Feburary 11th – Back in Seattle

Just to add a little irony to our trip, the day we returned to Seattle President Mubarak finally stepped down.  We really wish we had been there for that!  A big congratulations to all of the brave Egyptians who fought for their freedom!

Coming back was rougher than we thought.  Although all of our pictures make it seem like everything was fun, there were some very troubled times and a lot of stress as well. We both suffered from some minor Post Tramatic Stress syndrom, waking up at night in a panic thinking we were back in Egypt…

But everything settled down, and we knew our trip was finally over when we broke out our pile of cheap souveniers!

All the goods

Email from Frankfurt

Out of Egypt‏

Greetings from Frankfurt, Germany!

After an 18 hour delay at the Cairo airport, we are finally out of Egypt and in Germany.  Unfortunatly, due to government enforced curfews, and various other random incidents, our scheduled flight at 5:10 on Tuesday didn’t depart until 2 PM, which mean that we missed our conecting flight back to Seattle, which means that we are having to stay over in Frankfurt for one night then head out tomorrow.  It seems unreal that all of this is finally over.  I know it has only been two weeks, but both Miyuki and I feel like we have been gone for months.  The level of safety is strange in Frankfurt.  We both have that sense of unease, but no real reason for it.  We wondered if it was safe to go outside for a walk from our hotel…and then laughed realizing that was just leftover paranoia from Egypt.

Our last day was nice, and went exactly according to plan.  We went to Coptic (Christian) Cairo, which was small and boring, then to Islamic Cairo, which was huge and magnificent.  We saw a couple of World Heritage buildings, and wandred the massive, massive public market of Khan El Khalili.  That was indescribable.  Every conceivable piece of space was filled with merchants and merchandise for several city blocks.  As the last tourists in Egypt, we still raised a big clatter wherever we went, and had a few paparazzi moments as people filmed us walking down the streets, barganing with merchants and such.  As always, people were happy to see us.  Probably the most touching moment was when a very old man came up to us in a street cafe, took a ritual sip of our water (which I thought was weird until I remembered the traditions of desert cultures and water sharing) then held my hand for a minute, kissed Miyuki’s hand, then simply said “Thank You” and walked away.

If you want to see pictures of us, here we are in the Christian Science Monitor:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0208/The-view-of-Egypt-s-protests-from-the-pyramids-with-hardly-a-tourist-in-sight

Not sure what time our flight arrives tomorrow.   We fly out at 10 AM, and it is a direct flight on Lufthansa air.  It will be good to be back.  And to change clothes.  We smell bad….

See you all soon!

Zack “Bratwurts” and Miyuki “Sourcraut” Davisson

February 10th – Cairo Airport

When we drove to the airport, there was a slight traffic jam so I asked our driver if he thought it was departing tourists. He said “There are no more tourists in Egypt.  Except you.  When you are gone, there will be no more.”

Our flight from Cairo was delayed, so we ended up spending 18 hours at the Cairo International Airport waiting for a flight.  Our interviews had obviously been shown on Egyptian TV, because a few people came up to us and said they had seen us on television that morning.

 

The empty airport

The long wait

We are exhasted

February 9th – Khan el Khalili

On our last full day in Egypt, we went to Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo and the Khan el Khalili market.  I don’t know if people were taking the spy rumors seriously, but the police were definitely more leary of us, stopping us and checking our passports.   The locals, however, where thrilled to see us.  This was a really fun day.

The Church of St. George in Coptic Cairo.  As usual, we were the only ones there

Miyuki shopping in Khan el Khalili

Market scene

Zack and the Famous Mosque

At the gates of the walled city

Miyuki and the Mosque

Beautiful decorations

A last shisha in Cairo

Our last Egyptian meal.  Grilled pidgen

Email from Giza

Giza!‏

Hello again,

We just found an internet cafe after our first full day in Giza.  Our hotel tried to tell us we weren’t allowed outside, but…we just walked out anyways.

Today was fun.  We did random tourist stuff.  Rode camels.  Drank Turkish coffee in the local shops.  Of course, it is hard to overcome the disappointment of the pyramids still being closed.  Our big hope was that things would be settled down enough by the time that we came back to Cairo so that the pyramids would be reopened, but no such luch.  Still, we could at least stand outside the gates and take pictures of them.

We have an amazing view of the pyramids from our hotel room.  The hotel gave us the rooms for half-price seeing as how we are the only guests.  Seriously.  A huge hotel, with a full staff and big windows facing the pyramids, and no one there but Miyuki and I.  Everyone is hustling around, trying to find something to do for us, but I am afraid we aren’t giving them much work.  We we showed up, the whole hotel had basically been shut down, so it took awhile for them to turn on the water and electricity to the upper floor…that was scary.  The first time we turned on the taps it came pouring out yellow because the water had been sitting stagnent in the pipes for so long, but it is all better now.

Miyuki and I became somewhat minor celebrities walking around town today.  News crews and journalists swooped on us near the pyramid gates, calling us “The Last Tourists in Egypt.”  We got interviewed by the Associated Press, by Italian, Belgian and Spanish journalists, and by some Americans from the Christian Science Monitor.  Look for us in your favorite newspaper soon.

Unfortunately, our celebrity wasn’t enough to convince them to open the pyramid gates for us…we tried.  Oh, and apparently, some people think we are spies.  The Christian Science Monitor journalist speaks Arabic, and talked to some locals about us who think that we cannot possibly be tourists.  But, for the most part, everything is great.  When we walk down the streets, people run up to us to shake our hands and say how happy they are to see tourists walking around Giza, doing normal things like riding camels and seeing the pyramids.  In a strange way, we seem to be giving hope to everyone that things will return to normal someday.  As long as their are tourists in the streets, then there is hope for Egypt.

Our big worry now is wether or not we will be able to get a flight home.  We tried calling the Cairo Aiport, but couldn’t get through.  Our regularly scheduled flight in February 9th on Lufthansa, and according to the Cairo website it is still scheduled to depart.  We will feel better if we get someone on the phone to confirm, so we will try again tomorrow.

Hope to give an update soon if we can get back to the US as planned.  Tomorrow, we have no plan…maybe shopping…maybe more camels…we never really know what is going to be available until the day dawns.   But we are definitely looking for something good to eat.  Egyptian bread and cheese is delicious and all, but one does get bored of it.

Hope to give good news soon!

Zack “Khufu” and Miyuki “Cheops” Davisson

PS: Camel riding is scary!  They are huge!  And not so kind on the legs….

February 8th – Giza and the Pyramids!

We had originally planned to return to our hotel in Cairo, but changed our reservation to stay in Giza.   We stayed at the huge Delta Pyramids Hotel,  in a beautiful room with a pyramid view.  We were the only guests in the hotel.

Alone at the Delta Pyramids Hotel

Empty chairs at empty tables

Our breakfast buffet.  Everyday, bread and cheese…

The view from our hotel.  Pinning for the Pyramids

We couldn’t get into the pyramids, so we took a camel ride to a “panoramic view” where we were promised to get a good view.  Unfortunately, the morning fog was against us

Miyuki on her camel

The sadness of Giza.  Without tourists, people had no money to feed themselves, much less their horses and camels.  There were dead horses everywhere

The media discovered us outside the gates of the pyramids.  This was the first of several interviews we gave

A local guy let us up to the roof of his house so we could try and get a pyramid picture

Normally, the roof is where he kept his goats

 

We tried to talk the army into dressing us up in fatigues and sneaking us into the pyramids in a tank, but no go.  When that failed, we went to the pyramid gates hoping they would take pity on our plight and let us in.  Everyone turned us down, but they were really good-natured about it.  Even the army was laughing and smiling with us.

The zoom on our camera was the closest we got

The army guarding the pyramids and sphinx

Miyuki sneaks inside when the gates are open to let a car out

Email from Hurghada

Today, Hurghada. Tomorrow…Cairo….‏

Hey,

We got into our hotel in Hurghada yesterday and turned on the TV and saw the best news yet…the BBC was reporting on some football scandal.  We figured that if things had calmed down enough for something as boring and inconsequential as a sports scandal to make the news, then things must be getting better.  The only thing more worthless is a celebrity divorce.

Things have calmed down quite a bit.  The real wild card in this whole affair has been the army.  The Egyptian army is made up 100% of young male conscripts – like most of the Middle East joining the army is not a choice – and their sympathies lie with the anti-government protesters.  The government has been afraid to give them any orders out of fear of a fully armed mutiny and insurrection, and the army pledged early on that they would not raise their weapons against fellow Egyptians.  They have been mostly guarding the museums and standing watch.  But finally, after the bloodiest night of pro- vs. anti-government fighing, the army stepped in to seperate them and form a cordon around the anti-government protesters.  Peace returned almost instantly.  I can’t help but wonder how many lives would have been saved if they had stepped in earlier, or if even more lives would have been lost.  As in all cases, no one will ever know.

But peace and calm have returned.

In Hurghada, their is none of the anger of the uprising and all of the sadness.  This is a resort town that depends entirely on tourist money, and their are no tourists here.  You could probably fit all of the tourists in Hurghada in about two or three rooms.  It has been nice, relaxing…we hung out on the beach yesterday and I finally got to read Death on the Nile that I have been packing around the whole trip as a promise that I would read on the beach. The weather is too cool, but that is the only complaint.

Walking down the streets in the Souk is fun, but a bit depressing.  It is estimated that Egypt is loosing 310 million dollars a day in tourist revenue.  Most of the time Miyuki and I are the only ones on the street.  Even five days after Aswan, you can see how hard hit people have been.  In the Souk in Aswan vendors were still cheery and tried their best to swindle you, but here they are just pleading.  We have often heard “Please buy something from me.  I have sold nothing today, and their are no tourists.”  You can tell that everyone is just moments away from begging in the streets.  We are doing what we can, but we lack the means to prop up a shattered economy and it is tough to explain to people that we are out of work and on limited money, when they are living on less that two dollars a day.  Bargining has lost its fun.  We can get the absolute bottom price from everyone, but every pound more that we cut the price is less food on their table…but most of the time they are just happy to talk to some tourists, and desperately want to get the message out to anyone that Egypt is still safe, and welcoming to tourists.

Tomorrow, we return to Cairo.  Everyone thinks we are insane, especially our fellow tourists, but one thing has really kept us going.  We have been in Egypt for two weeks, and still haven’t seen the pyramids!  We changed our hotel reservation from Cairo to Giza, and got a hotel room with a window view of the pyramids – lots of vacancies, obviously – even if we can’t cross the main gates and go inside, at the very least we will be able to see the pyramids from afar.  And who knows…with peace returning, maybe we will be lucky and an Egypt desperate for tourist money will throw open the gates again and we can have the same experience we had at Luxor of being the only tourist at the pyramids.

We will be in Cairo for two days, then fly home on the 9th. We hope, at any rate.  Flights are sporadic, and the airport is full of camped out tourists trying to get home that have been their for days.   Whether or not our flight will actually take off is anyone’s guess.   Fingers crossed, as always.

We don’t know if there will be internet access or not in Cairo, but if there is I will write again.  On the news they said that the protesters on both sides were starting to go home, and just leaving behind a small presence to let everyone know that they are there.  Don’t worry about us.   If we can’t get out, we will just buy an empty building and start up a hotel.  Come and visit us, we give you good price.  Egyptian price.  Vere cheap.  No problem.

Shukuran,

Zack “Ramses II” and Miyuki “Queen Nefratati” Davisson

February 6th-7th – Hurghada

Hurghada was by far the saddest stop on our trip.  We had been looking forward to spending a few days relaxing by the beach and sipping cocktails in a resort town, but it was not to be.  First off, Hurghada was cold!  Hard to lie on the beach in swimsuits with an icy wind coming over you.  Nothing can be done about the weather though, so we decided to go shopping.

By now, you could really feel the economic impact of the uprising on the Egyptian people.  Far more than Aswan, and even Luxor, the merchants of Hurghada were desperate.  Hurghada exists almost entirely for tourists, and they were few.  When we checked into our hotel, I sneaked a peak at the hotel computer.  The resort had 583 rooms, and only 40 guests.

The Depression of Hurghada

The cold beach…

Coffee at a street cafe

Ali the Spice Merchant!  We love this guy!  He was so happy to have customers, and we spent a lot of time in his shop.  His son, a local doctor, also came in and ranted to us about a conspiracy theory involving Osama Bin Ladin, spies from Quatar, and how the December church bombing was a failed attempt by Al Qaeda to start a Muslim/Christian war in Egypt.  Ali just smiled, served tea, and dressed us up in costumes.

Desert Princess Miyuki and Ali the Spice Merchant.   Whenever he stood next to Miyuki, he made sure to show me his hands so that I wouldn’t be worried that he was touching her.

Desert Princess Miyuki and Zack the Spice Merchant.  Normally, shop owners would try to charge you for dressing up like this, but Ali didn’t ask us for anything.   I think he was just having fun.

 

Email from Luxor

Greetings from Sunny Egypt!‏

Hey!

Wonder of wonders!  The internet has been turned back on in Egypt!!!  This is the first time I have been able to access a computer since I arrived.  All English news channels have been blocked as well, so I have very little idea what this looks like from the outside. But BBC and CNN are back on the air as well.

Things are fine for us.  We are in Luxor now, and will be moving out to Hurghada tomorrow near the Red Sea. We stay their for three days and then…back to Cairo.

Everything was calming down, and it looked like a peaceful resolution was minutes away, until the pro-government forces came charging in and turned a hot-headed protest into a violent battle for Tahir Square.  The worst possible thing to happen, at the worst possible time.  Most Egyptians think it is an organized attempt by the president to stay in power, and I am inclined to believe them.  The anti-government side is clearly grassroots – hand-made signs, and sticks torn from fences – while the pro-government side is professional:  shop-printed, full-color banners, well fed and well outfited, with weapons and supplies.  This is literally a pointed stick vs. gun fight.

In Luxor, it is all sound and fury signifying nothing.  The pro-government forces take to the streets at the same time every night and drive up and down the main street with their banners and flags and megaphones, and everyone largely ignores them.  It has become background noise, and we have been doing what standard tourist stuff we have, winding our way through tanks and laughing with fully-armed soldiers who are just sitting around doing very little.   All for show, with no teeth on either side.

Most Egyptians are just tired of the whole thing.  They said what they wanted to say, and now want to get back to the business of living.  Meanwhile, as in all cases, the fanatics ruin it for everyone.

We have had some amazing experiences here in Luxor.  Unlike Aswan, the major monuments of Luxor are still open, which has been beautiful.  But there are few tourists left.  Miyuki and I wandered the Great Temples of Karnak and Luxor entirely by ourselves, for hours.  That is something money could not have bought at any other time in Egyptian history.  Imagine showing up to Disneyland and finding you are the only customer for the day, and it will give you some idea of the wonder.

Hurghada should be even more peaceful.  A standard beach resort town with no care for politics.  No worries there.  Sit by the pool.  Read books. Drink cocktails.   I am glad we are getting out of main Egypt tomorrow thought.  Everyone promises that Friday, tomorrow, will be another Day of Fire.  Friday is the Egyptian weekend so people are free from their jobs and can join in the battle.

We do have to return to Cairo after that though, to fly home.  Fingers crossed that things will settle down a bit in the next three days, but that looks unlikely.  If those pro-government folks hadn’t shown up when they did, then everything would be over by now.  Jerks.  We are going to see if we can change our hotel in Cairo to Giza, where there are few problems.  From there, if we can get to the airport, it is anyone’s guess.  We may have a flight out, or we may have to camp out at the Cairo airports.  By all accounts, the Cairo airport is a horror show.  No food, no bathrooms, hundreds of people waiting….

Well, my ride is hear to Hurgada.  I will write again when I have the chance.  Pass this around if you like.

ZACK

February 5th – More Luxor

Luxor was so amazing that we changed our plans to stay another day, and head out to Hurghada that night.  We visited three more temples, which are considered the “minor sites” compared to the temples of Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

Miyuki at the temple of Medinat Habu

Zack and Miyuki strike a pose

Miyuki and the heiroglyphics

Zack Davisson – Tomb Raider

Shame on you C.H. Harrison, Chicago, USA 1888!

You really aren’t supposed to climb on the pillars, but…

This is from the Ramesseum.  This broken statue is said to be the one that inspired Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone…

My foot and Ramses II’s foot

A battle scene from the walls

The last temple we saw, the Temple of Seti I, was the least impressive

And with the world’s most annoying tour guide.  His idea of explaining things was by making us pose like the pictures on the wall.  “You! Japanese! You Nefratiti! You, American!  You Ramses II! Understand? OK! Next!”

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