Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Egypt: April 8th - 13th

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Wednesday, the 8th, I flew to Cairo, Egypt after work. I arrived Thursday morning at approximately 3am. It took a little while to make it through customs as I had to purchase and Egyptian visa. Once I made it out of the airport, I took at taxi to my hotel, City Stars Holiday Inn in Heliopolis. Thanks to may 5 month stay at a Holiday Inn Tulsa, I was upgraded to an executive suite. I finally had to force myself to try to go to sleep at about 4:30, after calling Amanda, which probably cost $900. As soon as I started to doze off I heard the Imam's call for prayer coming from a nearby Mosque. It felt awesome to be back in a Muslim country.

Thursday afternoon two of my favorite people in the world met me: David Brandorff, my best friend from college, and Sara Felt, his wonderful girlfriend. When we had the discussion about where to meet it went something like this: "Where should be meet?" "How about the Sphinx?" "Does noon work?" "Great, see you then!" I must admit, it felt like a super hip rendez-vous point.

After poking around the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza we hoped in a cab to head to the Egyptian Museum. We wanted some food, so the cabbie stopped and bought us some Koshari, it was like noodles, rice, vegetables, and grilled onions; reminded me of Hungarian Goulash meets American Ramen Noodles. The museum looked like it was from the 1940s, wooden cases with glass and brass locks. The highlight of the museum was the Tutankhamen exhibition.

We finished the night with dinner at the restaurant La Sangaria along the river Nile. We smoked hookah, had a few beers, and relaxed. After dinner we took a cab to the train station. We took an over night train to Luxor. Even though we had first class our cab was like the Darjeeling Limited. David and I slept on the floor, and may have gotten bedbugs.

We arrived in Luxor around 7am, and dropped our bags off at the Susanna Hotel. To kill time before check in we went to the Luxor Temple and the Souk (market). We found a great street vendor selling falafel for a snack. Afterward, we checked into our hotel, showered, and changed clothes. Once we got comfortable we went to Karnak Temple.

That evening we met 3 Egyptian guys at a bar, who invited us out after Sara and I beat them at billiards. Not getting into to much detail, the night involved 6 of us riding 2 motorcycles (3 to a bike) racing down a road that ran directly between the Nile and Luxor Tempor, and Underground Egyptian belly dancing club, and all of us taking turns dancing with the belly dancer. There was a live band and everything. It was obvious we were out of place and it couldn't have been more fun. One of the most memorable nights of my life.

Saturday consisted of waking up late and then traveling around the area. We went to the Valley of the Kings and saw 4 tombs. They were much more amazing then I ever imagined. Not only were they large, but they were immaculately painted. No pictures allowed, sorry. We paid an extra $10 (should have been $20) to see Tutankhamen's tomb, which was not nearly as cool as I expected. It was small, not super decorated, and kinda bland. Granted the body is still there, but it is in a glass case on display. We also saw the Colossi of Memnon and the Temple of Hatshepsut which was built into the side of a mountain. For dinner, we went to a place called Nubian Village, which was set up outside like a small town and served traditional Nubian cuisine. At least they played Hip-Hop (WTF?).

Sunday we got up at about 4am to head to the Luxor Airport. We flew to the Sinai Peninsula to Sharm el-Sheik. We sent the entire day lounging on the beach and swimming in the Red Sea. I took the opportunity to finish reading David Copperfield. I snuck away to make an important phone call and relax. When I met back up with David and Sara we had some beers, went to a hookah pit, and I fell asleep on cushy pillows on the beach. That evening I bought T-Shirts and Pins from HardRock for co-workers, which I subsequently left at our dinner restaurant (bye bye 90 bucks!! Idiot!!). We had dinner at a fancy Middle Eastern restaurant called Abou El-Sid. If you go, get the appetizer tray, in fact get two. The vine leaves are too die for. Around 10pm we headed back to the airport and flew back to Cairo. We grabbed a cab and drove through downtown Cairo at around 1am. We stayed at the Julianna Hotel near the Egyptian museum, slept for about 5 hours, got up and head home.

Go to Egypt. It's worth it. One piece of advice, take pens with you. Apparently, they don't have good writing utensils, this will help you when people ask for money. Which is every 5 seconds.

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