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May 17, Cairo, pyramids.  We begin our tour in Cairo with a visit to the Egyptian museum.  Appropriately, they have the largest collection of Egyptian antiquity in the world.  The building is somewhat in disrepair, though the collection itself is very good.  Unless you are an Egyptologist, the sterile nature of the museum yields an unmemorable experience.

After the museum we have lunch at a fancy hotel, then visit the famous pyramids of Giza.  They are basically across the street from the hotel, right at the edge of Cairo.

There are three large pyramids and a handful of smaller ones.  There is a big parking lot on land overlooking the structures, and we stop there for photos.  This being modern Egypt, the area is crawling with opportunistic peddlers and scammers.  We get out of the bus to snap pictures.  Next thing I know, I’m on a camel with a scarf on my head, and some young Egyptian guy has my camera and is taking my picture.  They want money of course, though never ask for it.  I give each of the three scammers $5, total of $15.  They try to refuse the money, arguing it is not enough – camels are expensive to maintain, they need $60.   I unilaterally negotiate and they end up accepting the $15.  I return to my bus, simultaneously feeling sorry for them and annoyed at them.  Other travelers have similar experiences.

We drive closer to the pyramids, get out and walk around.  There is a line of people waiting to go into the largest one, but we don’t have enough time to do this.  We walk the area, noticing the energy in the air, snapping photos, trying to avoid the pesky peddlers.  After a brief stop here, less than an hour, we get back on our bus to leave Cairo.  The visit to these iconic structures turns out to be gratifying in that we can all cross this item from our bucket list.  Yet the visit itself is anti-climatic.  Our guide does not explain the significance of these tall pointy buildings, and after nearly 72 hours of touring in Egypt, none of the passengers have the energy to ask.  I do notice that up close, the structures are crumbling.  They won’t be around forever.

After the pyramids we visit the sphinx.  It is also decaying, though still retains some of its drama.  Today it serves as another photo stop for tourists and an opportunity for hawkers and scammers.

We get back on our bus and drive several hours to Port Said, named for one of the prominent men responsible for the Suez Canal, opened in 1869.  There we board our ship and leave Egypt, heading to Israel, our final stop in the middle east.

Cairo & Nile at night viewed from hotel

Streets of Cairo

Building burned by protesters in January 2011

Tall pointy buildings

Two camel scammers

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