Monday, April 16, 2007

Egypt - 1 : The cities

As someone had summarised well when we were planning our trip, there are four segments (for want of a better word) that can be part of a trip to Egypt - the cities, the western desert, along the Nile and the red sea region. After much planning we figured that it would be feasible to cover parts of the first three in the 10 days that we were there. We based ourselves in Cairo and everything was from there. In between places we were back in Cairo and covered the city in 'bits and pieces'.

My first impression of Egypt was how similar it is to India. The chaos, heat, dust .. it all seemed so familiar. Just the language was different, but never did I feel bewildered, it was like going home. We visited Alexandria and Cairo. The two cities were quite different.

Alexandria felt like being in Bombay. I suppose that was because walking along the Corniche was like being on Marine Drive. It had some interesting mosques and the largest greco-roman theatre in Egypt. We also got to eat some excellent sea-food (an unrelated point). More food focussed discoveries were made - early on in the trip we discovered super-cheap and super-yummy falafel in pita being sold on the roadside. Thereafter for the entire trip we abandoned our pre-paid buffet breakfast at the hotel for a far more delicious alternative. Most of our time in Alexandria was spent walking and the great weather and warm sunshine was welcome after the long winter of UK. While it was nice, if someone is short on time, I would say one could give Alexandria a miss in view of the other places we went to.

We spent three and a half days in Cairo. It is a very vibrant city and always awake. No matter how late in the night, the streets were always crowded. One of the most interesting places was Khan Al-Khalili market. While it was rows of shops selling very similar things, the colour and crowd was so amazingly full of life. It was nice to be in the midst of so much activity. Though after a while the shopping part got boring, I could have spent a lot more time just looking at the people and the place. We did the other usual touristy things like visiting Coptic Cairo and walking along the Nile. One of the mornings was spent in a very unsatisfying visit to the Egyptian museum. Everyone had suggested we get a guide, and after putting all our combined negotiation skills to use we got a pretty bad deal. The guide just herded us through the place like cattle and kept adding more people to the group as we went along. It is a place with so much to offer and our breezy tour did not do it justice. As was expected one of the most interesting parts was the very expensive mummy rooms. To think that the bodies are thousands and thousands of years old and still perfectly recognizable, it is unbelievable. The other highlight was ofcourse visiting the pyramids. Like most things one hears so much about, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The crowds of visitors and people selling things was too overwhelming to take in the magnificence of the pyramids.. and though I knew what to expect, somehow seeing them was not quite the same.

So that was the cities. While these were interesting, they paled in comparison to the next bit - the trip into the Western Desert. That's for next time, till then a couple of other random pictures.

A jewellery shop in Alexandria, reminded me of Delhi and rows of shops selling gaudy gold jewellery
..and ofcourse - The Pyramids!


Beks said...

Food is always one of the best things to discover about a new place:D By all accounts Egypt seems to be delicious!

Akkare said...

I cant wait to go to Egypt now.

Mr. J said...

Did you walk like an egyptian?? :P

So where's the next destination going to be?

Pea said...

[Beks] Actually that is so not true about France.. atleast for me.. all the mussel and raw meat was just not my kind. However, it totally applies to Egypt. Totally satisfying on the food score!

[Akkare] It really is great .. highly recommended. Btw, what happened to your blog?

[Mr. J] Yes!! Must to B's embarrassment. Next long holiday is to go home.