Egypt Day Two saw us again brave the heat to visit some historic sites in the Cairo area. (We do think that it stayed below triple digits today, so at least we had that going for us.) We started out the day with a new twist on breakfast: scrambled eggs, decent coffee (so says Kathy), and the obligatory Tang for Dave. The eggs were much tastier than the plain egg (crepe) we had the day before and the coffee was more like home and less like pudding, again according to Kathy.
Belly’s full, we felt that we were ready to begin our day with Sam, our trusty guide in Egypt. Driving into the heart of Cairo was an adventure. We have determined that pedestrians in Egypt are the equivalent to the frogs in Frogger: they stroll, saunter, dash, and dodge cars on highways, rural streets, and city traffic. There is an ethereal balance between automobiles and pedestrians in Egypt. None like to give ground, but both do in the end when needed. We have witnessed no accidents or even close calls in three days here, so who are we to judge? Lanes, if painted on the freeway, are just a suggestion. (Think Bumper Cars, but without the bumping!) There is no need to stay in the lane, straddle the lane, or be accommodating to the other drivers. It is okay to cut in front of someone, cut them off, or turn abruptly in front of them. Going down the wrong side of a highway can be useful at times, so go for it! Cars are like pedestrians: it is every man or woman for themselves!! Oh, and this would be crazy enough with cars and pedestrians struggling amongst each other. Throw in crazy motorcyclists, the ubiquitous tuk-tuks, horse- and donkey-pulled carts, and even camels vying for asphalt space (when there was asphalt), and scenes from Indiana Jones are recalled.
The first stop was the Great Museum of Cairo which houses thousands of Egyptian artifacts. Much of the displays have been moved to the new museum scheduled to open later this year, and yet we still did not get a chance to see everything. One of the highlights was some items from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, “King Tut” or the “boy king”, whose burial site was the only tomb found intact and had not been robbed through the ages. A nice change-up was ice-cream after our walk through the museum, even if it was more expensive than our dinner later that evening.
Next stop was the Citadel, which is large fort including two mosques. Our guide, Sam, spent time explaining the Islamic religion and gave us a great deal of insight into the parallels between Christianity and Islamism. We felt blessed to have a greater understanding of the religion, as well as the commonality and differences between the two religions. We do believe that greater understanding creates an environment of mutual respect between the two cultures instead of fear. The sites provide written literature about the basic questions asked across the globe: the “why’s” of Islamic religion. We went away from our time there with information to better understand.
We did find though that Dave and Kathy were somewhat of a novelty or had a certain amount of celebrity status. Upon entering the Citadel, Dave was asked to pose with a group of young men, each one individually and then together. Apparently, foreigners are not seen very often by local Egyptians, and they are an instant attraction. That uniqueness continued to Kathy. At one point, she asked a woman if she needed help taking a picture with her husband. Instead of wanting a picture with her husband, she wanted her picture taken with Kathy. In total, about twenty pictures were taken of Kathy and her, including her kissing Kathy on the cheek, and then the other cheek, Kathy kissing her on the cheek, Kathy and her hugging, and of course smiling at the camera. The woman seemed almost giddy with the experience.
Next stop was without a doubt the most interesting and awe-inspiring moments in our entire journey and made the trip here worth every moment. Dave and Kathy visited the Coptic Christian Church of St. Mary (Also known as the Hanging Church) and stood in the same room where the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby/toddler Jesus stayed. We saw the well where they drew water out of when thirsty. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled Jerusalem after King Herod ordered the killing of all the male firstborn children. As the bible recounts, they fled to parts of Egypt. The Egyptians and Islamic religion consider Jesus a prophet, and on each site where the family stayed, a Christian church was built. You can trace the route and visit these most holy churches.
On the way out, Kathy and Dave stopped by the obligatory gift shop, looking for a Christmas ornament for home. They did not find an ornament, but they did find a 2021 Calendar, in Arabic, with the cover showing a photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is in the district of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina where Dave served for years as the District Ranger. Perhaps this was how they obtained their celebrity status?
There was another humorous moment when Dave and Kathy first arrived at Coptic Cairo. Sam dropped them off near the entrance and went to park his car. While waiting for Sam, Dave and Kathy were approached by one of the three branches of police we have seen so far. This one was a Tourist Police Officer. He had a book where he took our names and where we were from. Usually, Sam handled this at the tourist sites, but he was parking the car. We just stood there waiting for Sam and Kathy got the feeling the officer was waiting for us to hand him a bribe. As we were waiting, one person exited the area, shook hands with the officer while holding some money, and then the officer deftly placed the money in his pocket. While waiting, though, Dave struck up a conversation with the officer and told him he is a retired Police Officer. The officer proudly announced that he is a Captain, at which time Dave saluted him and shook his hand. A more cordial scene unfolded thereafter. On our way out, El Capitan said goodbye to Dave and saluted him, but never left his chair in the shade to accept a bribe.
We rounded out the day relaxing with our guide and drinking coffee and tea at a local coffee house. While Sam thought the coffee was amazingly good, Kathy likened it to coffee pudding. Dave kept it safe and had Lipton tea. Sam regaled us with tales from his life in Egypt, his family and his career. Desperation crept in, and Kathy finally had to cut off Sam and said she had to use a restroom or ………… He graciously drove her back to the hotel. Phew!!!
Dinner was an event. Instead of ordering in as we have the previous two nights, Dave suggested we walk to a local street and find some food. Kathy is always willing to follow him and was onboard with the idea. She has always (Dave’s edit: USUALLY) been happy with his suggestions. Like always, some of the best times and best food can be discovered around the corner in local neighborhoods. We went to a restaurant and had pasta with chicken, which was yummy, cooked to a perfection, and was affordable. It came with a cucumber salad, a tomato appetizer, and water for the grand total $3.50 US dollars. Next stop, the local baker where we again splurged and bought two small slices of cake and a package of cookies for the grand total of $3.50 cents. Total dinner including dessert: $7.00 US dollars (or 100 Egyptian Pounds). Oh, and we have cookies for our train trip tomorrow. We were again asked to pose with the owner of the restaurant and all his staff. It took a couple of tries but he finally had the perfect picture to remember us visiting him at the restaurant. Again, celebrity status!! The Blue Ridge Parkway strikes again.
Tomorrow, THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN……………