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

Advertisements

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.