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Dubai United Arab Emirates
And so to Cairo I went.. Part 2
Oct 16, 2005 03:05 PM 2237 Views
(Updated Dec 08, 2006 03:30 PM)

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CAIRO-PART 2(Incase you are looking for Cairo-Part 1, please go to Egypt-Cairo section)In Cairo, you are SAFE. It might sound odd, but every 10 metres of so, you are likely to bump into the HEAVILY armed men in black, the policemen in Egypt! They are extremely helpful, and will give you valuable tips and directions. Of course, everything is done for ”Bakhsheesh” or tips, but if you talk well, you can circumvent that as well. I learnt that being friendly with them goes a long way. For example, most of them asked me where I was from, when I didn’t understand the Arabic they were speaking (much to their surprise!). When I said India, the first expression on their faces was of complete glee, and then “India? AMITABH BACCHAN!!” Yeah, it sounds crazy, but Egyptians are NUTS about this man!! EVERY second person I got friendly with in Egypt knows Bacchan and is a big fan of his Hindi/Indian movies!Anyways, after a few more mosques around the area, I headed for the famous Citadel of Saladin..situated on a hill over looking the city of Cairo. Once again, breathtaking views, and a wonderful piece of architecture in the Citadel…it was well worth the long walk early morning! At 11am, I headed back to the hotel for a short break, coz soon I had an appointment with the Pyramids!! The great Pyramids are in Giza, an area 18 kms away from Cairo. A short and cheap trip in an AC bus (2 LE) of around 30 minutes brought me to the ONLY wonder of both the ancient and the modern world. As such, the Pyramids are the only existing wonder of the ancient world nowadays. Goosebumps ran all over me as I stood in front of this massive structure, and my mind went back 4500 years back. I had no words to say. I was thinking. Thinking of the stunning buildings in Dubai, the buildings in India, the buildings in Bangkok and all the others places I have seen. Construction of all types and sizes and magnitudes.. but 4500 years back what did these guys have in terms of equipment and technology to build this precise and correct pyramids on a perfect square base extending into the skies?In the Pyramid complex, everyday at 8am and 1pm sharp only, 150 tickets each are given out for getting inside the pyramids..I was fortunate enough to get at ticket at 1pm, and made my way inside, along with others. Parallel to the sloping surface of the pyramid around 10 meters towards the top is the entrance, a very steep passage way (4 feet height and breadth only!) extending around 100 meters into the center of the pyramids. There are grips for the feet to pull yourself up and forward, and railings to hold on and hike yourself up each step. Extremely claustrophobic and several people gave up mid way and were coming down the same way, but determined to get to the bottom of this mystery I made my way up. After the steep passage were around 10 meters of crawling under low passages, and into the Tomb of Khufu we reached. It was a poorly lit room, which had a simple tomb devoid of anything else. Probably all other stuff were taken away by the authorities. There was not much to see, but it gave me a sense of immense satisfaction to be deep inside the great pyramid! Back outside, I quickly made my way to the other two smaller pyramids (made for his wife and daughter) and took a short camel ride to the Sphinx, another superb piece of construction. Next morning, I headed to the nearby Egyptian Museum to get my dose of mummies and other stuff. The place was packed with tourists. The highlight of the museum was the world famous Tutankhamen’s treasures.. King Tut died early as a Pharaoh, and the discovery of his tomb in 1962 was a big big step in history. There is an entire room dedicated to his treasures. Let me just explain. Egyptians mummified almost everything in sight, including animals, after death. They believed in the “Afterlife” a whole lot. After the mummification of King Tut, for example, they put the body into several coffins, then this was kept in box like structure, and again, 2 more structures like this on top of the other! Keep in mind that EVERYTHING was made of pure gold, including the boxes n stuff. King Tuts face was covered with the 11kg gold “death mask”, and his face with the unmistakable beard is so popular whenever Egypt is mentioned. The special head gear and the funny beard etc which are often seen when you talk about Egyptian Pharaohs constitute that face mask of King Tut, and it was also in the museum. Now, along with these boxes and coffins, EVERY thing necessary for a person to live was provided like gold chairs, tables, cots, slippers, daggers, sticks, rings, masks, toe caps etc..all in pure gold.. Food was provided for the corpse (mummified cows, goats etc)and all of this is still there in that museum and it was so well preserved 4500 years back that it continues to mind boggle people!! Next stop in the museum was the Royal Mummy Room. This room was the scariest room, coz it contains 11 of the most treasured mummies in their full glory. Most important of them is the mummy of King Ramses. Extreme care and caution has been taken to preserve these corpses and maintain them for future generations to see. Each mummy is in a glass casket with pressure and temperature controlled. The general notion of bandages running all over the body of a mummy white and tight is a little wrong. Yes of course the bandages are there, but over the years most have been torn and tattered, and they are certainly not white. I was stunned to see the corpses of Ramses, and other kings and even a few queens, INTACT with hair, teeth, toe nails and eyes. The flesh was almost gone, but the bones were still very much intact, though they were charred black in color. Of course, the other bits n pieces were all blackish in color too..but it was amazing to see the crooked teeth n stuff in the skull amidst the bandages of the mummy. The shivers ran down my spine as I thought about these corpses who were resting peacefully, well over 4000 years in age. Did they know that I was there? I cannot explain anymore, it just has to be experienced! At 2pm I made my way into the Khan E Khalili bazaar to do some souvenir shopping, which was another excersise in bargaining!! I wound by 4pm and headed straight to the Nile River, bags and all…I hadn’t been to the Nile yet and time was running out!! The whole Cairo had desceneded to this area, families and kids and teens and what not…it was festival time!! Eid celebrations were on full swing, and I found myself amidst a sea of humanity!! I quickly took 2 short ten minute cruises on the beautiful Nile River, along with blaring Arabic music and general fun courtesy some really active teenagers! It was real fun, and totally enjoyed it. Though very Islamic in nature, Cairo has its fair share of girlfriend boyfriend stuff happening, something u normally don’t get to see in Dubai with the locals usually… Western culture is in heavily, and all you get to see is jeans and boots n all the other fashion stuff as well as heavy make up, but covered from top to toe. 5pm. It was time to make a move, reluctantly, I trudged my way against the teeming crowds, leaving behind happy faces and celebrations and sounds…my mind and heart telling me not to leave, but the thought of being at work at 9am the next day loomed large. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by for “Koshary”, an Egyptian heady mix of pasta, rice, minced meat, beans n other vegetables, topped with some “masala” and the fried onions etc we Indians put in “biriyani” normally. It tasted like heaven! 8am,22nd January: Reached Sharjah, rushed home to Dubai, dropped bags, took a shower. 9am back to work. Egypt was a part of my own history now, though the memories are forever going be so fresh.


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