Greetings From Egypt
June 28, 2006|Posted in: Uncategorized
(From Mia, sillies…)
HI HI HI — or should i say, Shalom!
i am HERE in Cairo and it is so insane! it’s a huge city and there is so much going on. there are no lines to mark the streets so all the cars just go haywire, wherever they want. there are no seatbelts and people (even children!) just run across whenever they can. it’s quite a wild ride! the sound of horns is constant, making a really strange drone for the city.
it’s really dirty and also unexpectedly, really sad. i’ve never been to a place (except mexico but that was so short a time) where it is so 3rd world and for all those differences, i really like it. but cairo itself is actually so overwhelming that i’m looking forward to aswan. we get on a train tonight at 10pm and it will take us 12 hours to reach aswan.
today we went to a market here in cairo and i was wearing a tank top and capris (because #1 it is sooo hot and #2 our tour guide said that cairo is so touristy that they are used to seeing skin so not to worry about covering up) but after about 10 minutes, i bought a scarf and wrapped my shoulders. the older men hiss and the women stare (not a single bare head, hardly any bare arms and never bare legs. some women don’t even have eye holes and are wearing gloves in the 100 degree heat) and the younger men and little boys (barely 11, 12 yrs old) make jokes, follow you and want to marry you.
it’s really intense so worth the sweat to cover up. they always demand first off, even before showing their goods (which comes quickly after) where i am from. luckily, they always ask espania? italiano? then english? american? australian? for the most part, if you ignore them they leave you be but they are out for money for everything and it’s so hard because i know it’s only 1 english pound for me and yet, 10 egyptian pounds for them.
when we went to the pyramids, this man INSISTED on taking my photo to look like i was holding one of the pyramids in my fingertips but of course, demanded payment after. also we stopped to get lunch at a takeaway stand and i paid for my food but when i went to pick it up, the man held it away and held out his hand, saying “service, for service.” so i had to tip him to pick up food i already paid for. and when our egyptian tour guide, Hamada, came for his, of course it was handed right to him.
To be fair, Hamada has told us that Egyptian police are horrible here and are absolutely hated by most egyptians but the police love foreigners so we never get harrassed. which is a good thing because the police are everywhere and are really scary looking. they have guns and knives and are on power trips. if we want, we can drink alcohol, show our skin, kiss in the streets but if the egyptian people did, they would all go to jail and have to pay off the guards to get out. the rich get harrassed because so many are poor and the poor get harassed because they have no money and are just crowding the streets. it’s really just a huge culture shock, i guess! but incredible, i am learning so much!
yesterday, we went to the egyptian museum and saw all kinds of amazing things. the ancient egyptians were absolute geniuses! then we went to the pyramids, the sphinx and to a papyrus factory to see how it was made. at the pyramids, we got to climb them a bit and don’t worry, took lots of photos!!
at night, we went to dinner at a really amazing place and had a proper meal (bread, pasta, beer). it’s been really awful trying to eat here. i am scared to eat or drink anything because the sanitation is not at its best, to say the least. i’ve met loads of travelers in our hotel and one woman had diarrhea for 3 wks straight here! aHH! i’m freaked out and so trying to be very careful. of course, it is so damn hot that i have no appetite anyway and have to force myself to eat. the first day i was thrown off because the menu advertised baby pigeon and quail. yikes.
I stuck with the veggie falafel but then someone told me that eating salad is a high risk abroad. i can’t win, really! so of course, all i want is a huge crispy green salad and loads of fruit. i haven’t had fruit! the only thing we can have are things with peels (bananas — very bitter and chalky and oranges but i haven’t seen any!) but we just went to a market and got some packaged goodies for the train tonight. i’m going to go back and get a sandwich or something at the hotel and hopefully that will do me for tonight. i’ve been drinking nothing but heaps of water and of course, cat naps are a must. the heat just runs you down!
i’m really excited about going to the Nubian village tomorrow night (like in Aida! research!) (Mommy’s note: Mia will be in ACLO’s Aida in September when she is back her for 2 months — see it!) and we are having a meal with the villagers. it will feel like i am in Africa! they are black and speak nubian. right now, cairo is so arabic and at sometimes, feels very indian as well.
My tour group is really fun so far. there are 7 of us plus our guide, hamada. he is really fun and has a great sense of humor. there is one aussie guy, one kiwi (new zealander) guy, one english girl from manchester (“england, england! across the atlantic sea!”) and then 2 scottish kids, a girl and a guy. and of course, linds and i, the two american girls. we have pretended to be australian but a lot of people don’t believe me because of my dark eyes and hair. more people than you would think have asked me and so i’ve just started saying i’m nicaraguan. is that safe? ha ha. at least it’s true. everyone is nice, gets on really well and have all hung out a ton. its so easy to meet other tourists, just like everyone told me. i didn’t believe it but it’s true.
i miss you and the girls tons. i can’t believe this trip is still at the beginning and that i have loads of other places i’m still going. i feel like i haven’t been home (london OR california) in ages! i don’t know if i will be able to find another place to write while i am here but i figure that at least once is good! forward this as ness. to whoever might be interested. family, etc.
i’m being good, careful and as smart as i can considering i don’t know any arabic! (that’s not true, i learned how to say thank you… “shokashan”) but i’m not going out alone and as i’ve said, i’m covering up. so don’t worry! this is an amazing experience and i can’t wait to get home to tell you about it.
i love love love you mama. take care of yourself, too!
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.