanum’s section and then 2 levels later walked out like zombies unable to absorb any more information. We decided on having an Egyptian date night when we got back to absorb some more Egyptian history through documentaries and cooking a local dish. I’ll let you know how that goes. So! Let’s recap on my bucket list. I believe I get to cross off one item: Riding through the Sahara desert on a camel. Running to the top of a pyramid is no longer allowed and seeing schools of Hammerheads I guess I’ll have to do in the Galapagos. We did run up about 3 levels of stones on the pyramids and saw 2 Hammerheads in the Red Sea, but that doesn’t really count, or does it? No matter, a good time was had trying! “Later alligator, for awhile crocodile!” Turkey here we come!
Picture credits: Simon and Alice