Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cairo & the Pyramids

Our journey started with a full day of driving from Jerusalem to Cairo, the biggest city I have ever been in with a population of 20 million people. To put it in perspective: the number of people who work the night shift in Cairo is equal to the total number of people living in Chicago. We got to our hotel near 11 pm, and Naomi and I went out to explore the city. Big, crazy, and dirty are all words that come to mind when I think of my initial impressions of Cairo. It is a city that never sleeps-- there were just as many people out on the streets at 2 am as at 2 pm. There were no traffic lanes, no street signs, and few stoplights. Mounds of litter and garbage lined the streets since there is no public garbage pick-up service. Suffocating smog and impure tap water are just part of life in Cairo. All these things are very different from Israel, and right away I also noticed that the people were different, too. In general, the Egyptians I met were friendly and loved to smile and laugh. Even security guards joked around with us. This was much different from Israel and the West Bank, where people are usually very tense and serious.

On our first day out, the traffic was good because the Muslims (85% of Egyptians) were having a four-day feast, the annual "Festival of Sacrifice" to celebrate Abraham's sacrifice of Ishmael. Sheep and cattle wandered the streets in front of our bus, unaware of their fate, and we watched men and their sons catch and slaughter their animals.

Our first full day was mostly spent exploring the pyramids at Dahshur, Memphis, Saqqara, and Giza. The ones at Giza were the largest at 440 ft. tall. It's estimated that it took 200,000 workers 20 years to build it! We also saw the sphinx.

That night Naomi, Jesse, John, and I explored downtown Cairo some more. We met a local young man, Muhammad, who took us to his cousin's cafe, packed with people. We hung out for quite a while, and enjoyed talking with lots of different people. I had some delicious fresh mango juice. I also rode in my first Egyptian taxi, which felt like a crazy carnival ride complete with multi-colored flashing lights and blaring Arab music. I decided that I like Cairo a lot.

No comments: