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27th (Thu)
May 2010

[day70] Sidetracked to Luxor

Sidetracked to LuxorI was actually planning to stay only Cairo for a week. That's all in Egypt. However as the guy at Cairo's accommodation tried to sell a tour to Luxor and Aswan, I changed my mind and bought a train ticket to Luxor by myself. Well, in vain his effort was. It takes about 12 hours from Cairo to Luxor by a night train. Even though I’d have preferred to take a day train with nice views through the window, for security reasons only the night train is available for foreigners. I chose the compartment car over sleeping car as it was cheaper.

The train arrived Luxor when I was talking with Japanese university students. There were more than 20 people welcoming us when we left the train though as you guessed those people were just trying to pick us up to their tours or hotels. I'd known this but it was much noisier than Cairo. I told one of them the name of the hostel I'd booked already and he brought his mate. According to him, he would lead me to go there. It was obvious that he would require some amount of tip after the guiding but I decided to follow him as I rationalised myself that I was buying time from him and the price wouldn’t be too bad. After all I realised that when I was with him apparently the other people wouldn't try approaching me. I saw many visitors had difficulty to get rid of those annoying people. In a way this could be the best to avoid stressful time there.


Sidetracked to LuxorLuxor is divided to East and West by the Nile River, and the city including my accommodation is located at the East side. There are two phenomenal temples at the East side and I went to both of them by bicycle on the day of the arrival as they were located at reasonable proximity to the city. In fact they were surprisingly impressive. Both of the temples, Luxor and Karnak were so gigantic that I didn’t care about my lack of historical knowledge. I was just overwhelmed. What’s more, somehow only a small number of people were there despite the fact those two are a very famous tourist spot. So I could walk around there without irritation.


On the other day, I went to the west side with a charted taxi. The taxi just brought me to the entrances of main sites and waited until I came back to the parking. It was the same pattern as I used in Ayutthaya, Thailand. For costwise, it could be wise to join a group tour but I don't like those tours as I need to settle one place until I get a really nice photo and I don't mind to cover all the tiny detailed places. I could've picked up the other tourists to my taxi and reduced the cost but failed to find the ones who were willing to go with me. Anyway the taxi didn't cost too much for me as it was based on Egyptian price.


Sidetracked to LuxorUnfortunately all activities of photography were forbidden at the Valley of the Kings where I went first. Though I entered paying quite a high entrance fee the old cave paintings and coffins didn’t arouse my mind. I felt the same as the Egyptian Museum I went at Cairo. And at the next destination Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatsheptsut, I even didn’t dare to enter the site as it was way too many people. In a way, it was quite impressive to see the numbers of buses lining up at the parking. And strange to say, there were no people at the ruins, which are in fact Tombs of the Nobles, just around the parking. According to the guards nearby, unless I enter the inside of the tombs I was free to walk around the site and no problems for photography either. As usual, an old guy tried to give me a guide but ignoring him I enjoyed walking and photo shooting alone.


Sidetracked to LuxorI also went to two rather minor sites, The Ramesseum and Medinet Habu and I found them better than previous ones. Sitting on a stone in the middle of deserted ruin, I felt as though I'd been transported through time to 4000 years ago. It was indeed worth coming with an extra cost. I heard many people would skip these two places but I strongly recommend them over the other famous spots like Valley of the Kings and Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.


Sidetracked to LuxorThere was an interesting moment at the exit of The Ramesseum. Local kids coming by a school trip suddenly surrounded me and asked me to be in the photos with them. Also they made a scene being aimed by my camera. I think meeting with Asian people was a quite rare occasion for them. I'd wholeheartedly welcome this kind of noise for those kids were totally different from people lured by the smell of money. Their teacher who tried to speak to me with a little broken English was nice as well. Indeed, except for the people working for the tourism industry, most of Egyptians are nicely ingenious.


I was actually planning to go back to Cairo at once and going to Nuweiba which is a border town next to Jordan. However as the guy at the accommodation told me “It would be cheaper to go to Nuweiba via Dahab by bus. We can help you to buy the ticket”, I bought the bus ticket to Dahab by myself. Well, in vain his effort was. According to information, it would take about 15 hours to go there. But I didn’t know about Dahab very much and couldn’t guess what was waiting there at that time.

Entry Info

26th (Wed)
May 2010

[day67] Cairo Sightseeing

Cairo SightseeingSince I stayed in Cairo for a week, I visited most of the touristic spots there. First of all, the place I must go was the pyramids. As I mentioned at the previous entry, my preconception towards Egypt had been the pyramids standing in the middle of vast desert. However surprisingly, the pyramids were located at the edge of the city and quite a few houses are build almost next to them. Besides a tremendous number of people were there. Although I always try not to capture unnecessary people in my photos, I couldn’t avoid them this time. Nevertheless, the pyramids are so big that those people don’t spoil the photos.

Cairo SightseeingThe entrance fees at tourist spots in Egypt are a bit expensive. Most places set a 'foreigner' price and for example the ticket for pyramids cost 60EGP(10USD approx). What's more, if you want to go inside of the pyramids or closer to the sphinx, an additional fee will be applied. I felt it was an official ripping off policy from the Egyptian government as their biggest industry is tourism indeed. Someone said that their pyramids and temples were super long term public works since thousands years ago. Besides another main industry of Egypt is in fact the transit fee of Suez Canal. I reckon Egyptians should produce something more.

I also went to an Egyptian Museum which is also one of the highlighted spots in Cairo tourism. Yet it didn't hit my spot sadly. New kingdom, Ramses I might've heard about their names during the nap in high school years ago but I couldn’t find any interests towards countless statues arrayed along the corridors. I just realised that interests come from the basic knowledge of the subjects. Also there was a special room for loyal mummies but I didn’t enter there as it required an additional entrance fee. In that situation, I found a small funny scene. Two guards were chatting leaning against a stone coffin and there was a big sign which said "Don’t touch!" Well, this is the Egyptian quality indeed.

Cairo SightseeingOld Cairo namely Coptic Area was my favourite place in Cairo. In fact Egypt is one of the oldest countries in which Christianity has been believed and a local sect called Coptic comprises 10% of the whole Egyptian population. They have been living in this Old Cairo since the second century far before Islam was born. Most usages of cars are restricted in the area and the winds passing though the small alleys were nicely cooler than the city sides. I found some small churches and people quietly praying there. Though I'm not a Christian, this scenery refreshed my spirit.

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Surprising Welcome from the Middle EastThe first thing which surprised me in Cairo was the crazy number of cars there. The preconception I had for Cairo was just the pyramids in the middle of the desert. However, I had to realise it was totally wrong when I was on a taxi from the airport to the accommodation. The vehicles in the traffic jams ignored the existence of traffic lanes and trying to pushing in each of them just drove forward egoistically. I suppose they have no idea of what compromise is. Anyway it looked completely chaotic as too many cars don’t care about the other ones.

Incidentally, there are few traffic lights in Cairo city. There are actually some in the important spots but policemen also stand there all the time as nobody is willing to comply with the lights only. Besides, they were in only a few points and most of cars just go forward following the traffic. What’s more, this rule applies to the pedestrians too. When a person wants to cross a main road, he has to, with his little courage, make his step in to the heavy traffic and run through the road. Otherwise, a lot of cars just charge him with noisy horns. I'm not joking here. However, I noticed many local people just crossed the road as if they didn’t have any problems despite the shocking condition. I tried to observe them and finally found out a trick they are using.

The key point was finding slow cars. On the heavy traffic, there are some really junk like old cars and way too heavily laden buses. They are apparently slower than the others and we have to make use of the difference. Once we find the slow vehicles, we must dash out without hesitation and we can make it. I guess there was an old video game something like this. Though I finally got used to this situation, I'm now afraid of myself if I do the same in the other developed countries afterwards.

Surprising Welcome from the Middle EastToo much traffic means too much air pollution. This was the first time for me, who had stayed in the middle of Tokyo for years, to feel "I can't stand it!" with the air. After walking around Cairo city for about 2 hours, my throat began to feel sore and even I found myself dizzy too. What’s more, there were shockingly no bubbles when I used shampoo. This is all because of the vehicles belching black exhaust all around the city. For the global environment, I'd like to suggest developed countries invest in countries like Egypt to reduce the dirty exhausts rather than squeezing themselves to cut their own already minimized emissions. This might be bit difficult due to the diplomatic interests though.

Another problem in Cairo was in fact people there. There is a Japanese travellers saying that there are three worst annoying countries in the world; India, Morocco, and Egypt. Although Cairo is regarded as rather mild as it's a sort of urbanised city, many people tried to stop me, saying "Hey my friend, what are you looking for. I'm your friend and I can take you anywhere you want." Oh, we can be friends with a single eye contact in your country? Besides, there is a person saying to me, "Are you Egyptian? I thought you are a local person. What are you doing here?" Well, I think I heard this phrase before.

There are also too many demands of tipping too. They simply said "Don't you give me any tip?" with smile but their eyes seemed very serious too. Even though I did give a humble amount of tip to the driver of the taxi organised by my accommodation from the airport, he furiously complained like "The tip is too small! Even the petrol I used costs more than this!" I have never been complained about the amount of the tip before. Anyway the cost of petrol should have been covered with the regular fare from the accommodation.

I must say that not all Egyptians are as annoying as them. Most of local people are in fact quite nice. However, regarding the people who are in the tourist industry, it is indeed their job to rip the tourist off as much as they can. Therefore, it is very natural to them to present shockingly expensive price for the first time and demand some tip after the deals. Common sense, good sense varies from the places you are brought up, fundamentally. Well, I realised that I'd come to a very tough area.

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