Sunday, May 23, 2010

After a few days of jet-lag in Cairo, maybe it's time for an update.
My very first day was spent touring the pyramids at Giza followed by a visit to the Egyptian Museum. The pyramids were well worth the visit (of course), though there probably isn't a greater tourist trap to be found on this planet. That by no means detracts from the pyramids themselves, especially if you go on horse or camel around the west side of the pyramids where tour buses cannot. It is hard to convey the scale of these pyramids, which are just immense. The largest pyramid is 455 feet tall (was 480' originally), which is roughly a 45-story building. It is almost twice as tall as the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan (246 feet tall). Which is ridiculous.

The pyramids also showcase one of the more annoying aspects of Cairo: the tourist-seeking merchants who seem to offer great deals in Egyptian pounds only to shift into euros or dollars once they have your interest. I am not a big purchaser of trinkets and tourist junk, so I think I'm safe from this until I find myself haggling over an orange soda, which seems to double in price the moment the can is in my hands. Which is my fault for even taking it before paying, I know.

But this transaction was quite a sight to behold. When I think we have agreed on 5egp (less than a dollar) for a soda, he says 10egp. I start to protest and pull out 5egp and then he transitions from nice helpful soda dispenser to yelling at me in Arabic, throwing his arms in the air, looking at the sky and exclaiming to Allah, and even looking around at passersby and telling them what an ass I am being. All to embarrass me into just paying the extra dollar. And this works marvelously. The last thing I want to do is make a scene over a soda, so I buckle quickly. And he transforms again, this time into an over-joyous, smiling, english-speaking man who kisses my shoulder and wants to hug. The whole thing was hilarious.
This kind of thing is rampant at all the tourist sites in Cairo, which there are many of. So the past 2 days, I have been avoiding these in the hopes of seeing Cairo proper, the city outside of the guidebook. Which has been way more inspiring and frightening, all in one. Which I will delve into later.

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