EGYPT ON BUDGET
In the spirit of independent travel we purchased bucket shop tickets to travel to Cairo. The fifty pounds saving we made by traveling Air Bulgaria was no compensation for the nervous exhaustion we suffered as we made our way to a six hour stop in Sofia. A committed smoker, for once I was able to resist the urge due to the presence of what smelled suspiciously like aircraft fuel. Being located at the back of the aircraft we could watch as a motley assortment of passengers boarded with carrier bags and sacks well over any personal baggage allowance.
As we taxied down the runway we were given our safety instructions. Horrified, مكتب ترجمة I sat jaw agape as I realised that unlike modern aircraft where every individual is provided with an oxygen mask, the illustrations depicted an air stewardess wheeling a single trolley down the aisle and calmly delivering a burst of air to each passenger in turn. I was well aware that the nature of accidents where oxygen is required such as sudden decompression would demand that we all had air simultaneously. If the stewardess had any sense she would be making sure the pilot had first call on the trolley, and any sense of self preservation would reserve second call for herself. Blinded by images of us all gasping for air as we plummeted through the atmosphere, I was compelled to spend well over my daily expenses on supplies of alcohol.
Arrival in Cairo in the evening was accompanied by a briefing from my friend on the lowlife specialist travel operators we would be likely to confront in the arrival hall. Nothing could have prepared me for the scale of assault we did receive. Having only narrowly avoided signing up for an all points tour, tienda de adultos we accepted a taxi ride to an undisclosed hotel purely to beat a retreat from the relentless barrage of offers.
Having a background in Architecture we both recognised the failure of the local authorities to legislate for even minimal fire precautions. At each hotel we would request a low floor so that we could jump if necessary, and once took a fourth floor room only on the grounds that we both reckoned that we could make a six foot leap to an adjoining building in the event of a fire.
Planning to take the train to Luxor and Aswan as a adventurous alternative to the traditional river boat method we set out from our central hotel to make our way to the grand Rameses II train station. An evening walk in the balmy heat, noise and bustle of central Cairo is an experience not to be missed. Making a slight detour to visit a middle ranked restaurant in our Lonely Planet guide we settled down to our first experience of Egyptian cuisine. My companion was in an adventurous mood and requested the grilled pigeon to start. From my vantage point I could see the waiter approach with this delicacy. I could tell it was the grilled pigeon as I could see its scrawny little burnt head hanging over the side of the plate as it drew closer. We both sat in shock as we looked at an ET like corpse in it’s entirety sprawled over the plate. Apparently part of the process is to run the bird over with a lorry before semi plucking and lightly grilling. Personally suffering from an immediate loss of appetite, I can give my friend his due as he bravely attempted to remove what meat was available and taking all of 30 seconds. The waiter passed the remains to some locals near the kitchen and we had the opportunity to witness how to tackle a meal that consists of 90% feathers, bones and claws. You gather a handful and stuff it in your mouth. Without breaking conversation and using only your jaws, life adhd coaching you then skillfully separate the meat from the bones and propel the waste-like missiles onto your plate.
Having traveled first class rail from Cairo to Aswan, the other classes being second class and no class at all. We arrived in Luxor having been relentlessly fed with a sort of risotto with bright green bits of meat. I can only hope it was due to the spices. We took up residence in a hotel and paid our ten Egyptian pounds to witness our first belly dance which was well advertised throughout the area as exotic and spectacular. Having been brought up on images of sultry beauties we were highly disappointed to be confronted by a woman of advancing years who was clothed form head to foot in a black cloak. She showed little signs of life at all, let alone highly flexible body gyrations. It was never like this in the movies.
Our visit to the Valley of the Kings was marred by a 24 hour bout of food poisoning which by a process of elimination we put the cause down to me having brushed my teeth with tap water. The only thing I had done that my friend had not. Having found a miracle cure in a chemist, we attempted to climb over the mountain ridge to the valley in the hottest part of the day and avoid the prospect of protracted negotiations with a taxi driver to deliver us by road. The true severity of my illness became apparent halfway up the hill and I returned to the roadside hawkers and gasped for water leaving my friend to continue relentless. Having regained my voice I suggested to the water seller that I was mad to have even attempted such a climb in the heat. He replied, “you’re not mad, you came back”. They had been watching with some amusement it appeared. I made the taxi drivers day when I refused to enter into a haggle and made it clear that I couldn’t care less how much he charged me.
I was still ill when the next day we traveled to Aswan and the dam. We picked up a friendly taxi driver who was knowledgeable about the impact of the dam. He expressed concern that the fish had lost their flavour as a result of swimming in a weaker current. The delicate balance of life that exists along the course of the river never extended further than the flood plains of the river itself. This now having been eliminated, the salinity of the soil is increasing and the desert grows ever closer.
The Russians who built the dam left massive buildings now utilized by various government departments. It was to one of these that our driver took me when my illness caught me unawares. Having been under pressure, I failed to notice that no toilet roll was available. My lightning calculations of exchange rates and the value of the local currency left me with little alternative. Less than a fiver if you must know, and well worth it.
Staying in the hotel where Death on the Nile was written, we made plans for a final excursion to Abu Simbel. To my mind the most exciting of all Egyptian architectural relics. In the most fantastic restaurant in a converted Mosque our after dinner entertainment was billed as a belly dancer. We were about to leave when the goddess appeared and at last we were in the movies. 30 minutes of visual heaven left us in no doubt that there is a great deal of difference between Egyptian and Nubian belly dancing.