Egypt around Easter 1995

 

When arriving in Egypt for the first time, you are probably eager to get around to see all the famous old buildings, but do spend some time to walk around in Cairo and see daily life. The bazaars and along the river can be interesting places. I found Egyptians more friendly than most nationalities, and even poor people have a certain pride that indicate that they are part of the history of one of the oldest civilisations that still exist on earth. Poor people really don't beg for money, but they are eager to provide you with all sorts of services, and expect to receive a little compensation for this, called baksheesh. 

 

An example where baksheesh is applicable is if you want to take a photograph of people. Attract their attention, and point at your camera. If the smile back, like these people did, you will get a much nicer shot, and as a thank you, give them typically 1 Egyptian pound (app. US 20 cents) depending on what they did. They may be poor and uneducated, but they are fully aware of the wealth of other people, and baksheesh can be considered as a little gift to the poor. Understanding and using the baksheesh system will enhance your stay in Egypt significantly.

 

This is what it looks like inside the largest pyramid on the Giza plateau just outside Cairo. A tiny passage so low that most grown-ups have to bend down. Air is warm and not of good quality, so this is not for the claustrophobic. You finally get into a somewhat larger chamber, but certainly not impressive considering the large structure surrounding it.  Bring a flashlight, in case of power failures.

 

This is the famous hotel Cataract in Aswan in southern Egypt about one hour flight from Cairo. Agatha Christies novel "Murder on the Nile" takes place in these areas. A traditional Nile sailboat is in front. These are called feluccas. They are still in extensive use, although many are now used for small tourist tours. Aswan is a typical starting point for a river cruise down on the river Nile. Aswan is an exciting town, and small enough to comfortably walk around. At nights you need to bring a flashlight, as power outages are very common, and cars usually don't use headlights, even at night. If you are lucky, the driver will see you and honk the horn. I guess they don't have traffic accident statistics in Egypt.

 

Riding a camel is easy, but having the animal to rise up takes a lot of screaming (and swearing?) both from the owner and the animal. Once you are up, they are really easy to control. Use the whip gently when the camel is slowing down. If you don't, it will finally come to a complete stop and do nothing. You have to remind it all the time who is the boss. This picture is taken about an hour's easy ride from Aswan to an abandoned monastery in the desert.

 

Looking over Aswan from the Aga Khan mausoleum. This mausoleum was the only place in Egypt where I was not allowed to take pictures. In museums, you could always buy a separate photo permit at a reasonable price. Video however, could sometimes be quite expensive to use in museums.

 

When doing a river cruise on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan, a stop to see the temple in Edfu is mandatory. This is the best-preserved temple in Egypt, and all main structures are intact, even the roof. If you don't want to see many temples during your visit to Egypt, you should at least see this one.

 

This is an alabaster shop in Luxor, near the Valley of Kings. Originally, people did not live on this side of the river, as it was reserved for the dead. On the wall, the story of the shop-owners pilgrim-journey to Mecca is described with drawings. He went by air, so a modern jetliner was included together with more traditional images. The bottles of coke sitting in the sun next to the door had a strange grey colour. The sun is bright and the weather is HOT, but this didn't increase my desire for one of those cokes.

 

This is the first part of the stairway to one of the less accessible tombs in the Valley of Kings near Luxor. It is the tomb of Thutmosis III, and one of the few (the only?) where the sarcophagus is still there. Many other tombs are accessible easily, some doesn't have stairs at all. During our visit they were putting up glass walls inside the tombs to protect wall paintings from tourists fingers. It was a special experience to be inside one that was not touched, but lighting was well built in those having glass walls making them more suitable for photography. When visiting the Valley of Kings, you have to buy tickets for the number of tombs you want to visit, and extra tickets for your camera if you want to use that. Do not plan on visisting more than three or four, unless you have the entire day. Don't forget to visit the tomb of Tuth Ank Amon, the only tomb that was not robbed before being discovered by modern scientists.

 

This is inside the tomb of Thutmosis III, and the sarcophagus. In the bottom of the sarcophagus an image of a woman is painted. Flash photography is never allowed were ancient paintwork is present, but a little baksheesh made the guard hold a large portable lamp for better lighting. Yes, they have guards everywhere, and that is easy to understand when you see the beautiful wall paintings in the background that is thousands of years old. The ceiling is covered with blue paint with little white stars painted on it. A must-see while in Egypt.

 

The White Mosque in Cairo. I guess it was shinier before it was exposed to the pollution from the terrible, chaotic traffic in Cairo. I visited Cairo during Coptic Easter, and traffic was said to be limited during this holiday season - although I think it was crowded and chaotic anyway.

 

This is the marvellous inside of The White Mosque. This mosque is a typical tourist visiting place, but also used for religious activities. All mosques are generally open to everybody at all times, and is a quiet place that allows you to escape from the noise and dirt that are common in large Arabic cities outside. Mosques usually have nice carpets on the floor, and you are required to take your shoes off. This helps keeping it nice, clean and quiet inside. You are also requested to wear descent clothes, i.e. no shorts and t-shirts. This mosque, being visited by many tourists, provided some long "dresses" that you could put on to be more descent. Even men in shorts were requested (but not required) to use these, but it was considered rude not to accept one if you didn't wear proper clothing.

 

The first time visitor to Cairo has to visit the pyramids. The best is to go there on day-time and get close to them and inside if you wish, but if you are lazy, you can see a light show during sunset with some history told. This picture is taken during that presentation.