Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 4 In The Land of the River Nile

Day 4 started very nicely as it was the first night that I was able to get to sleep before midnight local time. As a result, I woke up bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to conquer our day trip that we had planned instead of just having a free day. Like every other day, we sat out on the patio for breakfast, drinking coffee, and enjoying the breeze off the Nile. I again ate somewhere in the region of 4 pounds of strawberries. Good news is, I am pretty sure I am not testing positive for scurvy in the near future.

Sally showed up full of energy right at 8:00am to make sure we are all on the bus and ready to go. If you are late, she lets you know about it, so I make sure to inhale my strawberries and find my normal seat on the bus. Right by the window, prime to watch the traffic.

Our first stop today is the Citadel. Inside the Citadel walls is the Al Azar Mosque. This is a mosque that is no longer used for prayer, but is solely a tourist site. It was extremely beautiful. Intricate stained glass windows and inscriptions all over the ceiling make for amazing pictures. Sally sits us down at 9:06 for what is presumably a quick rundown of the history of the, no, she goes through Egypt's entire history. It was ridiculous. She literally walked through every major period and pharoah in Egypt's history. Then, she concludes with the history of the mosque and some of the traditions of the Islam community. We now get "free time" to take is 10:11. We just sat down in the mosque for 65 minutes, and the whole lower half of my body is asleep. I walk around taking pictures and see an adult woman getting her husband to take a picture of her fake praying and laughing the whole time. This sets back foreign relations at least a decade. We walk out of the mosque to head to the next stop and a vendor bullrushes me and says "You Obama?" I reply No, as my name is not Obama, so he says "You Tony Blair?" Everybody here calls Americans Obama, it is actually quite funny. And I must say, like Obama or not, without even doing anything, he has made everybody over here like Americans more. They LOVE talking about Obama.

We then get on the bus to head to Tent Maker's street. This will be the first Egyptian market we have been able to visit. When we get there, I see a man walk up next to us and notice a pistol stuffed in his belt.....I gravitate to Ahmed (our automatic rifle armed bodyguard) and point it out. He laughs and says he is with us. We have added 4 EXTRA armed guards for the trips through the market. This of course has the dueling effect of making me feel extra safe while also wondering why we need 5 guards with guns. A vendor starts talking to me, and he claims to have brother who lives in Chicago. he is super nice, so I wander into his store. Btw, once you actually set foot into the store, you pretty much just bought something. His prices are really good though, so I buy a couple things from him. He says "Sorry, my English is mashed potatoes." I find that pretty funny along with him saying "See you later, alligator" to which I reply "In a while, crocodile." He laughs and throws back "See you soon, baboon." It was amazing. I tell him I have never heard that one and he says "you take it from me my friend." I tip him for making me laugh (I am a tipping sucker)

We then walk through the rest of the market on the way to lunch. I pass a guy that I believe to be selling rabbits, and they are really cute. I get close to them, and Sally pats me on the back and points to the guy holding a skinned one.....I feel like tipping over the cart and setting them all free, but a night in an Egyptian prison doesn't sound fun. Lunch is good, lamb/chicken/beef combo like every other meal we have had. Every meat but pig.

Our next stop is the Alabaster Mosque. This one is still in use, and I am a little uncomfortable barging in on people praying......We walk around for a bit, we get some Islamic literature, and we leave everybody to pray in silence. It was very pretty, but a bit uneventful as I really felt bad barging in.

Next is Tent Maker's Street which is a market that is about 3 times the size of the first one we were in. I am carrying around my bag from the first market, which is the same as carrying a sign that says "I am a sucker that will buy your shit, so bug me about it." I do really want a decorative Shisha, so I am eyeing the sellers of those. I found one that is funny (this is how I judge vendors) and he says "For you Obama, 700 pounds." No thank you, and I walk away. He grabs me and pulls me into the store (screwed). He hands me a calculator and says, type in your price and we will go back and forth. I type in 100 pounds, which is a crazy lowball number to which he responds "Obama, you are breaking my balls!!!!" I can't help but laugh really hard. We go back and forth, and I end up getting it for 300 pounds. I figure that is a pretty good deal as it is less than half the original value. I buy a couple more small things. Joe finds himself a fake Rolex for 200 pounds.

We head back to the hotel as everybody is beat. Most people go to nap, but a couple of us decide to grab a glass of my new favorite Egyptian wine (clearly not made from Egyptian grapes) Omar Kayyam. We sit out and enjoy the amazing weather. One of the girls on are trip then comes down to tell us that she found a local place down the street that has 10 pounds ($1.67) beers and cheap food. I finally get to ride in cab! It is everything I thought it would be. Swerving, almost dying, laughing, and paying 20 pounds to go 4 miles for 5 of us. The restaurant is great, and we completely take over the top floor. We actually manage to drink them out of both beer and wine so we figure this is our cue to leave. We head back to the hotel and hit up the Buddha Bar for one last drink. This is the first night we have all hungout as one big group late night, so it was great getting to know some of the other students better. Tim talks me into the fact that he has taken a tequila shot every night he has ever been abroad to kill germs and he has never gotten sick.......I can't wait to see everybody on the bus bright and early......

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