Star Date: January 2016
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"The wonder of any land is not in the land but in the mind seeing it. If you have wonder in your mind, you will see wonder in your life. ….Leave not the wonder of your childhood behind...."
Ancient Egypt, a land of mystery and intrigue. A society closely connected to Nature and the movements of the Heavens. Modern Egypt is full of crowds, noise, deceptive, pushy touts and chaos. Cairo is the epitome of this with 30 million people crowded into the maze, all honking at the same time! If only I could have invented a drone with a 'mute' button! Quiet, what is quiet? Fiercely proud of their heritage and welcoming, a visitor here must take a deep breath and dive below the churning waves to the calmness of a tree lined back alley, sip a tea at a 'sheesha' street side cafe, experience the peace of a mosque enclosure or ride a camel beyond the crowds to gaze back on the magnificence of the Pyramids of Giza.
One of the remaining wonders of the world, the Great Pyramids are one of the greatest mysteries on the planet. Unable to reproduce them or assemble them with modern technology, the pyramids once again force even the skeptics to take a walk outside the box. How were they built? We stood in awe once again at the sheer size. There is something in this equation that is unknown. The Egyptians lived in sync with the Celestial Heavens and had placed the pyramids in line with the stars in the belt of Orion. Some say the pyramids were beacons when they rested near the water, others theorize that the structures are actually massive batteries. Unlike the highly decorated temples everywhere else in Egypt these pyramids are empty inside, showing they weren't typical tombs and may have existed before the Egyptian civilization evolved. The Sphinx was originally a large stone lion that was covered by the sands of time. When the desert winds revealed the head, the prolific craftsmen of ancient Egypt quickly carved it into the shape of their Pharaoh's head. Still the head is too small for the large body, a misfit as such. More questions. Out in the desert far away from the crowds it is easier to free your mind and open up to the endless possibilities. Whatever the true history doesn't matter. The magnificence outweighs the logic.
Another must is spending an afternoon at the Cairo Egyptian Museum. All the best of the best is displayed (what the tomb robbers didn't steal away that is). Mummies of kings and commoners, mummies of animals and birds, coins, King Tut's finery, statues, jewels, pottery, boats, sarcophagi. Many hidden treasures await your discovery in this unique, dramatic, spell binding museum.
Modern Cairo is dominated by mosques and Islamic sights. Call to prayer five times a day, reminds you of the exotic surroundings, filled with at times devoted Muslims in this megalopolis of chaos. We visited Cairo at the height of Ramadan, when people are hungry, business hours are random, and smokers are cranky from fasting from sunrise to sunset. Tension is high and just when you feel the city will explode like a pressure cooker, the hot sun subsides, devotees share a meal, and smokers chain smoke a few cigarettes. The idea of Ramadan is to pay off debts, forgive wrongs and act with compassion towards those around you (lying to tourists exempted). About 4 pm everyday large vats of food are prepared, tables are set up, and the poor are offered a lovely, simple meal for free. Thousands are fed nightly and the true compassion of these wonderful, friendly Arabs resounds through the streets. Don't believe the media hype. Muslims are just like you and I. They are some of the most open, helpful, and welcoming people on the planet.
Even centuries ago the Coptic Christians escaped the confusion of Cairo. On the outskirts of town, now engulfed by the encroaching city, lies an interesting look at St Georges Church, monasteries and ancient cemeteries of the Coptics; a minority in this 95% Islamic country.
Get lost! This is what needs to be done in Khan al Kalili Bazaar. Like no other on earth this maze of side alleys, low doorways, magic or flying carpets, chai (tea) shops, colorful material and clothing shops, perfume salesmen, falafel stands, mosques, jewelry shops, spice merchants will leave your head spinning! When the swarm of touts gets thick just smile and say, No, Thank You!!" and keep walking. Let go of your fears! Don't try to keep track of your footsteps, just wander. And when you've had enough keep asking directions to Fishawis Teashop. Order a cup of hibiscus tea, sit, relax, cool off and look through your newly acquired treasures. From there get pointed in the direction of the main square. Walk behind the large mosque and along the streets of Bein al Qasreen to see Medieval Cairo.
Education is a priority in Egypt. We visited the new Cairo University library, home of 270,000 students. The director of the library and her great staff showed us around and made us feel welcome. When we thanked her I can still hear her saying, "Thank you for being you!"
We had entered Egypt via ferry from Aqaba Jordan, landing in Nuweba. After the exhausting overnight ordeal we rested for 2 nights at one of the serene, peaceful 'camps' along the Red Sea. We met a wonderful young Egyptian man, Zion, and he and Joseph had many long talks. The heat kept us lying low mid day but we went snorkeling in the rich coral reefs near shore morning and sunset. With over 1000 species of fish and 150 types of coral we always saw something new. We saw lion fish, scorpion fish, unicorn fish, tangs, cardinal fish, trevally, trigger fish, butterfly fish, rays, and even spied a deadly stone fish and a giant blue clam, naming just a few. We would stay in the warm waters for hours and once had 'Stripes" a tiny one inch fish follow us around for over an hour! "Are you my Mommy?"
On we ventured south to Dahab. Enough can't be said about this small 'chillaxin" town along the Red Sea. A small pedestrians only promenade along the sea side, shops, a beach, reasonable pensions, warm weather with a constant breeze and great restaurants made this a place to remember. Yes, we had indeed found the calm in the storm called modern Egypt.
And so it goes.........................................Next Lebanon, a fascinating country full of ancient treasures. Until then let's remember to look at the world with open eyes, looking for the good and leaving not the wonder of our childhood behind. Take care and Keep in Touch!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar equals 7.63 Egyptian pounds
Vienna Hostel at Backpacker Point 26 Mahmoud St
Phone # 002 0122 589 574 In an old Cairo Apartment
Alley life down below 140el Clean, basic, friendly front desk 2 minutes walk from the Egyptian Museum. Close to falafel and other shops
Happyton Hotel, 10,
Ally El Kassar St 160el
Felfela Restaurant -
within 2 blocks - good, classy, Egyptian food in a garden setting -
many vegetarian dishes (try the grilled vegetables)
Bein al Qasreen old Islamic section
Sufi whirling Wikala of al Ghourin Wed & Sat.
Was closed when we went . Al Tannoura Dance troupe Cairo:
Moon Island Beach Camp
From the finest spot of the Sinai Peninsula lies the idealistic 'Moon Island', bringing you one of the most scenic, quiet and secluded beaches of Egypt to keep you relaxed and help you unwind.
Attraction: Diving / Snorkelling ; Hiking ; Safari trips
Sharm el Sheik: