Egyptian Museum









tons of photos



February 20, 2003:

We had an early flight back to Cairo (about an hour flight) leaving at 8:45. ONce we checked out and caught the buss, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Egyptian Museum
George picked us up at the airport (the smaller terminal this time) and a quick car/limo ride to the Semi-Ramis (sem-ee-ram-EES) Intercontinental Hotel. Very nice, business class hotel with all the perks of an international chain and very little of the charm of the hotels we had been staying in. It's right downtown, within walking distance of the Museum. If I lean way out over our balcony railing, I can see it from our room.

That's the plan today: clean up a bit, then go to the Museum again. I'm pretty excited about it. Looking out over traffic, though, I'm pretty sure we'll get killed trying to walled there -- two huge traffic circles with four or five lanes each and a few bazillion cars.

Off we go. We managed to dart across traffic at the appropriate time by watching everyone else and staying really close. It's a close call, though. Pedestrians here do not have the right of way, but they do seem to think that they are invincible. They cut it awfully close sometimes! Only two blocks, though, so no mishaps, at least not yet!

The Museum is very crowded -- we get tickets and politely declined an offer for a local guide or two -- guides are licensed by the Museum (only 83 of them) and are allowed to approach un-guided tourists for three minutes only, to sell their services for a tour. If one guide is talking to you, no one else can interrupt. The rules were needed to stop the horrific gauntlet of hotel and taxi touts, like at the airport. The guides are conveniently labeled, though, with the languages they speak. If we had not had a few hours here with Fateh, we'd probably have taken a guide or the new electronic headset doohickeys (available at a kiosk inside, ask for them).

Once again, the museum is overwhelming. Its simply too crowded with artifacts to comprehend and take in. After wandering for a few minutes, I spotted a group using a guide book (big thick book with descriptions of all the pieces on display) and decide get one. No luck. I get to the bookstore and it's 200 too many people in the small space and I can't find anything. I'm simply too short. Mark has more success pushing his way to the front. The guide helps -- although it's pretty vague on the route you should take in the museum.

Mark doesn't feel well. He's a good sport about things to go through the first floor pretty thoroughly and take a look at the papyrus room and the fayoum portraits. We call it a day so he can go back to sleep. It is permissible to take pictures in the museum (can you do that in the States? I don't think so), so we snap photos of the really interesting stuff. I'm still creeped out by the ka statue of Menkauhor with the inlaid eyes.

Egyptian Dinner
Back to nap before dinner. We're invited to dinner at Mr. Mohammed's house (our driver while we're in Cairo) I'm sure he does it quite a bit for the tour company, but it's still nice. Mohammed and his wife and two children (his 7 year old daughter Menna and a 20 year old son) all live in their tiny apartment in north Cairo. .

Their apartment is very small, but decorated with large, ornate, baroque, gilt furniture. From our window-shopping experiences, this style -- gilt and velvet is the style everyone has.

Dinner was HUGE. I had read about the largess of home dinners, In a kitchen the size of a small phone booth, Mr. Mohammed's wife made two types of chicken, veal steaks breaded and fried, chicken breaded and fried, mousakka, white beans and tomato casserole, macaroni casserole with bechemel and eggs, bread, rice, and the traditional mezze. Considering we were both still slightly queasy, it was an enormous feast. Then, tea and coffee and sweets. Mark especially was urged to "Eat!" and we had more of everything.

George did an able job of translating for us, although Mohammed and his family all speak some English -- I think that Mr. Mohammed speaks more than he lets on, but he isn't comfortable that he's not completely fluent. His daughter can read and write English very well. She read to me from a copy of Jungle Book. She is in second grade, and her English skills are the same as any second-grader at home.

We decide that if the family eats like this every night, Mr. Mohammed will have to get a bigger van. Everyone laughed.

We also discovered that Mr. Mohammed is a 25 year veteran of the Artillery, a colonel. His wife showed me his picture from when he was a young man -- quite handsome in his uniform. Mohammad's wife is charming and a wonderful hostess. I'm not sure how orthodox Mr. Mohammad's family is, but his wife did wear a head scarf (with her earring on though the scarf to keep it in place) although she certainly chatted with both Mark and I at table.

We staggered back to our room at the hotel and crawled into bed, too full and too sleepy to even talk much.

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