This weeks has been a peak experience for me. last Sunday, we had a day off from rehearsals on the Norwegian JADE, one of our cruise ships stationed in the Mediterranean. Since we were on a 2-day overnight in Alexandria, Egypt, we decided to embark on an adventure to Cairo. Mindy McLemore, Stephen Kummer and I took a 3-hour ride of a lifetime (and at times we thought in might be the end of our "life time"!) to see the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. We've all studied the pyramids in history classes in school, but seeing them in person was far better than looking at photos in books. Standing at the foot of the pyramids was awe-inspiring. Standing next to the enormous stone blocks offered a sense of the scale of the thousands of stone blocks intricately cut and stacked to form the geometrically perfect tombs for ancient Egypt's Pharaohs. Unfortunately, the pyramids are not properly maintained, and their condition was disturbing. Hundreds of camel merchants, trinket dealers, and shady "tour guides" are more than willing to fleece unsuspecting tourists. It was a wonderful morning, in spite of those distractions.
Our tour of the pyramids was followed by a delicious traditional Egyptian lunch in one of Cairo's "American-friendly" restaurants. We were happy to see the menu was in English!. Later, we visited Cairo's ancient history museum. The museum houses the world's largest collection of precious antiquities from Egypt's ancient ruling dynasties. The collection includes the fabulous artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamen. In addition to Tut's iconic gold mask and sarcophagus, the exhibit includes thousands of priceless furnishings, jewelry, tools, statues, and household items placed in the tomb to insure the king's successful journey to the afterlife. It was simply breathtaking. This is a must-see if you have a chance to visit Egypt.
The incredible beauty of the museum was in stark contrast to Cairo's pervasive poverty. Abandoned apartment buildings and tiny roadside shacks were everywhere. The traffic on Cairo's crowded streets was oppressive - and scary! Thousands of taxi's, trucks, and private cars jockey for position with horse dawn carts and high-pitched motor scooters. We eventually found it was best not to think about our perilous situation - we trusted our driver, and he ultimately got us home safely. What a day!
Here are some shots taken during our journey. A huge thanks goes to JADE production manager Khaled Ali and his mother for making the arrangements for our day in Cairo!
The Great Pyramids overlook the city of Cairo. It was really interesting to hear the mosques broadcasting their services via loudspeakers across the city.
This is the Pyramid of Khafre. The smooth stones seen at the top of the structure originally covered the entire monument. Many of these stones now lie as rubble at the base of the pyramid.
Its impossible to get a sense of the size of the structures until you stand at the base and look up.
Cairo is unlike any city I've ever seen. There were literally thousands of abandoned apartment buildings and homes all over the city. Most of these were inhabited by squatters.
The traffic in Cairo was frightening. If a highway had 3 official "lanes", the drivers found a way to make it 4 lanes. Meanwhile, the motor cycles and scooters would drive in between the cars. It was truly scary!
The most unique aspect of Egyptian traffic was the lack of crosswalks and traffic signals. As the locals told us, traffic signals, speed limits and other normal traffic controls are simply "suggestions". While traffic is moving at up to 50 miles an hour, pedestrians simply walk out into the moving traffic and weave through the cars to reach the other side. Even small children venture into the streets unsupervised to get to the other side. We were freaked out by the potential for killing someone. But no one seemed to mind. It is a way of life there.