One of the main draws for Chris and I to the Foreign Service life was the chance to introduce our children to as many world cultures as possible. When Chris let me choose where we would go on a little getaway just by ourselves I immediately narrowed it down to Istanbul and Cairo. I have wanted to see the pyramids since I was old enough to dig ha! I also wanted to shop at the Grand Bizarre since I heard there was a “grand bizarre”. I sort of had (and still have) hopes that we would end up living in Turkey and then I would do some SERIOUS shopping at the grand bizarre, where I never really want to live in Egypt, so a visit would be perfect. We absolutely want our kids to experience Egypt as well but at the time of our R&R we thought they were a bit young to appreciate it, so they got to stay with Grandma and Grandpa who were serving a mission in Rome, Italy for our church at the time. Hard life for them right? Gelato and snuggles all around
Chris and I boarded an 11pm flight from Rome to Cairo. I was rather embarrassing in the airport. I had never left my kiddos over night. EVER. And even though I knew they were in the best hands they could be in aside from our own, it was really hard. I am embarrassed to admit a tear or two might have fallen. When we got there the lines were WAAAAAAY longer then we anticipated. While I tried to drag my feet (secretly hoping we might miss the flight and have to go back to our sleeping children) Chris was ridiculous at getting us through customs etc. I mean, going through VIP lines when we weren’t, charming people in line into letting us go ahead of them, he was incredible. We BARELY made the flight. When we arrived in Cairo it was 4am and we were exhausted. A tourist group from Brazil was on the plane and if you know anything about Brazilians you know they are loud, friendly parties and these were no exception. They completely ignore the seat belt signs and just talked in large groups the whole flight. Sporadically breaking out into song. We wearily dragged ourselves off the plane and into the HUGE customs and immigration area. I talked Chris into going in the Diplomatic line at first. “We’re diplomates Chris we should go in the Dip line, look how much shorter it is” whine whine whine (I wonder where Evie gets it ha!) So begrudgingly he oblidges. The line moves at a snails pace and we finally get to the front. We flash our Dip passports and the officer asks “Where is your diplomatic visa?” Blank stares from the two of us “ummmmm” “If you don’t have a Diplomatic Visa you have to enter on your regular passport and go purchase a visa on arrival over there” He points to another HUGE line. Ughhhhhhhh. Chris being the gentleman he is doesn’t say a word about the last hour we wasted because of my abhorrence for waiting. We go get our Visa and now get into the normal line (so much for diplomatic privileges right?) While in line Chris fills me in on the fact that you are not allowed travel on your Dip passport unless you are on official orders or going in and out of your host country. Good to know for the future.
We finally make it through immigration and walk into the “greeting area” were we are supposed to be picked up by the Marriott driver, who is no where to be found. We are immediately overwhelmed. Not knowing where to go we head to guest services. This is where we get our first taste of the Egyptian buisinessman. After giving us a huge pitch for all the different tours his “brother” could give us for a good deal we explain we really just want to head to the hotel and sleep. He curtly says “go to the taxi line and take the first one in the que”. Sounds easy enough right? WRONG. As soon as the doors open we are bombarded with Taxi drivers offering us different rates to go with them. Never mind they have no idea where we are going. This is also when I get my first reminder that we are in a Muslim country as I yell out to Chris, who is trying to make sense of any of them, “Just pick one sweet heart!” Silence. Uh oh. After a few looks of disdain they go back to their bartering. Since the “que” is three cars across we have no idea which is the “first one” so we go with the guy who says he will take us to the Marriott for $15 bucks. Fine. We start walking towards a car that another couple and several bags of grain are being shoved into. “Um, you didn’t say we would be sharing a taxi.” “You don’t want to share? That will be $25.00.” At this point we are so exhausted we agree and are put into a white van. You know one of those ones that kidnappers notoriously drive? The driver immediately starts in on tours “his brother” could take us on, Luxor, Valley of Kings, Red Sea Rivera etc. etc. As we come to the exit of the Airport two security guards stop the van. Our side door is opened and one asks for our passports while the other takes down the name of the driver and the tags on the Van. After writing our information below the vans we are asked to both sign it. I look at Chris with an “Oh my gosh we are so going to die” panic in them. He is cool as a cucumber though and we head to the hotel.
After dodging setting a time for the drivers “brother” to come pick us up and go site seeing we stumble to the front desk of the gorgeous Marriott we had cashed in our points to stay at. We are greeted by a concierge dressed in what I am sure is an Armani suit and handed some super yummy strawberry smoothies and water. Chris’s glass was sitting on the counter. We don’t know if he was just so tired her didn’t realize it or what but he some how swacked the glass sending it flying and shattering behind the desk, smoothie was everywhere, all over the guy and his awesome suit all over the computers used for check in every where. While we apologize profusely he wipes himself off hushes our apologies and hands chris another drink. I tell him if he spills it he’s dead ha! After setting up a tour of the pyramids for noon we head to our room and CRASH asleep. When the alarm goes off I briefly contemplating skipping the tour, I mean how cool are the pyramids right We get up and head downstairs and meet our tour guide who is a six month preggy lovely lady. We head on out to the pyramids. Along the way she tells us about Cairo. I ask why so many buildings are completely unfinished (rebar poking out the top etc) she said that once the buildings are finished they have to start paying taxes on them so the builders just draggggg their feet. They have people live in them of course, just not the top floor. Huh. Chris was struck by how it was only green for about a half a mile on either side of the Nile and then it was pure desert. We both thought the “fertile crescent” would be a little more green. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t expecting a jungle or forrest by any means just a but more green. I was completely shocked when she pointed out her window and said “There is Giza” What! It is like ten feet from town? I had this vision of riding out into the desert to an isolated locale where out of the hills of sand rose the pyramids… or we could just stop at the pizza hut and grab a slice and walk over (I am not exaggerating… ok maybe a little but there is a pizza hut right there).
After frequenting the ladies room and paying a dollar for two squares of toilet paper we headed out. After milling about for a bit a security guard offered to take a picture for us. I was wary that he would run off with my camera. He didn’t, he just charged us 20 bucks for the picture. When we bartered him down he then said “and ten for my friend” who literally stood there and watched us get our picture taken. Yeah…. I could suddenly remember why I didn’t go to Tijuana often growing up. Chris knew I REALLY wanted to ride a camel around the pyramids so he of course bartered away while I took pictures of these amazing animals
“Do you shop at Anthropologie Mr. Camel? ’cause I am pretty sure I saw the rug that is on your back there for like 500 dollars”
We literally walked for about 800 feet, took a picture and then walked back. And it was AMAZING. Totally worth it. We headed back to our tour guide who then took us to a papyrus shop where I bought some blank parchment for Sawyer to take to his class (they colored the cutest picture and wrote all their names, one of my fav souvenirs from Timor).
The next day we went to the Egyptian museum of Antiquities. I was pretty excited for this. I kept thinking of Indian Jones for some reason and thought it was going to be such an adventure. I was disappointed when they took my camera at the door. (We paid extra for insurance… what the what!) While the artifacts were incredible this was one of the most disorganized museums I have ever been to. The labels for things were extremely old. Most were done on a typewriter but a good chunk was also scribbled by hand. I had gone to king Tutankahman’s exhibit when it came to BYU and was so impressed. The museum should have had it in the contract that the display came back to the museum with the artifacts ha! Over all it was incredible just not what I expected. We were going to dinner with some friends and since finished at the museum much earlier then we thought we would we headed to Hard Rock Cafe. I seek this restaurant out in almost every foreign city. Why? Not for the quality of food, which is mediocre, but for the refillable drinks. Ahhhhhhh. Apparently Hard Rock is a swanky joint in Cairo and we had a lot of fun people watching. We then met our friends at a delicious local tappas resturant. They apologized for their tardiness but there was a riot on the bridge coming in because of a soccer game. Fans poured out of a bus and were smashing car windows etc. Pretty good excuse for being late right
After our delightful dinner we hailed a taxi and headed home. The next day we did something some might seem odd. We swam at the pool, went to the mall and saw a movie. It was AWESOME. After months of being in a place with no mall, no movies and only the embassy pool it was a much needed and much enjoyed break.
We then hoped on a plan and were back with our cuties and fabulous in-laws by morning.
Egypt was an amazing adventure. I am pretty excited to take the kids there. Though both Chris and I agree we will be staying somewhere along the Red Sea and taking a day trip into Cairo. But we have PLENTY of time and I am sure the world will have changed 100 times over by then