Friday, 17 October 2008

Egypt Part 2

Our visit to the Pyramids was ultimately a pretty fulfilling experience. It met with all of my expectations apart from maybe the near vicinity to the city and also my own imagining that there was desert all around. The area is getting built up at a very rapid rate and if it weren't for the governments realisation that the Pyramids are a major source of tourism income they would long ago have stuck some TV aerials on the top of the tallest one. From talking to our later tour guide, who was also an avid Egyptologist and archaeologist, it seems that the Egyptian government does not put any money into either the preservation or continued archaeological work and all the funding has to come from the universities. I find this quite saddening as it's a very narrow minded way to look at what is not only your countries history (arguably the richest in the world), but ultimately it's future.

The other major tourist attraction in the Giza complex is possibly one of the most famous monuments in the world, the great Sphinx. This was cool but when compared to the Pyramids it seemed smaller than I expected. The area was rammed and the whole experience was similar to that of how I might imagine sushi might feel going past on a sushi train. I think the thing that wryly amused me the most was that the Sphinx looks directly at a KFC which also has a Pizza Hutt next to it.

Something that is entirely synonymous to the Sphinx is it's lack of a nose. There are many different stories around how the Sphinx lost his nose, among them Napoleon's troops shooting a cannon at it, but there is no historical proof. My favorite story comes from an Asterix and Obelix book in which Obelix is blamed when he climbs up the face and subsequently knocks the nose off. All the vendors around the Sphinx who had replica statues go into a mad rush with hammer and chisel and alter them to match. Having been there and had countless statues waved under my nose made this all the more amusing.

This is an aerial photo taken from Google Maps of the Pyramids Site.

We headed back to the hotel for a swim to cool off a bit. Coming from London and around 19C (if we were lucky) and ending up in 38C we were all sweating buckets and drinking around 3-4ltrs of water each. I had the forsight to invest in a Camel Pack which holds 2ltrs of water inside your backpack and somehow stays cold the whole time - brilliant! Bags were packed and we headed off to the Cairo train station to wait for my next first experience, an overnight sleeper train. Stacks of trains went by, all filled to the brim with hot and sweaty Egyptians and from what I could see there was no aircon in any of them. Thankfully when our train finally arrived it did have this small blessing.

The sleeper train was a pretty old thing which upon inspection early in the morning appeared to have been made by the World War 2 German aircraft maker Messerschmitt. The train honestly felt about that old however it was fairly comfortable and if it weren't for the onset of Deli Belly I would've spent more time in the bed and less in the toilet! A few blocker/stopper pills and many miles (610miles or 982km) later we arrived in Aswan where we were to board our Felucca and float blissfully down the Nile for 3 nights.

Sleeper Train - Cairo to Aswan

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