Saturday, March 21, 2009


We started our tour bright and early from our hotel. Before arriving in Cairo I booked a private guide, named Rani, who proved to be an invaluable asset. He took care of our transportation, entry fees, and provided so much information. I was thoroughly impressed by all of his knowledge and consideration.

Our first stop was Memphis - The old capital of Ancient Egypt. Along the drive I was trying to take in all of the scenery. It truly was a different world- Women steadily balanced things on their heads as they walked down the streets, men guiding their animal drawn carriages, and occasionally children herding animals.

The Memphis area is rather lush in comparison to the vast desert area. There were many fruits and vegetables being harvested and sold on the road sides.

Upon our arrival we stopped at the Rameses II bazaar and open air museum. The enormous 10m (33ft) tall statue of Rameses II is on display inside the covered museum. He sounds as though he was quite a character and perhaps slightly arrogant. Rani told us that many of the statues were marked with the cartouche of Rameses II. He most certainly didn't want to be forgotten.

Also in the park are sculptures of various other Gods including Hathor, Isis, and Ptah.

Another jewel of Memphis is the alabaster Sphinx, which dates back to the 19th Dynasty in 1200 BC. It was carved from one single piece of alabaster and approximately 13 feet high and 24 feet long and with an estimated weight of 80 tons.

Stefan and I were both awe struck by the sheer size, precision, and attention to detail in each of these sculptures. It's also amazing how well they are preserved. As for the Sphinx, the side is somewhat deteriorated due to water damage from when it was found.

The smoothness of Ramses II's skin, his perfectly lined kilt, and his sheer size demonstrate his affluence and how much he was revered by the people at this time.

The entire outdoor museum was very impressive. I'm so intrigued by the skill that it took to carve such intricate and detailed hieroglyphs.

As we drove through one of the small villages Rani stopped to purchase some oranges for us. While the car was stopped a few boys sat nearby motioning towards us for money. We were clearly outsiders with money and it was the first instance where I felt foreign. Rani quickly returned with a large bag of oranges, which were delicious and we carried on our way. I was warned before we went that I should try to tame my compassion, which is extremely difficult for me. I have an inner urge to help people through any means necessary.

In the area there were many Oriental carpet schools, where tour buses were being herded in. I once read that Cairo is where marketing and sales were invented. Everyone claims to have what you are looking for, especially in terms of papyrus, perfume, and carpets. Some of the guides perhaps make a commission from taking their tourists to these sites.

Rani spent a few months in the outskirts of Salzburg, so he was well versed in reading our cues. He would mention more shopping oriented sites and ask if we had any interest before taking us. He made recommendations, suggesting if we were interested in buying any cartouche jewelry that we should purchase it at a factory instead of a shop in town. I probably should have gotten a silver bracelet or something unique, however we didn't have a lot of time for shopping.

Our only stop was to a papyrus 'museum'. The man gave us a demonstration in German and we bought a papyrus with a scarab and our last name on it. We quickly learned that Egyptians are very well versed in other languages. I was so impressed to hear guides speaking Italian, Spanish, English, German, and Japanese. It was even more fun once we went to the souk.

1 comment:

JoernandAllison said...

I can't wait to read your other installments- which I plan to do right now. That statue of Ramses seems to be huge! Must have been so impressive in person.
I'm glad it worked out well with the tour guide. Some places are just much easier to handle with a tour guide on your first visit.