Greetings from Egypt!
We had a great day today. We started at the Giza Zoo and Barbara (a friend from Maryland) and I enjoyed hearing about how animals factor into Egyptian mythology. She’s very interested in the mythology and the gods and goddess (as I am too). Our guide, Waeel (sp?) took us and showed us around the Zoo. We were the only foreigners there! Today is Friday and so it’s a holiday and lots of Egyptian families visited the Zoo and took picnics. I used my new camcorder and it seemed to work just fine. Took video and photos with it — very easy. : >
After that, we went to lunch at a nice tourist restaurant called Soiree in Cairo. I ate a popular Egyptian dish call Koshari… which I loved and want to learn how to make for you. It is vegetarian and contains noodles, rice, lentils, garbonzo beans, sauteed/fried onions, and spices — delicious! Ahmed (who we had dinner with tonight) says he has a recipe for it he can give me. The restaurant for lunch also had other vegetarian dishes/salads and great babaganoush (eggplant-based dip) and their deserts were outstanding too! The best was the little donut-hole-like balls saturated with honey juice — a lot like Khofti (sp? — Indian desert). I drank LOTS of bottled water today. I was so dry — probably residual from my flights even though I thought I drank a lot on them too.
After lunch, we visited the Egyptian Museum… and it was SUREAL!!!! Unbelievable. It was literally just like a dream walking through that huge place full of antiquities and mummies. I opted to pay the extre EGP 100 (about US$ 17.55) just to go inside the two Royal Mummy rooms. And I’m so glad that I did. I actually *SAW* the mummies of Thutmosis I, II, and III, Ahkenaten (!), Queen Hatsheptsut (!!!), Ahmenhotep (!), and (drumroll, please…) RAMSES II (Ramses the Great !!!!!!!!!!!!!). Even Queen Tiye was there and I could not believe I was looking upon the very face of her pictured in the National Geographic article I brought with me. INSANE!!!! By the way, these Royal Mummy rooms were the only air-conditioned rooms in the whole museum. And it was rather warm and stuffy there… with lots of crowds mostly gathered around all the King Tut antiquities… many of which I had seen and remembered from the time I saw them in L.A. so many years ago. In spite of the crowds, I was able to view all of Tut’s stuff too — including his sarcophagi and funerary mask (!), canopic jars, throne, etc. It was still phenomenal even though I had seen it all before. And it felt like visiting “old friends”. So, I was inside the Egyptian for about 4 hours (thankfully our guide took us to the highlights and then left us there to explore on our own and we just met up with our driver outside when we were done). By the way, they don’t permit ANY photography/video inside (you cannot even pay for it), so the only photos/video I took was outside in the garden that Dr. Bob Brier talked about in his lectures. I saw all the engraved stones he showed and took many photos of them. So, that was cool. It was just amazing to be there and I still cannot believe that we did it.
Then, we came back to our hotel — Noran Hotel (13 Mohamed Khalaf St., Dokki, Cairo). It is about what I expected — probably 2 stars. I have hot water in my room, a TV, AC, and a small refrigerator. It feels clean and safe, but nothing fancy. I sleep well on the bed and the small side street outside the hotel is quiet, so there is minimal noise. I took a nap in my room this afternoon after returning from the Egyptian Museum and before meeting up with Ahmed (my Egyptian friend) for dinner tonight. Ahmed took Barbara and me for dinner at Chilis (American restaurant they have here) on a huge floating boat on the Zamalek island in the middle of the River Nile. It was very nice to talk with him. I think he would make a great teacher because he knows so much about Egyptian government, history, and politics.
Tomorrow morning we get an early start at 8 am to go to the Giza pyramids and our guide is going to try to get us into the one pyramid folks are permitted to enter. We’ll see the sphinx, of course, and then the solar boat museum. I’m going to ask if we can have tea at the Mena House Oberoi on the way back (where Churchill made all his war plans, etc.) — it’s a lovely hotel. Then, tomorrow night, we go to the Pyramids Sound and Light show. So, it will be a full day I think. Gotta get some sleep. Goodnight!