Well I completely skipped the Tunisia summary. I really liked it there but not sure if I'll ever write about it now, however, Jake is working on the video of that place, whereas we will probably not have a video for Egypt (save the one with the Italianos singing in Alex).
So here we go!
Egypt is a Muslim country (surprise!) and with it are the typical things we've seen in Morocco and Tunisia. Prayer five times a day through loud speakers. Friday is their holy day (so their weekends are Friday/Saturday). Everything is closed on Fridays except for some food places. And people stare at me funny for my tattoos and any exposed skin (omgah ANKLES! Welcome to the renaissance).
On top of that, Egyptians seem to be much more forward with me than Morocco and Tunisia. We had heard it is rougher here than Morocco hagglers due to the drop in tourism and needing to be more aggressive, but we thought it would be the touts and sellers that would be in our face. While some do not take no for an answer no matter how many languages you say it or hoow many times or how many various volumes, we found them to be much easier than Moroccans. What WAS rougher was the constant male attention I've received, regardless of having my male companion. I would hold Jake's hand (later to find out that is actually frowned upon many places) and confirm that we were married when asked, but it did not stop 15 year old boys ask to marry me, touch my legs and hands when sitting next to me, and being shouted at, gawked at, and receiving confessions of love, admiration, and compliments of my "magic eyes." Jake was often told "What a lucky man to have such a beautiful/good woman!" and questions about our happy marriage. When walking down streets, men smoking shisha and drinking coffee sitting at cafes would often make "tsk" sounds, hissing sounds, or kissing sounds to grab my attention. I often ignored these because (A) I am not a cat, and (B) I was terrified that if I looked I would be greeted with much worse vulgar mouth gestures.
That being said, and knowing most of these compliments were probaby more aggressive ways of trying to get baksheesh, the attention was all positive comments and compliments and though it made me uncomfortable, I can't hardly wait for southern Africa where we will be considered "white devils" and children being told bedtime stories about us eating babies to keep our skin white. Le sigh...
What I Expected vs. Reality
Again, we expected to be grabbed more, forced to hold items in hopes we'll buy them, nonstop pestering for money, and general "sell sell sell buy buy buy" annoyances. I was even piccturing revolution violence, protests, and maybe getting caught in unwanted political stresses among the people while walking around. I heard Sinai was the only real place for this, but I hear about Cairo protests often and the day we were leaving Tunisia, we saw news about another in some Cairo square. I was stressed.
Reality proved much different. Maybe I didn't realize how much dealing with touts in Morocco helped prepare me, but I just did not find Egyptian sellers to be quite so stressful and annoying. The people here have a GREAT sense of humor and we hardly encountered annoying touts except for the train station in Luxor where the same man came to us over and over and over and over and when we toured Karnak and were pressured to buy statue souvenirs. However, these being the most touristy areas in the city and this city almost relying SOLELY on tourism, it came as no surprise, or rather, we were more understanding.
Cairo and Alexandria were the easiest to be in due to many other industries than tourism for support, and Cairo is so MASSIVE, we only had time to see a small part of downtown where it was very reminiscent of typical downtown city life you see anywhere in the world. Luxor was still great, but the relentless flies (they take lessons from the touts apparently, or vice versa!) and the tourist traps made it a bit tiring.
The funniest one is that at night almost nobody uses headlights on their car. They feel they just don't need them since lights on the street and so many other cars light up the way. But when you step into the street, they will be sure to flash you often and with their brights. Thanks, maybe you should just keep them on so I can see you.
Honking is the other thing. They like to drive down the street honking abusively as possible and often for no reason. Sometimes it's a "Hey I see you walking on the sidewalk and I'm coming behind you, careful!" And same for other cars to let them know they're coming. But a lot of times, it's just layin on the horn drivin down an empty street.
Other tourists here
We met one American at the airport we got coffee and shisha with later in Cairo. Ryan is a traveling folkpunk looking for anarchy-friendly places in the world and seems successful in that endeavor. He is eccentric and tells amazing stories with animated conversations and we loved him immediately. Check out his website http://www.riotfolk.org/ if you're interested. I know I'll be involving myself as soon as I get back to the States.
In Luxor we got to surf with FOUR other people at the same time. An Argentinian girl who was very nice and knew plenty about the area. Our host was from Uruguay, so they got to converse in their native languages often which I'm sure they both loved. Then three guys, two brits and a yank(sorta), have been bike touring the whole way down Africa raising money for music and children which is serendipitous because that's just what Jake and I want to do in South America! They are super cool to hang with and we spent most of our time in Luxor exploring the place with them. Be sure to check their site as well: http://daringdynamos.com/ and follow them through to South Africa.
Other than that, we had met people in Morocco who went through Egypt before coming to Morocco and they were all cool too. However, in Karnak, we were bombarded with tourists from a bus and generally I was a bit annoyed with them. All I kept noticing was the women in skimpy tank tops, short shorts, or tiny miniskirt dresses and all I could think about was "Why come here?" It was such shameless disrespect for the local culture and then having arrived via Tour Bus, all I can think of is that they're secluded on some resort and only want to see places a tour bus can take them to. It filled me with a sense of pride to be as sensitive as I was, but also made me even more self conscious and mad at myself for not going even further to cover up more parts of myself and try to figure out their hair scarves. Still, in long pants and a cardi in 104F weather, I hope they realize I'm trying.
This place immediately fills me with wonder, passion, curiosity, and amazement. The culture here is SO old and feels proud in their history. I feel like an utter child here, being both young and out of touch with the political environment in context, as well as being American and from such a young country.
I've also come to have a certain respect for Islamic culture, but wish I had more time to understand the role they play in a society that is so much older than the religion they've adopted. I find myself wondering if anyone worships the old gods and keep to ancient ways. I feel like a western religion is a mockery to a civilization adept enough to have built giant pyramids 4000 years ago to almost perfect mathematical perfection. Ponderings..
One of my main concerns here though is with the drop in tourism and how heavily Egypt as a whole has always depended on it. It has increased the stress dramatically for the locals and in just 2 days we saw three intense fights break out, one that was clearly over us. The struggle is there are 10 men who own ferry boats across the Nile and now there are only enough tourists to support maybe 3 of them. So aggression happens when a ferryman convinces us to go on his boat and then maybe we're bombarded by another and in the confusion of language and figuring things out, we follow him instead, maybe thinking they are the same boat. So then ferryman #1 assumes his fare was just stolen from him. FIGHT. That's his livlihood, his food for the day. And while some cases are not so extreme (because they make enough money), I'm sure there are plenty of times it is that severe and families do potentially go hungry because of dwindling business. This is what we encountered most in Luxor (again, a city almost solely dependent on tourism) but we see it elsewhere too. It breaks your heart to see the tension rise and knowing that your choice to spend money so directly affects their lives. It's especially hard because neither Jake nor I have the funds to do this trip very properly and looking out for our own skins means we're finding food and activities with the person willing to give it to us for just $1 less. We're not even providing baksheesh in accordance with custom because the taxes and service charges that are added on to everything force us to not have funds for an additional 15% or so. It's a hard life, but I hope to make it up in many future visits to this place with better planning and funding.
I definitely do not enjoy the sexual harassment, even though I tend to receive a lot worse in America, the quantity received here is a bit much sometimes.
Other things aren't so much dislikes, but it's hard to haggle for everything all the time, and people wanting to talk to us constantly to have an excuse to speak English (or get money) and oh yeah! Jake and I are CONSTANTLY being asked to take pictures with them. We go to museums to see local art but end up being the subject!
Likes, however, are plentiful, but notably, being the fatty that I am, FOOD. Food is fucking delicious here and the cheapest I can ever imagine food being. We often spent MAYBE $3 between us for food all day. And filling good food. Kushari is one of our favorites, and we couldn't ever pass up Falafel sandwhiches which were anywhere from 15 to 30 cents each depending on where in town you were getting it. One of the best sandwiches we got was in touristy Luxor where we had two Egyptian boys order for us so we could get the "Egyptian price" which was probably STILL higher than the actual price, but was also only 30 cents for us, so we weren't complaining! The falafel there was heavenly though and I'm inclined to find those boys so they can order again for us (though one was one of the 15 year olds trying to get handsy with me... But I guess for sandwiches, worth it).
Also, there is a famous bakery in Cairo with two locations called El Abd and OH.MY.GAWD. For what we would have EASILY spent $30 on in America, cost us less than $3 here. Danishes filled with cheese, topped with jams, croissants of all kinds, large flakey pastries filled with sweet spreads, stuffed pizzas made with pastry dough, coookies, candied nuts, truffles, and heavenly layered cakes that weren't "cakey" (because I hate cake) but instead pastry like. Jake and I found every excuse to go there every chance we got and I almost cried every time because of how delicious and cheap it was and also to participate in something so famous among locals and tourists in a country so far away felt amazing. Yeah between Barcelona and Egypt, I will not look like a starved African child when I get back...
Overall rating: 9/10 - Need way more time when I come back.
Summer vacation is just about over, anyone have any trips worth reviewing or talking about? Favorite thing you've done over the weekend?
I think my favorite to see this weekend was Karnak... Or maybe Giza pyramids...