Sunday, 11 April 2010

Ancient Egypt...

I just came back from my holiday.
Although I initially don't feel like going anywhere, my the other half suggested that we take a break out of the country, and we decided to go to our most preferred country ~ Egypt.
But this time we got the travel agent to planned for us a cruise along the Nile.

Although having going there many time before, the Nile cruise was a very relaxing holiday. Sailing from Luxor to Aswan and across the Essna Lock, visits to all the ancient temples around the area are more educational than that off Cairo and Giza. The period are different because of the Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt monarchy. And there are more things to learn about the ancient Egypt.
But our additional visit to Abu Simble was the ultimate one especially for me; because it has been my childhood dream of visiting the Temple of Abu Simble, the magnificently huge stone carving facing the sun across the huge Lake Nasser - the picturistic scene we always see when it comes to depicting Egypt and it's historical sites.

Sailing along the Nile and watching remote countryside really gave that tranquility feeling in me. Watching them having fun by just swimming and watching huge cruises passing their waters make me thinking how people that don't have much in life can make their life happy and simple ~ so easily.
Of course, unlike people like us, who never stop competing with each another, that is.

Visiting the ancients ritual sites, and touching the engraving made thousands and thousands of years ago had never failed to give me that feeling of inspiring mysteries and wonders.
I had many years ago, crawled into one of the tomb at Giza Pyramids but it cannot equal the surreal feeling and atmosphere I attained at one of the tombs in Alexandria.
The smell of something very hard to figure out was overwhelming and I was at that moment alone in the tomb which were used to buried sorcerers and all.
Perhaps it was the smell of ancients.

Unlike this visit, my first visit to Alexandria nine years ago, were more relaxing as it weren't as crowded as what I experience during Luxor and Aswan visits.

Nevertheless, Egyptology always fascinates me.
I vividly remember cutting an Isis symbol as according to the cartoon I watched on TV when I was nine or 10. I would later stick the coloured piece to my forehead and pretend to be the God Isis. It was blue...if I can recall it well.
And the first time I know I'm into Egyptology was when I found myself reading books about Ramses and Pharoas and Mummies.

It is an astonishing experience one person should have once during their lifetime, at least. And I know I will be coming back again after they'd found new sites, which, will be an endless effort, obviously.

Despite being a country that tourism is one of the highest income, a lot need to be taken care off especially when it come to the overcharging tourist part. This is not just about souvenirs, but a simple pack of Lays were sold at 20EGP per pack and that is about QR15. We paid a small box of apple juice for 10EGP.
The other thing about these people is they depend on tippings - a lot. Although it is understood that tipping is a must here in Egypt, we somehow got ourselves into some unwanted situation such as having to pay a different price than agreed earlier.

Somehow, after coming to the country many times and experiencing Egypt and their people, one will learnt way in and out of bargaining, and of course it is always better to expect the unexpected.

This is a story from our tourist guide Imad.
According to him, there was a Libyan family who flew down from Cairo to visit Luxor and Aswan.
During their free time, they went out and later got themselves on the horse carriage after being solicited by the driver telling them that he is charging a minimal 10EGP per town ride.
Similar to our own experience, he later took them to few shops selling papyrus paintings and perfume house.
The only different is, we know their intentions, and we refused.
But the Libyan family, found one papyrus that he liked so much that cost him 5000EGP, and bought it from that shop. Upon reaching the hotel, and when about to pay, the driver told the Libyan guy that it is his pleasure bringing him around town and 5EGP would be enough. Of course the guy was elated with the driver's generosity.

The next day, he told Imad of his trips and showed him the painting after the guide smelled something fishy. It turn out that the painting would only cost him mere 800EGP and later asked the man to go back to the shop.
He did get back his 2000EGP. And the other 3000EGP he asked the Libyan to go and get it back from the carriage driver!
Imagine how much an introducer can make in this land.
And as usual we were always adviced to ask for 50% discount to all our street and souk purchases.
It depends on our luck, the aggresiveness of the seller and our bargaining power.
Another thing to watch out for is, when a price is agreed in EGP, take out the money before taking the items in your hand, because believe me, an Egyptian Pound can suddenly become English Pound or US Dollar...

Besides that, Egypt can offer you very nice of local food and cheap fresh sesonal fruits.
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