Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Time Flies... Part 3!

Story Recap....

There are a few parts of this story that I had completely forgotten about until just now. We had done so much adventuring in these two days that I'd forgotten all the details. I remember another incident that occurred that night when we were traveling to the Al-Hussain mosque. I'll recap it now. When we had left the museum, we had gotten a transport in what we call a microbus. It's basically an extended van with many rows of seats and people pay to take these to different locations all over Egypt. Anyway, Sayed had secured us a seat at the front of the bus next to the driver. As we drove, we began talking freely about different things, and of course, he's my husband, he felt no issue would come of him putting his arm around my shoulder. However after a while of cruising through the streets and commenting about the quite crazy way that our driver was driving, (Of course we were speaking in English, and he couldn't understand us, and no joke, Parents and children were jumping out of the way of this guy) the bus driver became quite agitated and started yelling at my husband.

I didn't understand what this was about. At first I thought he understood our talk somehow and that he was having a fit about our criticism. This was not the case. Several times, the bus driver stopped the bus in the middle of the street, turned off the bus, and started arguing relentlessly with my husband. He was waving his hands at him and Sayed kept trying to push his hands out away. Here we were, a bus full of strangers and our companions, and this crazy bus driver was arguing about "everyone but me" knew what. Mohamed had tried to talk to the bus driver as well. I was very annoyed and didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Sayed had picked up his phone and dialed a number and I really didn't know what that was about either. It wasn't until finally the crazy bus driver decided to take us to our destination, that I found out the truth of it all.

Turns out, the bus driver was suspicious that I was not, in fact, his wife and that he was parading around with a foreign woman he picked up off the street. And apparently he had called me many very insulting names. Sayed had tried over and over again to tell the man that he had no right to dare judge us and that we were in fact, married. The phone call, I found out, was Sayed's card to getting this guy to stop his bad treatment. Sayed had threatened to call his good friend Diaa who is a military officer and in Egypt, especially after the revolution, a military officer has no higher up in society. This bus driver then became very nervous because the people here fear anything to do with the police or military taking any reprimanding action. And so, he straightened out, and took us to our destination.

Later on, after visiting the mosque, we went to experience the Nile Boat Rides. We climbed down the steep walkways toward the bank of the Nile, and leaped from rock to rock making our way toward the opening of the boat we chose. There was loud, bumping Arabic techno, bright lights and a boat full of people. There were girls dancing like belly dancers, and other boats were out on the water with us. There was a whole row of these kinds of boats that would go out onto the Nile, travel down a bit, and then return to the bank where they came from. I really wanted it to last longer. It was so peaceful despite the loud music and lights. The flow of the water was even and gentle. I remember Sayed reached down and touched the water. When we returned from the boat ride, Hasnaa, Sayed and I waited for a while on the street side and watched the boats on the Nile. While we were waiting, Sayed had left to find out what was the plan, and Mohamed had gone to find a car that would take us toward the direction of Giza. I remember Hasna and I were sitting up on one of the high pillars of the gate that separated the street and the steep bank of the Nile. And something happened.

Suddenly a group of kids were pulling a boy out of the water. I didn't understand at first what was going on, but the boy had apparently started to drown in the water and the teenagers pulled him out. A small group of people started to surround the boy and I remember thinking, "do any of these people know CPR?" And I was beginning to get nervous and considered making my way down to try to administer it myself because no one seemed to be doing anything for him. But though my eyes couldn't see this clearly, Hasna told me that the boy was sitting up and appeared to be alright, Alhamdulillah. (All praise to God.) 
We took many pictures. Most of the pictures from this trip are on Sayed's computer and he's not with me right now, so some of the photos will have to wait but I'll provide what I can.

Getting back to the next morning...

The girls and I woke up in the morning and it was quite early. I remember my back was killing me because the average Egyptian bed is quite hard. But I got up and put on my clothes. The girls who had hosted us, graciously prepared a breakfast for us but did not join us. They had been making up days of fasting from Ramadan at this time and would not eat again until maghrib prayer at sundown. We ate quietly together and finished preparing ourselves to head out. I was surprised again when the younger of the two girls came out wearing a full pitch black niqab. I didn't expect this but I suppose it made sense because their appearances are not typical Egyptian and this would mask them from eyes that might judge or pry. We gave the traditional Egyptian greeting/goodbye, "salam alaikum" and took the hand kissing each cheek of the older of the two girls. And the younger lead us through the streets to meet up with the guys.

The morning was warm and the sun was bright but hazy. There were many people about surprisingly, mostly children and some women walking though the narrow, typically dirt avenue. When we reached the meeting place, we said good-byes to our guide as well and she returned to her home. The guys came out and we started to leave. (Though my husband may not like this part of the story told, I'll tell it anyway, lol.) Suddenly Hasna gave a startled intake of breath and pointed out the back of Sayed's pants. I realized that there was a fairly large tare and we stopped him quickly to let him know of the situation. So we delayed for a few minutes while he found another pair of comfy cargo pants to wear. It was probably a blessing in disguise because we had fun climbing in places later in the day and chances are, if the pants hadn't ripped then, they would have ripped in a place where we had no option to change them. Silver lining to every cloud, they say. Alhamdulillah. Then, we all went along our way to continue our journey.

I remember we walked a good distance before finding a transport to take us the remainder of the way to our destination. As we had ridden in the transport, I remember seeing the tip of the Great Pyramid over the tops of buildings that blocked most of the view, and my heart was pounding. The transport took us around toward the gate of the entrance. We had arrived and gotten off the transport and walked a little way down. On the way, we stopped, and Mohamed had bought us all a drink. This drink is something special and specific to Egypt. It's made out of the Egyptian sugar cane. It's mildly sweet with a hint of the taste of something like bamboo, or that's the best way I could describe it. It's very good, at any rate. The drinks were served in clear plastic bags tied at the top with straws in them. Cheaper than plastic or paper cups I guess. We continued on our way to the gate. I remember looking around and was excited to see a man riding around outside the gate on a camel. He looked like he came right out of an Arabian movie. There is a picture of him in my facebook profile. I'll share it here.

Finally, we went to the gate and the ticket booth opened up. They bought us all tickets. Little side note, I was supposed to have paid a LOT more for my ticket as an American. But, they had bought the tickets without me in sight, and even though every time, we were questioned and they spotted me as American quickly, and asked for my passport, alhamdulillah, they let me in without incident. I'll tell you, the difference between American tickets and Egyptian are HUGE! So it's a good thing I was let in as an Egyptian. :-) As we entered, I got my first clear glimpse of the Sphinx. What a sight! We began on our trek through the thick desert sand and many merchants were calling to us and walking beside us, offering this and that. "La'a Shukran" (No, thank you.) We kept saying as we walked by. And then we came to the entrance chamber of the Sphinx. Below is a picture of me attempting to "Walk like an Egyptian" which none of my Egyptian companions had ever heard of. This photo was funny because, unintentionally when taken, little Shahd appeared to be shrunken by the powers of my Egyptian walk. loool

The orange granite walls shot up out of the gray stone floor. And the ancient halls were filled with tourists. We went in through narrow, roofless passageways and came into great halls of sandstone. I had searched for some sign of heiroglyphics but didn't see any in this section. Then we filtered through the passageway to the open air. Surrounded by high stone walls, we could see the Great Sphinx in his famous lion-like position, facing out to the world, his ancient broken face full of pride and strength, despite the four plus millenia that had passed.

Some fun facts/theories about the Sphinx. This great statue is believed by some archeologists, to have been built as a means to solve the issue of unemployment during it's time in Ancient Egypt. When it was built, more than 4 and a half thousand years ago, there had been an annual flood from the nile which put many farmers and such out of business for quite a while. Those lucky enough to be hired at the sight, were paid to make the bricks that formed the statue, and those that were skilled in architecture, planned, designed and carved out the design. I recall a show that told about a hidden chamber 100 feet deep below the sphinx. If memory serves, it was a perilous tomb steeply dug, it's enterance west of the sphinx. The tomb was dedicated to Osirus who was rendered a God by the Ancients. The name that the Egyptians in modern time call it, is Abu Al Hul, which means "Father of Terror" or "The Terrifying One". The Great Sphinx has been the subject of great controversy over the long years. There is speculation that it predates the Pyramids because there is evidence that the causeways and structures used to build the Pyramids and tombs were constructed around the Sphinx, suggesting that it already existed and needed to be avoided.

We had lingered in this area and climbed up on the stone walls that surrounded it. I had wondered why no one was allowed inside the quarry to get a closer look at the Sphinx. That way was gated off, which was a little disappointing. I had always dreamed to touch the statue with my bare hands. At any rate, it was truly breathtaking to stand in it's presence. We decided to double back and head up toward the Pyramids, who's steep, uphill road was to the right side of the Sphinx. I remember looking up at the pyramids and thinking, "This is what I've been waiting for!"

And this is where I must leave you, my dear readers, waiting for part 4 of our adventure. I honestly never realized there was so much to tell, but when you write it all down, it becomes quite extensive. I'm so glad that I can share my experiences with others and I truly hope for this blog to continue to fill my readers with interest and vision through my eyes. Please, share this with anyone you feel would be interested. The more the merrier, as they say. And please feel free to comment and share anything of your thoughts.

Asalamu Alaikum for now! "Peace be upon you." Allahu barak feek! "God bless".

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