This morning we woke up feeling cold! The air conditioner is set for something like 18 C and we cant seem to change it, not like we're complaining or anything.
After the hotel breakfast we set off to find our travel agent. Having researched her address yesterday at the internet cafe, and asked the hotel to write it in Arabic, we set off to get ourselves a taxi. This was the first time to take a cab this trip, and it will not be soon forgotten. We're not sure our driver was actually Egyptian....he only honked his horn once during the 45 minute journey.
We had asked him if he knew where he was going when he looked at the address, he nodded....and we agreed on a price of 10 Egyptian pounds to get us there. This is the equivalent of about 2.50 Canadian. He wore a seatbelt over his shoulder, but not buckled in. We didn't have any belts in the back seats, but the ride was pretty reasonable. It is amazing how sometimes there are 3 lanes and sometimes that changes to 4 or 5 depending on the interchange, and the number of double or triple parked cars there are. Add to this busses with people almost dangling out of the open doors, and sitting on laps. We decided taxis will cut down on the possibility being groped.
Our driver navigated the roadways, we crossed the Nile, and got to the travel agent neighbourhood (or so he thought). I'm not sure if the original english translation from Arabic was wrong, or if the hotel lady wrote the new translation into Arabic wrong, but we had a great deal of trouble finding the travel agency. The driver stopped and yelled out the window to several guys working on the streets, but nobody seemed to know....they were all trying to be very helpful, specially since there were two foreign women in the back seat. They came over to talk to us, and practice English as much as helping the poor driver.
Finally we got out the phone number of the agency, and the driver pulled out his phone, and passed it to the TNT (parcel delivery) guy who was helping us, and knew English. That man drew a map for the driver, and that eventually got us in the right direction.
We gave the driver an extra 2 pounds and asked him to stay and wait for us. He didn't, but that ended up being fine anyway.
The travel agency, although claiming to accept VISA and Mastercard did not, and we needed close to 4000 Egyptian pounds, which we didn't have on us. Their steward walked us to the nearest ATM about 4 blocks away (in the heat), and I had success withdrawing money. Clare is having trouble with her Nationwide bank card imposing ridiculous limits on cash withdrawl. Lucky for her, the Alliance and Leicester card she has IS working.
So, we now have tickets for our cruise, and our trains....and had a pretty fun taxi adventure to boot.
We caught another cab from the main street to go to the Antiquities Museum, which we knew was close, but over a bridge, and it was hot. The first cab wanted to charge us 20 pounds! We laughed at him and waved him on, by now a long line of taxis were waiting to get our business. The next was not much better, asking for 10 pounds. After waving him off, another asked for 9 pounds...but we talked him down to 5, since we told him it was close, and he had seen us wave off so many others.
The museum was very very very security conscious. We had to show passports to get into the area, then scan our bags....for weapons maybe, and then we were able to pay the 60 pounds to get tickets. We then tried to get a decent price for drinks--we had been ripped off in Sinai at 7 pounds per can of pop...it was MUCH worse here, they were charging 15 pounds a can. They must think tourists are stupid. Most were though, they were paying it! We enjoyed our smuggled water, and headed to the museum.
We passed the turnstiles, our tickets were tonr, but then at the next set of security gates, we had bags scanned again, this time they found our cameras and we had to check them at the front gate. We left through the turnstiles, checked our cameras (but we were sneaky, we took out the batteries and memory cards and brought them with us--if anyone wants to take our cameras, they will not be functional!)
The museum was amazingly full. We spent our time avoiding the large tour groups with their guides who waved them around pointing out different things in all sorts of languages. It was at this point that we missed our good buddy Osama, who always seemed to know everything that we were looking at, or at least could read the Arabic and make up the rest. There was actually quite a bit of English explanations written down, but as the museum is not air conditioned, and it is jam packed with artifacts, it is wearing. We got to the point of Pharoah fatigue, and took refuge in the air conditioned exhibits of King Tut, the Tombs of Tanis, and Jewellery.
I was excited to see ancient linen, and weaving, and spinning, and even an old knitting needle in use.
We paid the extra 100 pounds to get in to see the mummies. The guide book says it is only 40 pounds, but I guess they are trying to wring more tourist money out of us. It was well worth it though, when else can you come face to face with 11 authentic mummies. We saw Ramses, the old man with white hair, another one had battle wounds in his skull, another one was very manicured. Some were in their 30s when they died. It is amazing to see the skill of their preservation. This room was nice and cool--no tour guides allowed either.
After the mummies, we left the museum, practiced our street crossing skills, got some lunch at the restaurant we tried last night. We ate in the family section, for women, or families. Men can't go up there alone. That's not to say that the 10 servers there didn't pay lots of attention to us. One fellow was particularly keen, and gave us his name and his phone number and asked to go to America together.
We're planning to go to Cairo tower for sunset and a snack after a brief siesta.