|Hypostyle Hall at Karnak|
|Sunset in Luxor|
As we were leaving the Valley of the Kings, we heard someone shout, "Go Cubbies!" We turned around, realizing it was in English and that we were wearing our Cubs hats, and a man walked over to us. He was wearing a Red Sox hat. We introduced ourselves, and he explained that he was an American soldier stationed at the Israeli-Egypt border and was on leave for a couple days. Two days later, as we were in the Luxor airport preparing to return to Cairo, we heard someone again, "Hey Chicago!" It was the same soldier we say two days earlier in the Valley.
|Muhammad Ali Mosque at the Citadel|
|Inside the mosque|
Later we walked through the main gate of the old city walls that surrounded Old Islamic Cairo, through Khan El Khalili bazaar, and dined at Naghib Mahfouz, named after Egypt's famous Nobel Laureate who used to pass his days writing in this cafe. We really breezed through the bazaar, and I wish I had spoken up to take more time to shop and explore the tiny alleyways. Old Cairo is like a time warp, the streets are still dirt, and small stones cross the street so pedestrians can walk from side to side without stepping down into the dirt, just like in medieval European cities (think Pompeii). I saw a man in a doorway dispensing milk for cheese out of a goat's stomach (no goat, just the stomach lining). You could have told me the year was 1400 and I would have believed you.
Now we're back at the Four Seasons. Unfortunately our room this time doesn't face the Pyramids - I was hoping for a last look goodbye, but it's only for 2 nights and we head back home at 4am Monday morning.
A note about mummy tummy: it hit us both. After that initial punch, I was fine for the rest of the week, pretty much. All the pain and discomfort was gone. AND, after 5 days, the jet lag wore off and we were able to have 4 consecutive really good nights' sleep. Thank goodness. We've had a few bouts of uncomfortable g/i issues, but nothing major. Luckily the food on the boat was a little more like what we're used to, so we settled in quickly. As I re-read that statement, oh boy, I've come a long way in 4.5 years, from eating Western food to craving spicy street food in Bangkok. I'm sure it'll all catch up with me again some day.
We've gotten really good at greasing palms, too. Here, you tip EVERYONE (aka "baksheesh"), even the dude that's standing outside the tombs doing nothing. He's actually doing something - making sure you have a pleasant stay. It was a foreign concept to us at first, but you quickly get the hang of it. I was initially uncomfortable at the idea of what appeared to be bribing officials, but eventually we came to understand the subtleties.
Oh yes, deep into the countryside, we stopped at a carpet school. Here, they hand-pick kids from age 12 and they go to regular school in the morning, and carpet school in the afternoon. It's a skilled job where they grow up and make the most beautiful eastern/Persian carpets I have ever seen. Wool, cotton, and silk. I SO wanted to bring a silk carpet home, but they're EXPENSIVE, even if you bargain. As I look back, I wonder if this was a facade for the tourists. I'm still unsure. And the rugs weren't that expensive. I could haggled down even further, and really wish I had. Unfortunately I was over-ruled on buying anything. Guess I'll have to go back, then, when there's no one to tell me no.
What I wish I could bring back with me was the sound of the call to prayer from the mosques as it echoed over the countryside, over the Nile, and off the columns of the temples. Some sights, sounds, and smells will stay with me forever as memories. Materials things can buy you momentary happiness, but travel and experience lasts a lifetime.