donderdag 16 juni 2011

The tourist

Hi there,

Finally it happened, Margo and Naomi visited Cairo. On June 27th they took the plane and arrived during the afternoon. My driver picked them up and brought them to my apartment. Where they enjoyed the sun and some fresh orange juice, in Holland it was still raining. As I made a very tight schedule, the first day we went to bed early and got up early again to start our first day of being a tourist in Cairo. If you don't like, reading here you can find the photo's of the places we visited, photo's Egypt .

We first visited the Citadel, this building is the landmark of Cairo, to keep orientation within the big city, you just have a look around and pinpoint the Citadel to see where you are. The Citadel is a fortress from around the 11th century and has been build on a hill. Inside the fortress, we visited two mosques, the Al Nasir mosque and the muhammad ali mosque. both are very beautiful from the outside as well as the inside. We wanted to visit the museum of the police however that one was closed. Luckily one of the guards of the building showed us the prison of the Citadel, which showed very small cells without any air-conditioning.
After the Citadel we went to El Azahr park,  which is almost next to the Citadel. The park is very beautiful and has many trees and flowers. It is a welcome relieve within the busy city of Cairo. We strolled around and had lunch next to a big pond with a fountain. When we walked around it was not us alone looking around, we had many people gaze at us, when we passed by, looking at the red hair of Naomi. Sometimes it was embarrassing when people bumped into each other, not paying any attention where they were going.
The last visit we took that day was to the Cairo Tower, this is just a very big tower, one big finger pointing in the air, 187 meter high to be exact and again is a well known landmark of Cairo. On the top you can see the whole of the city of Cairo. Other than that we just had a quick look and went down again.
After all these visits and many walks we went back home and took a rest. Luckily the next day was a day at work, my daughter wanted to see the building and the people I worked with. Again when we entered my office the ladies over there went completely berserk, the ooh's and aah's and 7 to 8 ladies surrounding Naomi and wanting to talk to her at the same time was overwhelming. For me it will always be difficult to understand what Naomi likes about the working places, not sure whether it is the candy she gets or the different people she meets...

The next day was the day of the old egypt, we went to the Giza pyramids. On camel back we strove towards one of the biggest preserved places on earth. Of course first we had to get save on the camel, and I told the guide we did not want any accidents and Naomi had to be taken care off very delicately. I must say he did so. After some camel riding through the desert, there they where again, first we only saw the three big ones, later on we saw the other 6 smaller pyramids as well. It is an awesome experience, nothing can compare to it. No writing can describe it, you have to experience it for yourself. We did it all, made the nice pictures, went inside one of the smaller pyramids, climbed on the small and the big pyramid. It is an adventure in itself.
As soon as we where ready, it took us around 4 hours, we moved on to the Pharaonic village. In the village a lot of the culture of the pharaonic period is explained. It shows how the food is made, clothes are made, the  pyramids are made and how a mummy is created. This afternoon was very exhausting, my ladies became very tired, probably because of all the walking and the sun shining as well.

The next day we decided to visit only one place and went to the Egyptian museum. Of course my friends the mummies where there as well and we saw all the stuff they found in the tomb of Tutankhamon. After walking around for 4 hours we went home again, tired however very satisfied. The rest of the day we spent in my apartment being able to cool down in the jacuzzi.
On Wednesday we went to the khan el khalili market, this is again a really exciting place, especially of course for the ladies. Khan el khalili is one of the oldest markets of the world. And when you walk through it, you think you are in a different time. Many different shops, small shops to very small shops, situated in very small streets, where sometimes there is no street at all.

There is one thing worth mentioning, when going to all these tourist places, we were almost the only ones visiting. There were no queues, no completely filled up area's like at the pyramids, it was just us being out there. I do understand that sadly enough this will devastate the Egyptian tourist industry.

Thursday was the day we traveled to Siwa. It was a long journey, 9 hours drive, however it turned out to be well worth it. Early in the morning at 7 AM we got in the car, whereafter our driver would bring us to Siwa. We drove almost directly towards Alex, however somewhered in the middle we took a left turn and ended around 100 km to the west of Alex at the coastline of Egypt. Next there was a long drive along the coast, must say that this is one of the most ugliest coasts I have ever seen, from the start almost until the end, the place was polluted with huge not finished concrete building, an insult to the beautiful nature. And just one more proof that people are capable of destroying everything in their way to make this place look like one big road with resorts, where it is very annoying to stay for more than 1 day.
Luckily the last 50 km along the coastline was very beautiful again, and brought us to Marsa Matrouh. Next we had a stop at a Bedouin restaurant, where it turned out we are not at Bedouin land, however at Berber land. Just to give you some directions, Berbers come from the west, Morocco, and Bedouin come from the North, Saudi Arabia. So, you can understand alone from the distance perspective there are a lot of cultural differences. Btw the food turned out to be very tasteful and we enjoyed it very much. This was also the first time we tasted the famous green and black tea of the Berber. We all enjoyed that very much.
We went to a place called Agiba this place looks like heaven, incredible that a place like this still exists. It's a lagoon only imaginable from a movie. Very very beautiful. We had a short stop there, walked in the sea and continued our journey, now again turning away from the coast, for about 300 km. Heading for the eternal sands, to be more precise to the white dessert. It turned out to be really dark soon, and the last part we travelled without seeing anything, let alone Siwa itself. However we saw a beautiful sunset, which was very promising. Finally on arrival we arrived at a very cosy hotel, if I would describe it, it would be best described as a very old but clean Berber hotel, very authentic and peaceful.
Later that night we had a diner at one of the local restaurants which again was very good, and saw a glimpse of the old city of Siwa. After that we had a good night sleep.
Next day we woke up and again it was a very sunny day, lets say the dessert temperature around this time of year is around 40 degrees. So, buckle up. Of course first we went to Shelly and saw all the different structures/houses inside of it. In the old days the buildings were created with salt stones, the Berber grew them at the lakes. Many of the lakes at the Oasis suck up salt from the ground, because millions of years ago this place was sea area.

Naomi at one point asked why all the men were wearing robes, in correct wording Jellabiya, that's when I had a good laugh. I asked my driver exactly the same question 1 year ago. And even then my driver laughed at me as well. At that time he explained to me that when he arrives at home, the first thing he does is to slide into his comfortable Jellabiya. Naomi looked amazed when she heard the answer, it is one of the best hidden Egyptian cultural fashion features, and by now amazingly enough the government is gradually banning the Jellabiya from e.g. public places etc etc... which again is a shame. How can you ever deny your cultural background.

From the sea area, Omar our Guide, took us to death mountain. A place covered with surprisingly enough dead people, not completely true, because if I understood correctly, all the mummies had already been removed long time ago. The buried people stem from the Greek and Roman period. And by the way, the mountain looked like one big cheese, covered with many holes, all being the openings to tombs, until now around 2000 tombs have been discovered. And most probably there are still 1000 to be uncovered.
Ok, next we went to the Temple of the Oracle of Amon. This is where Omar became really engaged when I asked him the question about Alexander the Great and told him I read about it, and understood that the Oracle by mistake called Alexander: Farao, and from that moment on he was the ruler of Egypt as well. However that was not completely how it went I understood now from Omar. One of the biggest things on the mind of Alexander were two questions, was ... his real father as there was a rumour that Zeus was his real father and who killed his father. This is why Alexander undertook the journey to the Oracle of Amon,  it took 3 weeks through the dessert to get there, and cost many lives of his army. When Alexander asked his first question: Who killed my father. The Oracle responded: Your father is still alive. This was the token that Alexander was a decedent from the gods and answered many of his questions he had since a long time.
Next we also went to the Cleopatra spring, this was a hot water spring, green colourrish, where people where swimming. Somewhat different than the goatmilk bathing that Cleopatra was famous of, we didn't dare to take a dip.
In the evening we had a very primitive evening and night, we slept in a Berber tent. Fresh and fruity the next day we went on safari, and I must say the white dessert is very beautiful, again this just looks like the dessert we know from the television. With all the nice white sands and sand dunes. Btw. I always thought that the sand dunes where 1 or 3 meter high, I was wrong. We went down a slope, I don't know the percentage of the slope, however I wouldn't have gone down even walking. And about the length I only can guess, something like 50 meters high. We went down in one straight go, the driver at the beginning even accelerating. None comparable to a rollercoaster, this is higher, faster, and gets your adrenalin cooking. We also came to a very white field of shells, all of them turned into stone. Here we could do some archeology search for ourselves. All these are from billion years ago. And the strange thing is that now and again we encountered water in the desert, either being small springs, but also one beautiful lake, with fish the size of your arm, just swimming around in the very clear water.
This day was very hot and tiresome, in the dessert the temperature rose above 40 degrees, which is fine if you are in an air conditioned room, however in a safari four wheel driven car it's rather hot as well :)
This was our tour through Siwa, Matrouh, and the white dessert, we saw a lot and enjoyed every bit of it, yes even the primitive sleeping in a tent.

Long story, I know, if you read it all you flatter me, haha...

For now this is it again,

maandag 25 april 2011

Revolutionary diarrhea

Hi there,

Long time no write, at one point you get in a rhythm of work work and work, and now the time has come to snap out of that.

When you come to Egypt, for me that was 7 months ago, time goes indeed fast, there is one thing you should not do, and that is drink water from the tap. That's when you end up at the rest room, more than once a day, and when leaving you think someone else had been sitting there. The same goes for Egyptian food, like Aatz and Fool. First time eating, you end up in the rest room next day.

Ok, strange context, a revolution is on going, how on earth can I think about going to the rest room. Well, it's not about the rest room, however there is a point where enough is enough. Or can you just not say that. It has been almost 3 months ago and still the revolution is on going, can we have a rest please. Every Friday after the prayer, people go to the Tahrir square to demonstrate. It has become a rhythm as well: Oh it is Friday, I have nothing else interesting to do, let's go and protest on the Tahrir square. This all happens in the light of the revolution, the point to move to a democracy. Though not all protest are about democracy, many of the protest nowadays are about money, more specifically getting more money for yourself.

Is this really how you can view a change process from dictatorship to democracy. Are protests the roots of democracy, and because of having protest you could say I am living in a democracy. At the moment it is clear that many things need change. The old rulers have to be removed, this goes beyond governmental posts, this includes the paper, the television, the big companies, everywhere the corruption that was introduced by Mubarak can be found and needs to be removed. Next to that at the moment there is only one party, Mubarak's party. New parties need to be set up, which is not easy. This needs to be done before the elections in September, and they should reflect all flavors of Egyptian society. Time is gaining on Egyptians, before you know the elections will be starting. And all of this is just a beginning, the process has started, however where is it leading.

Patience is not one of the main virtues of mankind, though this what we ask from the Egyptian people,  making sure that not everyone is going to the restroom and flushing the revolution down the toilet.


Note: For those who didn't notice, I have switched from Dutch to English, this to satisfy the many requests for readability outside Holland.