Tag Archives: Cairo

Words of an Egyptian-Canadian in Cairo…

3 Feb

…in a time of Revolution (#Jan25)

My Egyptian-Canadian friend, Maged, lives in Cairo, Egypt. With the internet back on, I finally received an email from him assuring me that he is safe. Thank God.

With his permission, I am posting his email so that you can read it and have a feel for what it’s like for some of those on the ground. He is not near Tahrir. He is living in one of many neighbourhoods in Cairo. He is protecting his family, friends, and neighbours the best way he knows how in a city of chaos.

The words below have been minimally edited to reflect one person’s opinion. Please do not take it as anything else.

We’re all living under marshal law with a curfew at 3pm and zero police presence – we just have each other to depend on for security.

We block off our streets and don’t let anyone in after 3pm, and everyone in the neighborhood comes downstairs and patrols the streets looking for outsiders, I’ve been freezing my ass off every night staying up all night guarding my home and my family’s home with makeshift road blocks, handguns and shotguns….we also pray every night that this nightmare ends.

There’s no petrol in the gas stations but the food and water supply seem to be holding up pretty well. I’ve gotten to know everyone in my building and on my street from this vigilante type of self protection that we’ve set up – our situation is not unique. Apparently every single street in Cairo is like this.

Whenever we catch anyone trying to infiltrate our neighbourhood we whistle to each other and fire warning shots in the air. Usually they get scared off.
We wear armbands to tell friends from foes and so far we haven’t had any problems.

We all watch TV or listen to the radio on the street and hope that this shit ends as soon as possible so we can go back to our normal lives. There are tanks and APC’s (armoured personnel carrier) in Korba and Salah Salem, it’s a strange and bewildering sight. There’s still zero police presence on the streets and whenever we see a police car we make the occupants get out of the car and search them. A lot of police cars have been stolen and used by criminals released from prison or those just trying to steal anything they can get their hands on.

We pass the time telling jokes and talk politics. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is divided on who and what should happen, but we all agree that we want this to end.

It’s been days of this chaos with no end in sight, and yet when I walk around my neighborhood seeing the streets filled with people with sticks, knives, and guns protecting their homes, I can’t help but look on in absolute disbelief that this is happening in Cairo, one of the safest cities in the world that changed overnight. I still think its very safe though because everyone is on the streets protecting their homes, but vigilante justice is no way to live.

Anyways, I can’t wait to be back in Toronto and not have to deal with gunshots every night.

Originally from my Tumblr blog

Shukran (Thanks)

18 Dec

I met a lot of great Egyptians living in Cairo on my trip – and I will never forget the hospitality that I received from them.
When my backpack was temporarily ‘lost’ (but found a day later) and I had no extra clothes to wear, Shahira and Maged came through for me with a bag of clothes and shoes.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I only met Shahira once in Toronto before I went to Cairo? And that I had never met Maged at all before Egypt? I was introduced to them by some friends here in Toronto.
Both of them and their friends took me out for some fantastic late nights in Cairo.

Horseback riding by the pyramids at night was exhilarating – and a little scary because you didn’t really control your horse’s speed…that was the guide’s job and the horses only listen to him!

Felucca’ing on the Nile was relaxing, while the party boat with neon lights and music was a fun and very entertaining experience. The only awkward moment was when they made me get up and attempt bellydancing (I did a really poor job, and a little girl on the same boat put us all to shame!).

What would an Egyptian experience be without coffee and shisha? Well I had a lot of that…I’m pretty sure shisha goes with everything though. i.e. Sushi + Shisha: my most memorable meal was sitting by the Nile at Sequoia and eating some really great sushi (along with some shisha). The sushi there was better than the all-you-can-eat ones here, that’s for sure!

I didn’t get too many days/nights in Cairo, but the ones I did have were definitely not wasted. I don’t think I got much sleep while in Cairo, but it was well worth it!

Thank you: Maged, Shahira, Tony, Andrew, Asem, & friends for showing me around Cairo, entertaining me, feeding me, and driving me around. You are awesome and I will never forget my trip to Egypt – and yes, you can go ahead and take credit for that! :)

And let’s not forget my tour-mates and tour guide, Shady: you guys also made my trip super fun and unforgettable – I will have entertaining stories to tell for a long time. Special thanks to Matilda! For putting up with late room-arrivals or non-arrivals at times, and for checkin’ on me when I was sick.

My trip in one word: Incredible

Kom Ombo to Cairo

30 Oct

We temporarily got off the felucca at Kom Ombo to visit a temple known as a “mirror” temple for its symmetrical architecture: one side of the building perfectly reflects the other. Facing the temple (1st pic below), you will notice that the left side looks similar to the right – it’s the same on the inside.

This temple is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god, and to Horus as well. There used to be crocodiles in these parts so Ancient Egyptians prayed to Sobek to protect them from these predators. Kom Ombo was also a place of healing where everyone went to receive treatment from the priests & priestesses – it served as a hospital.
There are engraved images of what is thought to be the first representation of medical instruments for performing surgery including scalpels, forceps, scissors and medicine bottles.

After our Temple of Kom Ombo visit, we had our last nite on the felucca. In the morning we were driven to Luxor where we boarded an overnight train to Cairo.
Note: if you ever plan to take an overnight train in Egypt, bring a sleeping bag. It gets frigid!

Once back in Cairo, two girls and I decided to fill our day with a visit to the Egyptian Museum and a trip to the Khan el-Khalili market.

Egyptian Museum highlights included King Tutankhamun’s very large and magnificent jewelry collection and the other artifacts that were buried with him in his tomb. We also had the chance to see some real mummies – kind of creepy, but fascinating. On some of them, you could clearly see facial features. I’ll have to admit that the Egyptian museum lacked in the labeling department, so I had no idea what I was looking at some of the time. Hopefully the new Egyptian Museum (being built to house the artifacts that didn’t all fit in the 1st museum) will have everything labelled.

Khan el-Khalili is a major souk/market in the Islamic district of Cairo. The bazaar district is one of Cairo’s main attractions for tourists. Expect to see the typical souvenir stores, food stands, and coffee shops when you go.

My Khan el-Khalili adventure was interesting because we got lost and ended up on the side where local Egyptians shopped.
The side we were aiming to explore has your typical tourist souvenirs (papyrus, toy camels, scarves), more-expensive-than-usual prices at restaurants, and touts who never leave you alone. Where we were, there were undergarments, rugs, and things that you wouldn’t normally buy as a tourist.
After wandering through maze-like alleyways, a really nice mosque tour guide pointed us in the right direction and we, so to say, got “un-lost”. Without his help, I’d still probably be in that maze.

That night, some people from our tour group were leaving so we had a goodbye dinner on a Nile cruise boat where there was bellydancing entertainment and a whirling dervish.

What’s a whirling dervish, you ask?

This isn’t my video, but I figured it would do the job in showing you what a whirling dervish does….spin, spin, and spin…with objects too! I have no idea how they can spin for so long and how they keep their balance, so I’m going to have to attribute it to talent.

Let’s start at the Pyramids! (obviously)

8 Sep

Location:

Cairo

Everyone who travels to Egypt must see the Pyramids of Giza.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (Pyramid of Khufu) is listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. In fact, it is the only one left standing out of that list (the others were destroyed by either earthquake, arson or human destruction).

Not seeing the Pyramids…is like going to Peru and not seeing Machu Picchu. Or going to Rio de Janeiro and not seeing Christ the Redeemer (you know, the big statue of Jesus). Even if you think it’s overrated, you’ve gotta see it.

As cliché as it sounds, I can’t really describe what it’s like to see the Pyramids in real life. It’s difficult to convey how big it really is.

Some say/believe there’s an energy or aura around them – like the atmosphere should feel different when you’re in the presence of the pyramids. And then….there are also those who worship the pyramids on an annual basis so…take what you want from that. hah.

Personally, I didn’t feel it (whatever the “it” is supposed to be)…it’s hard to feel anything but hot, sticky, and crowded when there are hundreds of tourists around you at the hottest time of the year; nonetheless, I was awed by these giant structures.
They’re – simply put – amazing.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu has a square base approximately 230m long and rises to about 140m in height – if you can imagine it.
And if you can’t, well here’s some visual. Take a look at the people, camels, & vehicles in the background and how tiny they are (click for a larger image, zoom for detail).

Pyramid

There is the chance to go inside the pyramids, but there are limited tickets sold each day. Our tour group was too late to grab Great Pyramid tickets, but we did get to go inside the second one – the Pyramid of Khafre. If you’re claustrophic, don’t bother entering any pyramids. My journey inside involved walking down a very narrow and low tunnel to a room which houses Khafre’s granite sarcophagus; and it was definitely a sweaty affair. The temperature is actually better outside the pyramid in the blazing sun than inside it!

Well, we all know the heat doesn’t stop tourists – so off we went to see the Sphinx.

Sphinx

Description: Face of a man, body of a lion.
According to Wiki, it is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 m (241 ft) long, 6 m (20 ft) wide, and 20 m (65 ft) high.

Note: Napoleon was not responsible for the missing nose.

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Some things of interest:

  • There is no clear answer as to how the pyramids were built. There are lots of theories, but according to Frommer’s Egypt guidebook, the most common involve 1) that the ancient Egyptians built ramps up the sides of the pyramids or 2) that they used some kind of lever device to lift up the blocks. Oh and of course there’s the theory that aliens built them. Those smart aliens…
  • The Orion Correlation Theory. Its central claim is that there is an intended correlation between the location of the 3 largest pyramids of the Giza pyramid complex and the 3 middle stars of the constellation Orion (which forms Orion’s Belt).
  • We were told that there is one room in the Great Pyramid (I think) where gravity measured 9.4 (instead of 9.8). If you put meat or fruit in this room, it won’t rot for a significantly longer time than you would expect. If you place a dull razor blade in the room, it will become sharp after a couple of days. Here’s where I have to admit that I have yet to find literature & research on this. A quick search of Google did not turn up hugely relevant results, but I’m still looking. If anyone knows of a resource, I’d appreciate a link/suggestion :)

My little disclaimer: Any seemingly factual tidbit that I’ve posted is not guaranteed to be true. I’m only re-iterating what I’ve heard or read. I’m no Egyptologist :)

If you’d like to see my public Facebook album of Egypt pics click here
Enjoy!

Oh, and check back soon for more of my Egyptian tales :)