29.01.2017 - 02.02.2017 60 °F
Greetings from Alexandria...y'all.
Boy did I need to get out of Jinja. I was offered a diving job working on the dam. That's when you know you've been there too long. Actually had a shirt made for me with "Jinja Backpackers, come drink yourself into a job" on it.
The last week was really just spent lazing around, checking out the Nile River Festival and, well, drinking. I was starting to become a fixture and it was sort of sad to leave Jaco, Ben, Ashraf and the bunch.
Speaking of Ben I never did jot his bit of story down (he's the Agro-guy who's been working with Ugandans to create sustainable crops and soil). He was proper-accosted last year just down the road from where I was staying in Jinja. A local came up behind him and beat him about the head and face with a hammer! As Ben describes he "dropped like a sack of shit", scrambled up and began to run, screaming bloody murder. The thug gave chase until a few boda-boda drivers started to come to the rescue. Initially thinking they were enemies too Ben turned and ran again TOWARDS the initial attacker. Well shit. I'm a bit hazy on this part. I've heard the story a half-dozen times but there was alcohol involved every time. In the end the boda drivers chased the culprit off after Ben fell again, picked him up, stuck him between two other's on a motorcycle and drove him to the hospital. Ben had received at least two good whacks on the head and face but the first doctor in Kampala told him to rest up and all will be well in a couple weeks. After a phone call with his insurance company describing the event they basically said "F-that, we're getting you out of there" and flew him by charter plane directly to Nairobi where he spent six weeks recovering. He's now a happy cyborg having had a couple steel plates inserted in his cheek and what ever that bit of your upper jaw is called below your cheek...lol
All this he tells people with proper English downplay. Merely a flesh-wound etc. His street name around Jinja now consists of a word and a motion. "Has anyone seen Ben (hammering motion)? I think everyone in town would know ;-)
The Nile River Festival is basically a four night drinking event with a Kayaking problem. Seems a world wide thing if you're in the loop. I caught two of the party nights and one Kayaking exhibition. Naaaht much more to say about it...but folks seemed to have fun! By Sunday everyone turned into sleepy zombies. Which was my day to leave so that was fine.
I said my good-byes around 10:30pm and took my special hire direct to Entebbe Airport just south of Kampala. My flight to Cairo was scheduled for 4:15am. We arrived just after 1am and it turned out early was a good thing.
Good lord...this next bit.
Usually I hang outside airports as long as possible as I dislike sitting IN them but something said I'd better be on the safe side of time. The check-in staff looked at my ticket, consulted some B.S. little book they have concerning visas and regulations and began a process that would eat the next two and half hours of my life. "Sir you need a return ticket to enter Egypt", no I don't. "Sir you need proof of Yellow Fever vaccination to enter Egypt from Uganda", nope. "The visa for Egypt is 15 days and you must show us a plan so they know you are leaving", ain't a thing.
So the managing representative for Egypt Airlines (and Egyptian) took my passport and bailed for two hours on the premise that he was going to call Cairo and make sure I could enter the country. By the end of the two hours I was nearing the end of my rope and simply wanted a refund so I could go to Rwanda instead. The manager walked up about twenty minutes before the flight and told me he needed proof that I had enough money for the visa and travel. I told him basically to stuff it, give me my money back and I'll go spend my dollars in Rwanda. I know now that having a conversation with an Arab (not solely based on this event) is a duet conducted by oneself. If you raise your voice, they raise their voice. If you get angry, they get angry. But at any moment you can go very soft and polite and the harmony will follow instantly. It really is a sing-song. (Blatant stereotyping finished.)
At this point I think he was just as tired of me as I was of him so he just told me I could check in and go. The lady-receptionist just had to get two more cents in after my bag was checked and out of sight, telling me I should be more prepared when meeting the qualifications for entering another country. I told her if she sees me again, she was right.
AndthenIgettoCairoandeverythingisfinefinefinefinefinenoquestionsaboutyellowfeverorticketsorplansoranythingatall-andzipzipoutoftheairportintwentyminutesandthevisaisgoodforthreeeeeemonths!!!!!!!!!!!!! Choke a friggin goat...
So Cairo is nice. Bit of a swift kick in the face as far as culture shock goes having just left Uganda. This was partly due to the fact that I tiredly accepted the purchase of a ticket on a dinner cruise that first night. To digress a bit I thought I was supposed to have been picked up at the airport by the Airbnb I had set up but he was a no-show. So I picked a man out of the taxi crowd and told him to take me to a place in Giza if he knew one.
The man turned out to be Ahmed and a soon-to-be-friend. He didn't actually take me to Giza but to central Cairo, where he grew up. I settled for the first hotel we stopped at, waited a couple hours for the room to be ready and crashed for 4 hours. The cruise was set for 8pm, taxi at 7. I was totally out of it...lol Welcome to Egypt and BAM dinner cruise with belly dancers, a spinny skirted guy with electric lights all over his outfit and an Egyptian singing I Can't Help Falling in Love With You and other such favorites. Add a cup of strong espresso to the equation and the next two hours were spent on the upper deck staring at the horizon trying not to share my tasty buffet dinner with the fishes. I did make it home without hurling, took a hot shower and bloody sacked out. Seemed a nice cruise BTW...$15, dinner included.
Not to be a slouch, I had set up a full day's taxi-hire with Ahmed starting at 9am. I could go where ever I wanted all day for about $40. I told him it'll be an easy day because I just wanted to spend all of it at the Pyramids in Giza. This proved harder than I thought. Ahmed dropped me at a perfumery/papyrus shop....of course. I was then then battered into a guided outing. Still tired but did manage to get him down from $150 to $80. This was for two hours on horse back all around the area. I THINK you can get inside without a guide. I don't know how and even if you did you would be constantly harangued by touts and such. Maybe I'll try again on the way back through and let you know. I just wanted to walk around and stare. This was more "take your time sir, many pictures, but let's keep moving aaaaaand done". I liked the horse but there has to be a better way.
The Pyramids were striking of course. Have to say the Sphinx is a bit smaller in person but he/she is sitting in front of the big boys so that makes sense. I was assured by others who have visited recently that I would basically be the only one here due to global news about Egypt. This WOULD have been the case were it not for my uncanny ability to travel during local holidays. Two weeks off school and work for most Egyptians yay! Man oh man am I good at that. I saw a handful of Chinese. That's it outside of residents. I would have been in a deserted Wonder of The World one day earlier :-) Please take this as self-amusement rather than complaining. I got to go!
Anyway moderate your expectations of a peaceful, quiet, walk about the Pyramids. And know that the entrance is a stones throw away from the skirts of the city. Otherwise lovely! They're the Pyramids of Giza der.
Ahmed could see that I felt a bit whirlwinded, and that all I wanted to do was see the sunset around Giza so he suggested we take a drive to Saqqara. Which we did. I should mention that driving with Ahmed is like driving with your short-fused Bronxian uncle in bad traffic. We'll be pleasantly smoking together while he points out various places of interest in broken English and without middle ground he'll gun his voice to the red and yell something like "go take a swim with the crocs you fatherless goat loving son of a hamster whore". This is an assumption of course. I don't speak Arabic. A second later he'll turn, say "sorry sir, so there is a mosque...", and we continue. Very amusing.
Saqqara was infinitely less crowded. Ahmed did his best to try to pass off as my guide so that I could walk around alone. He ended up failing but was so sorry for it that he offered to pay for the guide. Wow. I didn't let him but I find that incredible. At one point I offered the guide twice his fee if he would just leave me alone. No dice. No guide = no pictures, no walk around. I just don't find them very useful is all. And most of the time they just want to get through it. This one caught my drift at least and kept asking if I'd had enough pictures. I think he thought I was mentally slow after I told him most of the information won't be retained anyway. After that it was, "here is a boat carving yes? Understand? Here is a bird. Understand?". I played along. It made it better. He mumbled under his breath a lot.
Ahmed was set on delivering the sunset/pyramid hope. Bless him. He drove me back to Giza, chasing the sun, to the same parking lot and started asking where a person could watch. I came across an off-duty guide and asked if we could go to the top of one of the buildings. Guess where he took me...a perfumery/papyrus shop. I knew the deal from India but swallowed the inevitable outcome and went to the roof. I enjoyed my complimentary cup of mint-tea, took my time until the sun went down and took all the damned pictures I wanted to. It was superb.
Then down to the lion's den for some truffle-shuffle. Whoever I give this blasted papyrus to had better appreciate it ;-) It does look nice I have to say and I got my sunset. I'm sure there are better ways but I didn't know them on my second day.
Ahmed brought me back to the hotel and we made a plan to catch the train to Alexandria the next morning. This turned into the afternoon as he pulled an all-nighter working at the airport (I did not know this or I would not have let him take me). He gave me a ride to the station, would not accept payment, and parented me through the ticket-buying and platform-finding and had to be firmly directed to go home and get some sleep as I could wait for the train by myself. Aw. Good guy this Ahmed fellow. I would suggest to folks to befriend a taxi driver and get his number should you come to Egypt. It doesn't seem difficult. Share one of your smokes and commiserate over police corruption. If you don't smoke buy some anyway. Everyone here smokes everywhere. Banks. Stations. Boats. And the act of offering a fag seems significant. They know a hell of a lot more about the cities than you ever will (most likely) and after your first ride the prices go down significantly. I got to free in under 48 hours. Just a suggestion. Not everyone will be an Ahmed. I'll mostly likely get back to Cairo and explore some more. Tons to see there. Wanted to go chill a bit and get my bearings.
I don't have much to say about Alexandria yet as I booked a resort in the Mamoura district about 19km (an hour) outside of city center. I can walk to the Mediterranean sea in roond aboot 2 minutes eh. :-) It's chilly here if that helps. Like 65 high 40 low. I know, I'll shut up, but it's cold coming from Uganda. Have to wear my coat and everything while sipping my dollar Turkish coffee by the pool. $35 a night...lol "You can choose, sir, to come to the Greek garden for your complimentary buffet breakfast or we can deliver select items to your room." I know, I've lost all credibility, but bare in mind the dust is still on my pack and the bites are far from healed ;-)
Lord bless low season and the fear of those who watch the news. Ain't no tourists here. Just to give a counterweight to all that nonsense my morning was spent walking around looking for a sim card and a plug adapter...On one occasion I bought a phone charger from a man who spoke no english, I no Arabic. But he spoke Italian and I Spanish so the transaction was conducted wonderfully and laughingly. I bought smokes from a man who had been to Georgia and had nothing but praise for the U.S. having had a "splendid" visit. Another shop owner went out of his way to write something along the lines of "this dude needs a universal-Egyptian plug adapter" on a piece of paper and directed me to a hole in the wall selling odd bits. The owner read it and plopped the exact gizmo on the desk. 6 Egyptian Pounds. 33 cents. I offered him 20 as he'd made my day but he wouldn't take it. Only 6. Even got my sim card.
All smiles back to the hotel. Made up for the papyrus shop and guides. Either that or a crap day is coming.
When I'm done here I'll book a place in the city and start being useful again.
Enough from me.
All health and love,
Edit--Upon reading this all seems a bit on the bitchy and entitled. An possible agreement, not an apology...you know me better ;-)