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First impressions ... Egypt

EGYPT | Monday, 25 January 2010 | Views [406]

With a belly full of koshary (a traditional made of of rice, macaroni, chickpeas, lentils and chilli) and a few days worth of Egyptian experiences I think it's time to start my travel journal for 2010. I must warn you that previous attempts at online travel journals have been short lived, typically lasting no more than two entries, but this time I'm going to try harder. I promise.

Everything in Egypt has exceeded my expectations. The traffic, crowds, baksheesh requests, taxi driver rip offs, trains and air pollution have all been worse than I envisaged. At the same time, all the good things in Egypt have been especially good, far better than what I imagined.

First of all, the food (of course I start with the food). I've had some great meals - from street stand shwarma and felafel to HUGE seafood platters in Alexandria, pizzas half as big as me at the crazy Cairo train station and the above mentioned Koshary ... truly a delight despite its appearance (my friend from Sweden remarked nonchalantly that it resembled the food she prepared for her cats every morning). Drinks of choice have included the 10 spice coffee Alexandria is famous for (there are coffee shops on every corner, the aroma takes over the whole harbourside city) and the very popular cane sugar juice (a bit too sweet for me - I prefer the other freshly squeezed fruit juices you can get at any of the fake fruit decoration-adorned fresh juice shops for just 50 cents).

I've only visited two cities in Egypt so far but I've seen a myriad of culturally and historically important sites. The most impressive of these were the modern library of Alexandria, which stands in place of the famous and mysterious ancient one, Cairo's Khan al-Khalili bazaar and of course the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara. The first word that comes to mind to describe all three is 'big'. The glass roof of the library stretched up so high that the 20 or so window cleaners looked chess pieces strewn on a giant glass chessboard, the bazaar was a maze of colours, sounds (and languages - I'm always amazed by polyglot salesmen in bazaars) and nargileh smoke, and the pyramids... well their size was overwhelming - especially when I considered how they were built. On the other hand, inside of the pyramids and tombs were very cramped - even I had to fold myself in half to get through some doors. (I felt sorry for the Norwegian tourist behind me). All the folding and crawling was totally worth it though - the hieroglyphics on the inside of some tombs were so intact, for a second I thought they were fake (something I wouldn't put past the Egyptians but in this case highly doubt!).

I've heard the joke that the worst thing in Egypt is the Egyptians many times. Unfortunately, on the whole from my first impression, I'd have to agree. While there has been the occasional friendly stranger (a young boy who legitimately wanted to practise his English in Alexandria, a pizzaiolo in Cairo and a group of teenagers selling strawberries outside Cairo's main station), I've had a few too many encounters with fun-dampening taxi drivers, tourist policemen, unhelpful people on the street and pestering salespeople to give a rave review of the Egyptian population. Egypt has been such a popular tourist destination for so long that it feels like the local people have had it up to here with tourists, and I must say, in some cases I can't blame them! The busloads of inconsiderate, culturally unaware tourists with their boobs and muffin tops bulging out of their singlets and shorts really irk me, and I think we'd all have a nicer time if they took their head out of their guidebooks and looked around for a second... ! Anyway, it's lucky that I have to leave now to get the night bus to Dahab so you don't have to endure any more of my ranting. Love to everyone! 

Tags: drinks, food, fruit, library, people, pyramids

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