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Day 19 – 20 Cairo

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It is late afternoon of day 19 in Aswan and we are headed to the train station for the overnight train to Cairo. Originally, we had planned to cruise the Nile up to Cairo, but, we wanted to spend an extra day in that city so we are taking a faster transport to get there. I am excited because I have never been on an extended train ride, let alone an overnight one.

 As we pulled our suitcases into the station we heard, “Noelle, Noelle!”

What the heck?!

OMG, the professor and the boys are taking the train too! They quickly mob us, once again asking for pictures. I think it is cute as hell, but, Noelle is so over it.

We said our goodbyes and found our way to the overnight car and our rooms.

 

But, before the train is ready to leave, Noelle hops off to go buy some snacks from a vendor in the station. When she gets back, she is flushed and embarrassed.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I was afraid I had taken too long and that the train would leave so I started running back. As I ran, the men in the station stood up and started clapping!”

Ahh, Noelle, you and your girls are so entertaining. I still laugh about it today.

That evening, I was hoping to party a bit, to celebrate our trip so far, but, we could not get back to where the professor and the boys were – a fact that Noelle was happy about. So we went to the lounge instead; but dang, they did not serve alcohol. Thank goodness Alexei had brought a bottle of Limoncella from Italy for just such a celebration!  Mmm lemon and vodka.

 

Okay, party over, time for bed. Noelle gets the top bunk cuz I know I will have to pee in the night.

 

 

I was right; I had to pee in the night. Now that was a little adventure all in itself: dimly lit bathroom, a toilet with a hole in the floor, the wind blowing upward as the tracks whiz by while I am whizzing – o yeah, memorable! Then I couldn’t find my room in the dark!! Fortunately at that moment we were passing some town that had lights on and as they flashed through the windows I tried several locked doors until I found my own.

Please, God, no more peeing tonight!

Pee free, we made it to Cairo in the morning and headed back to our hotel on Tahrir square. Our hotel is the building on the left just past the green bus.  The tent city is gone from across the street. I am bummed because no one is there now.

 

 I am sorry that Noelle will not get to meet all of those people. I heard there are continuing demonstrations on Friday nights, so we shall see what that is like tomorrow.

Here is the view from Alexei’s hotel room window. That pink building is the museum and there is the burned admin building too.

 

Very cool.

We are going to visit pyramids at Saqqara and Dahshur today.

Do you remember when I wrote about Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor? Well, that was the big burial place for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. During the Old Kingdom time – 3rd millennium BCE- the capital of Egypt was in Memphis just south of Cairo. The ancient Egyptian name for this city is of course different, but, I am not really sure what it is because I have found two different names, so I will just call it by its latest name, Memphis. The big burial place during this time was the strip from Giza to Dahshur and it has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1979. And, before you start wondering, I am pretty sure Elvis is not buried there. Bad joke, sorry.

It was fun to take the taxi ride out to Saqqara and Dahshur because we were out of the city and into smaller villages. This is something we had not really done much of during our trip.

 

The camel gets a ride:

 

 Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt with numerous pyramids.

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

The most famous pyramid there is the Step Pyramid, built for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser, by his vizier, Imhotep. It is known as the oldest, large scale cut stone building in history. (The oldest un-cut stone pyramid is in the city of Caral, Peru.)

 

Once again, as we toured the complex, the local guides were quieted when they heard Alexei teaching us about what we were seeing.  Even still, they tried to let us take forbidden pictures or go into places we weren’t supposed to go, all for baksheesh.

Here is the Roofed Colonnade corridor of the hypostyle hall:

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 While Noelle rested, Alexei took me to the north side of the pyramid where the temple of the serdab is. I didn’t get what he was saying until now as I am writing about it. The serdab is a small enclosed structure that houses the “ka statue”. The king’s ka is the part of his soul that was believed to inhabit the statue in order to benefit from daily ceremonies. Anyway, as we came to the spot, Alexei told me to look into this hole in a wall and this is what I saw:

 

Here is a better picture from Wikipedia:

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 Cool, huh?

I think this next one is of the Great Trench that surrounded Djoser’s complex, but I am not sure.  It looks more like a great path to me.

 

We could have spent a lot more time here, but the wind and the guides were making it a little difficult, so we took off for Dahshur.

Dahshur is a little further south than Saqqara.  It is mostly known for several pyramids including two that are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt – the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, both constructed during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu (2613 -2589).

The Bent Pyramid is unique and is believed to represent a transitional form between step – sided and smooth sided pyramids.  Archeologists believe that the original angle of the pyramid was too steep and was becoming unstable so the builders decreased the angle to finish it and this gives it the bent look.

 

While Alexei took a closer look, these guards ask to take mine and Noelle’s picture:

 

 

 We were used to this by now, but, they wanted baksheesh. Dang, I am sorry, but, the baksheesh thing was getting irritating. When I was in Mexico, I budgeted money to give to beggars and street performers, but this baksheesh didn’t feel like that. It wasn’t the same as freely giving. However, I didn’t have time to process these feelings and just took our camera and left.

Next stop was the Red Pyramid named for the reddish color of its stones. Originally the stones had been covered by white Tura limestone, but during the Middle Ages, these were removed to use on buildings in Cairo. The Red Pyramid is the largest of the three major pyramids in Dahshur and also the third largest Egyptian pyramid after those in Giza. It is also believed to be the world’s first successful attempt to build a “true” smooth-sided pyramid.

 

 We planned to go inside this pyramid and began the climb up to the entrance. When we finally got there, a pleasant man gave us some flashlights to use, but he didn’t ask us for baksheesh and that was nice too. We started walking down into the pyramid and about ten steps in I stopped.

“Uhm, you guys go on ahead. I’ll wait here.”

Alexei just kept going without even a look back. Noelle looked but kept going.

I sat down on a step and examined my feelings. Maybe I am scared, I don’t know; but, it did not feel right in here to me.

After about another 50 steps, Noelle stopped too and sat down.

 

Our intrepid, Alexei, went all the way, hollering back to us the things we were missing seeing until we couldn’t hear anymore.  This is a picture of the main burial chamber from Wikipedia:

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 That’s okay, I was glad when he returned and we walked out of there.

 

I have one more picture of a pyramid that we did not see, but, I found it on Wikipedia and I think it is an interesting example of how using the right materials makes all the difference. This is the Black Pyramid, one of the five remaining pyramids of the original eleven at Dahshur. It was built in the Middle Kingdom time of 2055 -1650. It had been made of mud brick and clay instead of stone, then encased in limestone.

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

Well, that’s it on these pyramids.  We headed back to Cairo and to shopping at the Khan el-Khalili souk. I can’t wait.

The Khan el-Khalili souk dates back to 1382 when the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili built a large caravanserai there. A caravanserai is a sort of hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for economic activity. The caravanserai is still there although we did not see it. For readers of Nobel Prize laureate, Naguib Mahfouz, the Khan is the place of his novel, Midaq Alley. The Khan has also been the site of a couple of terrorists’ attacks.

For me, the Kahn was huge, bustling with new and old magnificently interesting sights; the buildings, the people, the wares.  We saw only a tiny bit of this old bazaar. I could have spent a couple of days just walking around this place. 

 

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 

 

 (Picture from Wikipedia)

 

 

 

I loved it.  It was here that I finally got the balls up to bargain and I won! Well, to be honest, I sent Alexei back with my final offer.  I couldn’t go because the lady that had re- done Noelle’s henna walked by, saw mine and was so irritated with the original work, she make me sit down and “get it done right!”

 

She was right. It kept the memory alive long after I got back home. I loved it!

About imlindai

I have been and RN since 1975 and in Critical Care since 1981. I have written two books, both available on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and through bookstores: 1. Where Do You Draw The Line? - An Insider's Guide to Effective Living Wills, Healing, Critical Care. 2. I May Be Crazy, But It's All Good Please visit my website: www.lindaingalls.com

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