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

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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….

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

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

Emails home from Cairo

Safe for the moment!‏

Hey,

Just thought I would let you know that we made it to Egypt with no problems.  We are safe in our hotel, but are trying to figure out how to flee Cairo.  If we can make it out of the city and spend a week down South then we should be OK.  Unfortunately, all the transportation out of Cairo is packed, and I don’t know if we will get tickets or not.

All in all, a much more action-packed vacation than we were planning!

I will send updates when I can!

ZACK

All is good‏

Hey,

Just a follow-up to my last email.  We are heading off into a desert camp for two days to escape the troubles in Cairo, then down south to Aswan and Luxor for the week, and over to the Red Sea for a few days.  All of the political unrest is concentrated in Cairo, and all the outbound trains and planes have been shut by government order.   We are going by private car to the desert camp, and we shouldn’t even be affected by it once we leave the city.

Hopefully things will have cooled off by in a week or so and we can come back up to Cairo for a few days.   I would hate to come all this way and not see the pyramids!

I will send you another update when I can.  No mail from the desert though, so it will be awhile…

Zack of Arabia