bye bye middle east


it’s funny, when we first planned out where we were going on this trip, the middle eas was kind of just a tiny sidenote. we were going to quickly zip through a couple of countries in between europe and africa… but somehow, the amount of time we wanted to spend here just expanded and expanded. in the end, we’ve spent over 2 months in this region. it’s been really cool to be here especially seeing as this is an area that’s not really super frequented by toursists. in fact, almost all of the travellers we met while here were people out on long trips that spanned many months and more. other than in egypt, we met very few people who were traveling for less than a month.

over the last two months, i’ve gotten really used to being here, and in a lot of ways, it’s sad to leave. each country that we’ve visited has had so much to offer: turkey, with its intriguing blend of modern western culture w/ old arabic ways, its beautiful landscapes, and its fun loving people; syria, with its incredible ancient ruins, its highly religious people, and its cities hardly touched by tourism; israel, a land in huge contrast to the surrounding countries, one that contains ultra-modern cosmopolitan cities like tel aviv and also ancient cities crammed full of culture, history, and religion like jerusalem… it’s the birthplace of two of the worlds biggest religions, and the 3rd most holy place of a third; jordan, a country that seems still to be unsure whether they want to stay traditional like syria, or forge ahead like turkey… it’s the home of petra, one of the most breathtaking sights around; and last but not least, egypt, home of a 5,000 year old civilization, humongous pyramids, and the nile river.

each of these countries had something really unique and incredible to offer. but, despite their differences, there was definitely some cohesiveness to our time spent here. each place was packed with tea shops offering incredibly sweet tea and coffee and hookas to smoke. each place had incredibly warm and generous people who were quick to offer hospitality to strangers…. people who are so passionate and always either laughing, or yelling, or arguing. each place was made slightly mysterious due to it’s highly religious population… with tunic wearing men, and women w/ hidden faces. each place was filled with the echoing sounds of the call to prayer 5 times a day. each place came complete w/ crazy chaos, wild taxi rides, and (too) persistant merchants. and last.. every place had more kababs and fellafels than we’d every care to know about!

and through it all, despite so many perceptions of the middle east, we felt so safe. safer than back home to be honest. in all of these places, we had no qualms about walking around late at night through towns… something that we wouldnt necessarily do everywhere back home. and for the most part, everyone her had absolutely no problems w/ the fact that we were from america. the last two months has definitely taught us that so many things that we think about the middle east are simply not true, or at the very least grossly overexagerated.

before coming here, i knew sooo little about all these countries. upon leaving, i feel like i still have hardly scratched the surface. there is so much more to this place than can be found out in just 2 months, but i feel like i’ve at least gotten a nice taste. hopefully someday i can go back and see more… who knows?


it’s not over till it’s over…


after the escapades w/ purchasing the 4 hookas, i had breathed a big sigh of relief… but unfortunately, my troubles were far from over. the hookas still needed to be shipped, a process that might be simple if we were in america… but not so here in egypt.

due to a small hiccup at the indian embassy, caryn had to take care of some business there this morning, so i had to undertake this mission all on my own. i started off w/ 4 hookas, each in their own little carrying case but soon realized that it’d be easier if i stuffed 2 hookas in each case so i had less to carry. so with about 30 pounds (yes, that’s right, 30 pounds) of hookas weighing me down, i went out in search of a box to ship them in. first i checked w/ a small supermarket, but of course, all their boxes were to small. next i was offered some help from an old man on the street, but it turned out that he actually just took me to his friend’s luggage shop to try to coerce me into buying luggage. and finally, i had the door of another store slammed in my face. nice.

i could tell things were really going my way when the handles to one of the hooka cases started ripping apart. it was only a question of time until the other started doing likewise, so i grabbed the first cab i could find and headed to the post office… still without a box. i had been assured that the post office would not have boxes or packing materials of any kind, but i figured, what the hell.. maybe they might know somewhere that does.

when i arrived at the main post office, i was turned away at the door and told to go around the corner to another entrance. i walked inside there, and to my complete surprise, found that they had boxes that i could use! had my luck finally changed??! no. it turned out that their boxes were also too small, and even if i tried to unpack the hookas, they still wouldnt fit. i was told by the guy at the desk that they would maybe get me a bigger box, and in the meantime, he filled out two forms and told me to go up to the 3rd floor to send the hookas.

by this point, i was tired and so sick of carrying these things under my arms due to the lack of straps. when i got to the third floor, it really didnt look like a post office up there.. just a bumch of small offices in a long corridor. i finally found someone, and they told me that i actually needed to go to the *2nd* floor. grrrr. so i went down a floor… and once i go there, was told that i actually need to go the *1st* floor. so i go back to the bottom floor, and ask them how to ship these damn things. and you know what they told me?? they told me i need to go to the 3rd floor. i couldnt believe it. by now i was sooooo pissed. and to make matters even better, once i got to the 3rd floor and talked to a different person, i was told to go down to the second floor.

this was just getting ridiculous. the person on the 2nd floor now told me that i need to actually go back up to the 3rd floor. arrrrrggghhh!!! i showed him my papers that i had gotten, and told him that i had *already* been to the 3rd floor *twice*. so he tells me that i actually need to go outside the building and around the corner to the left. when i tell him that this is where i was in the first place and that is where i got the papers, he just told me that i should go there anyways.

so i go back down and out. i walk back up to the first guy who gave me the papers, and he asks me if i went to the 3rd floor yet? i tell him that not only have i been there, but i’ve been there twice… that, and every other floor in the building. he tells me yet again, that i need to go up to the 3rd floor. arrgggghhhh. so i storm off and go up there. opening another office door up there, i find a guy who signs my papers, and gives me new official documents. why could someone not have told me to see this guy from the beginning!!!! ggrrrrr.

so with my new documents in hand, i go back outside and to the left, and then proceed to try to shove all 4 hookas into one box. miraculously, they fit. whether they get home in one piece, i dont know… but at that point, i just wanted to get it over with!! the box was wrapped and sealed, i had to fill out *more* forms in triplicate and walk to a bank that was 5 blocks away to get money… and then… i was actually done. phew!!! what a day!!


photos etc

three quick things about egypt:


the first thing everyone here asks you is where you are from. when we tell them we’re from america, we often get the response “america!! yankee doodle!! the real mccoy!!” so random! ther’s this one guy here who sells perfume on the corner, and *every* time we walk buy he shouts out to us “yankee doodle!!!”. also, for canadians, the touts usually yell out “canada? Canada Dry!!” w3e can’t even tell how many times we’ve heard cheery shouts of “canada dry!”.. and, for some bizarre reason, the other thing canadians always get is “canada? no money no honey!!”. where the hell did that come from?


the currency used here is egyptian pounds, which there are 6 of to the dollar. but, to make things annoying, pounda re further divided into piastres, which there are 100 of in one pound. in other words, a 25 piastre note is worth about 4 cents. these things are pretty much worthless, and everyone in town is constantly playing a game of “pass the piastre” at all times. whenever you pay for something, you’ll try to get rid of as many of these pistres as you have, so they stop wasting space in your pocket… but the merchants are smart… they’ll either try to not accept your pistres, or give you even more of them as change. sometimes you’ll get like 3 pounds change, and they’ll give you 12 of the 25 piastre notes. when sage and her friends were here, we all totally kept trying to dump off our piastres on each other!


egypt has got to be the place w/ the most hassle out of anywhere in the world. especially luxor. the hassle is way less mean than it was in morocco, so i can handle it much better (plus we’ve gotten used to it), but really here it’s absolutely nonstop! it literally never lets up. we are badgered by people to buy things from the moment we leave our hotel, till the moment we go to bed. it’s NUTS!

and here are the most recent photos:

photos of Cairo

and photos of our trip to aswan, abu simbel, and luxor


mission accomplished!

as i mentione before, we spent some time trying to buy some hookahs for liv. by now, we’ve searched in 3 different countries, and probably about 6 or 7 cities. we’ve dug through tons and tons of them.. every possible shape, color, size, etc. over the last two months, we’ve become almost experts on them. you would think that buying a hookah should be a relatively easy task… but it’s really not. there’s no such thing as a set price, and going to different shops, you’d get wildly different prices on the same exact hookah. every store owner will tell you that their prices are high because they only sell the best goods and that all the other shops are inferior (riiiiight). to make matters more confusing, the glass part which is the most visible part, is actually the *least* important part and is easily interchangeable.. the actual important part is the metal part, and the material that the hose is made out of. and to top it all off, 95% of all the hookas around here are either blue or green. liv was hoping to get a red one, and those are few and far between.

the best hookahs we’ve seen were probably in syria, but due to a fluke, we were never able to buy hookas there. the hookas around cairo were a bit less interesting, so we really had to scope out a bunch of shops to find a good one. and, to make it even *more* difficult, we had decided to buy 2 for ourselves, so now we needed to find a shop that sold *4* good ones! it was a daunting task, but finally we found a shop that did. of course, the owner immediately launched into a speech about how we had *such* good taste and that we picked the absolute best hookas possible and that for such fine quality we would definitely have to pay a lot. great. he started off by giving us a quote of 1,200 egyptian pounds and we countered with an offer of 450. of course, he really wasn’t pleased. the arguing went back and forth. us claiming that we’ve been shopping for hookas for weeks now and know what a fair price is, and him claiming that the prices we got earlier from others were for inferior goods and that his are worth more. it was a true battle of wills.

a while later he had dropped down to 760 pounds, and we had come up to 650… both of us saying that this would be our final price. at this point, i really started gettingh worried. i SO just wanted to get this over with. we had already spent almost an hour putting together the perfect combination of hookas, and i desperately didnt want to have to go to yet another store. at the same time, i really didnt want to be ripped off. of course, it’s really tough to tell whether his price was fair or not. was 190 pounds per hookah fair? that seemed like a lot to me… but maybe these really were better than the cheaper ones? or maybe they weren’t and we were paying almost twice as much as we had seen in other places. finally, after a bit of thinking, i told him i would meet him halfway at 705 or we were leaving. thank god, he agreed. in the end, we got all 4 hookas for $117. of course, how much it will cost to ship them is a whole other story!



there’s so much to see in egypt, and the 3 weeks that we have here really isn’t enough to see even the highlights… especially since we ended up spending like 11 days in dahab diving and relaxing. we’ve really been avoiding booking any organized tours, but we realized that with only a few days left here, the only way to see the things we wanted to see was to just go ahead and book one. even with the tour, time was really tight, and over the last few days we’ve crammed in so much stuff!

3 days ago, we arrived in Aswan around noonish and by 1pm we were already on a minibus going to our first site. after a brief stop at the high dam of aswan (not particularly interesting) we boarded a small boat to get to the temple of philae which is on a small island in the nile. interestingly enough, this temple which is thousands of years old, actually used to be in a different location, but when egypt built the high dam, the island where it was located got flooded, and they had to take the temple apart into 40,000 pieces, and rebuild it in it’s present location. i can’t even imagine what a complex task that must have been! the temple was pretty cool, and we also got to wander around inside it where we saw lots of egyptian hieroglyphics.

after the temple, we went out to a restaurant on the nile with these canadian guys, andy and jeff, who we’ve been hanging out w/. it’s funny, over the last month or two, we really haven’t spent hardly any time jus traveling by ourselves. pretty much everywhere we go, we’ve ended up meeting up w/ new people and hanging out w/ them for the next several days. it’s been really cool meeting with and traveling w/ these people from all over the world. the only thing that sucks about it, as i said before, is that you have to say goodbye to people so many times! although, as we get to know more and more people from vancouver, i’m starting to think that one day we’ll have to go up there and visit, so some of these goodbyes might not be permanent.

at the end of our meal, the waiter came by and tried to charge us like one and a half times as much for our meal as it should have cost. if there’s one thing we’ve learned about egypt, it’s that you really really have to take care here if you dont want to be ripped off. more than any country so far, we’ve had people try to swindle us out of money here. most of the time we try to just take it in stride and also be cognisant of what’s going on, but sometimes it really does get frustrating. after dinner we went to bed straight away since we needed to get up ridiculously early the next morning.

at 2:45 am we woke up for our next tour. ugh. we were so damn tired. we were going to abu simbel, a tiny spot just 50 miles from the southern border of egypt, and the only way to get there was to travel w/ this armed convoy. after 3 hours of driving and us trying to get at least a little sleep in the van, we arrived at abu simbel. it’s famous for the 4 *humongous* statues of ramses the 2nd that are sitting in front of the temple. i wish that the photo below did a better job of giving you an impression of just how huge these statues were. they’re actually about 67 feet tall! we were so in awe of these incredible statues. it’s just unbelievable that 3,300 years ago, people were able to build a lifelike statue that is this huge. absolutely monumental..

a few hours later, we were with the armed convoy back to aswan. we spent a few hours in town and then straight away had to get on a train to luxor, our next stop. did i mention that this was a whirlwind tour? 6 am the following morning, we were up and getting ready to go out and sightsee some more. ouch! the modern city of luxor is where the ancient city of Thebes used to be. the city has a ton of different monuments on both sides of the nile which passes throug the center of town.

our first stop was the valley of the kings. this is where the egyptian pharoahs were buried along w/ all of their tresures. we got to go inside a few of the tombs, the walls of which were completely covered in hieroglyphics. since these were inside underground tombs, the colors of the hieroglyphics were preserved and you could really see how cool they must have looked thousands of years ago. it was crazy just how much of them there were. every single foot of every single wall was completely covered w/ these intricate writings and drawings. there’s something really cool about hieroglyphics since they are all made up of tiny pictures instead of letters. it definitely gives them an ancient and unique feel as opposed to other ancient writings. unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the tombs, so i dont have any pictures of the colored hieroglyphics, but here are a couple photos of the etched ones i saw elsewhere…

next we went to go see the hatshepsut temple, a huge multilevel temple where terrorists massacred 68 toursits in 1997. nowadays, this place has tons of armed guards to prevent something like that from happening again. phew! next stop was the valley of the queens. the queens tombs were a little less intricate than the tombs of the kings, but still quite interesting. one of the tombs even had a little foetus mummy on display. apparently, this foetus was going to be a prince, so even though it was never born, it got mummified and buried here in the tomb. unfortunately, the most beautiful of all of these tombs, the tomb of nefratari, was closed for rennovations. we managed to squeeze in a quick stop to the colossus of memnon and then hurried to lunch. our day was far from over…

after lunch, we went to go see the luxor temple and the karnak temple. both of these were huge sprawling temple complexes filled w/ statues, gigantic inscripted columns, and obelisks. once again, there were hieroglyphics *everywhere*. so cool! during these last few days, we’ve had a tour guide that has explained the meanings of all these places, what they were used for, when they were built, etc etc but we’ve gotten sooo much info over the last few days that i highly doubt i’ll remember any of it.

with that, our tour was done. today we actually got to wake up at a decent time for once and we’re gonna spend today just lazying around luxor. our canadian friends left on the train last night, so there was yet another sad goodbye….


fender bender

it was bound to happen. with all the insane traffic rushing around here, it was only a question of time until we witnessed a car accident. we knew we’d see one.. we just didn’t know that we’d be inside the car when it happened. ok, before anyone starts worrying, it was the tiniest of fender benders: our taxi just barely knicked another car. in fact, it wouldnt have even been worth mentioning other than what happened afterwards…

we had caught a cab to get across town, and had just crossed through an intersection when our taxi grazed another car. i still am not sure who exactly was at fault. the taxi driver stopped and got out, as did the people in the other car. wthin 5 seconds, the conversation they were having exploded into yelling. the cab driver was screamin and gesturing towards himself indignantly in a way that looked like he was saying “me???! you think it’s *MY* fault??”. seconds later, punches were being thrown. there were about 4 guys in the other car and they were all shoving and/or punching the cab driver. things were getting kinda crazy, and then one of the guys ran off and came back w/ what basically amounted to a whip and started trying to whip the cab driver in the face. at this point we started worrying. first off, i was really concerned for our driver who was outnumbered 4 to 1. secondly we started worrying about our own safety. we decided that we had to evacuate the cab and get out of there. but, we didnt want to stiff the cab driver his money (how sucky to get beat up and not get paid even!) so we did the next logical thing… we desecrated the man’s koran.

so, of course that last part was a bit of an accident. i wanted to leave his money somewhere not too visible to passerbys, but visible enough so he would find it. when i spotted a book, i decided to leave the money sticking out from the book. and while shoving the money in the book hastily, i may or may not have bent a bunch of pages. only upon exiting the taxi, did i realize that the book was actually the driver’s koran. somehow i doubt that shoving dirty money into and bending pages of the koran is appropriate behavior. after getting out of the taxi, we saw that the confrontation was only getting worse. a policeman had joined the commotion, but that didnt seem to help as people were still throwing punches etc despite him. we caught the next cab outta there. sheez… the whole situation was just so crazy to me. to get that heated and crazy over a minor ding?!

anyways, other than that, not much happened today. yesteday we said goodbye to sage, tara, and david. it was really sad to see them go. it’s weird traveling around. you meet all these people and then you spend like 24 hours a day w/ them for a week or so. that is soo much time! and then they just leave and you know you will probably never see them again. we’ve already said so many goodbyes just over the course of the last 3 months. and there’s probably many more to come. so sad…

also, today we bought our ticket to india! on january 9th we fly from here to mumbai!



a few years back, i was having a conversation w/ kevin and he told me that the first thing he did to start off that year on the first of january was drop in on a full sized halfpipe. he wanted to start the year off w/ a bang and thought that it was important to do something really memorable and exceptional on the 1st day of the year. i always thought that was a really cool idea, and since then have tried to make my january firsts memorable. unfortunately, i dont think i really succeeded since no matter how hard i try today, i can’t seem to recall what i ever ended up doing. but this year would be different. we had initially planned to see the pyramids on our first day here, the 31st, but i asked everyone to hold off a day so that we could see the pyramids first thing on the 1st day of the year.

there are a few things on this planet that stand out in people’s minds so much that they become absolutely immense and larger than life. the pyramids of giza definitely fall into that category. in fact, i can’t really think of anything else that is such a well know and extraordinary site. the pyramids are one of the only remaining wonders of the ancient world, and even compared to any modern day wonder, they easily hold their own. you could probably show me any other structure.. and even if you told me it was older, larger, more intricate etc than the pyramids, i still dont think that it could top them. there’s just something about the pyramids. and because of all of this, when we woke up this morning, still tired and groggy from the night before… we couldn’t wait to set out.

the famous pyramids… the ones we all hear about, see in photos , etc are the ones at giza. but, there are actually a lot of pyramids (either 90 or 19… i couldnt understand our driver’s english) strewn about egypt. two pyramid sites saqquara and dashur are near giza, so we decided to go see those as well.. and to see those first and leave giza for the grand finale. we hired a taxi driver for the day and set out.

the first place we went to was saqquara. saqquara is where the first pyramid was built. the first one isnt exactly as smooth looking as the giza pyramids but instead is made of separate steps. as we pulled up in the parking lot and stepped out of the car, we could just make out the pyramid through the hazy smog. we couldn’t believe it. Pyramids!!! we wandered around saqquara for a bit and then hopped in the taxi to go to the next place.

our next stop was dashur. this place is really famous for 3 pyramids: the red pyramid, a huge pyrmaid that you are allowed to go inside; the bent pyramid, a pyramid where during building they changed the angle of it so now it looks bent; and the black pyramid… there’s something wrong w/ this pyramid. when we drove up to the red pyramid, it was *massive*. absolutely humongous. we scrambled up the side of it and then descended down this super long passage to get inside. this passage was really low, so while scrambling down we had to walk all stooped over. it was a difficult walk, and because of it, we are in some major pain today! to make matters worse, there’s absolutely nothing to see in there. but at the same time, it was quite a trip to be inside a pyramid. so eerie to be deep inside this massive 4000 year old structure. a bit freaky too. what if this one collapsed like some of the others had? yikes!! after the red pyramid, we only really got to take a quick glance from far off at the other pyramids here… but we did get to take a photo w/ some of the police on camels, heh.

on the way to giza, we stopped by a small village to pick up some koshari for lunch. we just chilled on the side of the road and ate it. oh, i almost forgot to mention. on the way in the morning, we got egypt’s version of “to go” coffee. when we stopped by a cafe, they had no togo cups and didnt understand why anypone would want togo cups. but we insistead that we were in a hurry. so they just made us regular cups of coffee, and then just had us drop the cups off on our way back! at one point when we stopped for gas, i was able to get a cool photo of an old man on the side of the road:

finally we arrived at giza. in typical middle eastern fashion, our taxi driver, instead of taking us to the main entrance, took us to some shady touts that we are sure must have paid him off. although we had a feeling that there might be something not right w/ this situation, we weren’t absolutely sure, so we ended up paying these guys for a camel ride combo that covered our entrance fee. what we realized soon enough, was that the guys actually pocketed the “entrance fee” and snuck us onto the grounds of the pyramids through a hole in the fence. after that, whenever we ran into a cop, they would bribe the cop. heh, looking back on it, it’s all really kinda funny. odd how things work around here, eh?

anyways, soon enough, caryn and i were on horses, and tara, sage, and david were on camels and we set off on our way. riding a horse around the area was really fun, especially when the guide would make the horses gallop really fast…although usually, we had to go slow so the camels could keep up. the pyramids themselves were so incredible. absolutely amazing. i was so utterly in awe of these huge ancient structures. one of the guys from the hotel had told us that the main pyramid at giza is the most perfect structure in the world. it is architecturally flawless. in comparison, modern structures like the eiffel tower or the empire state building have .6% and 1.4% architectural flaws respectively. i dunno, i just really can’t put down enough words to say just how psyched i was to be there at the pyramids. it was just too damn cool!

and still… that wasn’t even the end of our day. afterwards, we went back to cairo to go see a suffi dancing performance. suffi dancing is a religious dance where the dancers whirl and spin about to put themselves in a trance. we never did find out if this performance was really a religious dance, or just proffessional dancers dancing in that manner, but regardless it was really cool. the music they played was excellent as well. crazy super intense drumming etc.

all in all, this was one hell of a new years day. definitely one i’ll never forget!

here are the rest of the pyramid photos.




it was the last day of 2004, and here we were in cairo, egypt of all places. the night before we had stayed up late playing cards and drinking wine w/ sage and her friends. it had been a fun night. today our plan was just to do some shopping, kick it around town, and get ready for new years eve. it’s pretty weird celebrating new years in another country. back home, you spend all of december thinking about nye, planning it, talking about it. by the time it gets to the 31st, everyone is so full of anticipation. here, it’s a whole nother scenrio. nye isnt a big deal here. no one really cares, and although it’s been in the back of our minds a bit, we hadn’t really thought about it that much. we never even decided what we would do until the night before. walking around town, although we would be greeted by the occasional “happy new years”, there definitely wasn’t the usually higly electric vibe that occurs on this day.

when we walked out of our hotel that morning, the first thing we noticed was about 100 men sitting in the street and praying. whoa! it was such a crazy sight! it was friday, which is the most important day for praying, and the mosque that is next to our hotel was completely full, so all these people had to do their prayers in the street. since there was like a 100 of them, they flooded a big part of the street and cars had to swerve etc just to get around them. it was such a bizarre scene. after getting fallafels (10 cents each) at our local fallafel shop, we went to the souqs to go shopping. we’re starting to get used to cairo. although the enormous contrast between it and dahab was a bit overwhelming the first day, we’re more chill now and are enjoying it… well, everything other than the pollution!! it’s hard to breathe the air here, and after walking around all day, you just feel so dirty!

oh, the other crazy thing here is the traffic. it’s really hardcore and intense. most often when you cross the street, you just have to step out into a swarm of driving cars and hope they dont mow you over. if you’re lucky, you’ll see an egyptian crossing the street and you just try to follow their lead, but otherwise you just hope for the best. some cars stop, some cars swerve around you, while other just plunge straight ahead and you better run!! the trick is to figure out which of those 3 things each car will do. rough!

after shopping for a bit, i needed to take a taxi to the fedex office wayyyy across town to finally pick up the atm card that i’ve been missing. the taxi ride was totally nuts. first off, my driver drove like a madman. seriously. i’ve been in a lot of crazy taxis by now. i was beginning to think that i’ve seen the most insane driving ever… but no. this guy took the cake. he not only drove a million miles per hour, but squeezed into the smallest spaces between cars, veered into lanes that others were merging into, and just generally did everything he could to kill us both. add to this the fact that as we drove, i became more an more woozy due to carbon monoxide in the car. there was a lot of complex bartering on how much the cab would cost (they have no meters here), and although it’s too complicated and long to mentions here, let’s just say he took every opportunity to try to squeeze money out of me.

by the end of the cab ride, we had agreed on 80 pounds, and when i handed him 100, he handed me back two tens, said “here’s twenty”, and sent me on my way. i was just about to get out, when i looked at the change he had given me. he had given me two ones instead of two tens!! i said that, and he starts appologizing and pretending that he just made a mistake. after that he hands me 5 more and then says he has no more change!! i demanded my change and so he first gave me a 20 euro cents piece (what would i need that for?) and then gives me a fist full of a random assortment of crap change that wasn’t even egyptian. i tell him i dont want his crap and i just want my 20 pounds change. he starts digging through his car and digs up some old dusty tape. “here! you have this one! keep!” i was getting so fed up w/ this guy. i told him that if he had no change, he could give me back my 100, and i’ll go get change myself. so he gets out of the car, and then comes back later and hands me a 10. i tell him that this still makes only 17, and not 20!! and he tries to hand me the 20 euro cent thing again. arrrgghhhh! finally i just left. fuck it. he can keep the extra 3 pounds. sheez.

anyways, i finally have my atm card now!!!

so, time went on and we had a dinner before we went out for new years. my food wasnt very good, but hey, i guess that often happens when you try something new. so, to celebrate new years, we went out to this egyptian concert. the guy performing was Mohammed Mounir and he’s insanely famous here. he’s probably one of the most popular singers here right now. we had heard that there was going to be something like 30,000 people at the show, but when we got there, although it was pretty packed, i doubt it was near that number. the venue, was probably one of the worst venues to hold a large show. just a small stage set up w/ everyone standing around it. no seats. no bleachers. nothing. if you weren’t near the front, the chances of you seeing much were slim to none. to make matters worse, there were bright blinding lights poitning at the audience. also, there was no alcohol served. new years eve.. with no alcohol? so weird.

but, despite all that, we still had a good time. the concert didnt start till like 11:45, and they took a break between songs to shoot off some fireworks at midnight. the music wasn’t all that impressive, but what was cool was how excited the people there were. it seemed like every single person there knew the words to every song. everyone clapped and sang along. people were so psyched. some looked like they were literally gonna start crying. even though we didnt know any of the words etc, the excitement was totally contagious. also, we were hanging out w/ some people that worked at our hotel and it was cool to kick it w/ them as well.

the one really annoying thing though, was the amount of attention that the girls in our group were getting. it was absolutely ridiculous. groups of guys would just walk up to us and stand there staring at the girls for like half an hour straight. other guys, while dancing would slowly sneakily dance closer and closer so they could be close to the girls. me and david ended up spending a big part of the time there strategically placing ourselves between the girls and random men in the crowd. ugh.

after the show, we went to a random cafe to hang out. one weird thing there was that they sold chickpea soup, but it came in a glass and you drank the hot soup through a straw. weird eh? unfortunately, we were all hella exhausted by then, and we knew we had to get up early the next day, so we ended up leaving fairly soon.

what a weird new years. definitely interesting and kind of fun, but very different….

Tara, David, Sage, and Mohammed walking through cairo on nye


my taxi driver and arrival in cairo

yesterday was our last night in dahab. it was kinda sad to be leaving as we had gotten pretty used to hanging out here. but, it’s time to move on. before we left, i had to take a taxi down to the bus station to pick up our bus tickets. there aren’t really any taxis in this town, just random men either hanging out by a bridge, or driving by in their pick up trucks and yelling “taxi” at you! so i found one of these guys and had him take me to the bus stop…

on the way we got to talking a bit. he got really really excited when i told him i was from america. “ohhh america!! i love america!!!” then he started asking me if there was anyway for him to come to america to get his doctorate. “i really want to study in america! if i get doctorate here from egypt, it means not much, but if i have doctorate from !!America!! it means so much!”. he really wanted to know if there was anyway that i could help him acquire a visa to get into the country. now, i know absolutely nothing about how things like this work. what would i need to do to help an egyptian come study in the states? not only that, but i mentioned that i wont be home for another 9 months!!

well, he gave me this pleading look, and so i told him that i’d do what i can if i can. i gave him my email, and he said that he’ll email me in 9 months. poor guy. when i asked him about his current job, he told me that he works at a school teaching PE. but if someday he gets doctorate, he can teach at the university. apparently, even though he has a teaching job now, he still barely makes enough money to get by. at the end of the day, when he gets off of work, instead of going home to relax, he has to stand around by the bridge and beg tourists to give them taxi rides. and this is someone who apparently already has a masters degree…. what a life.


we got on the bus, and had the long ride to cairo. there were tons of checkpoints on the way, and the police would come onboard and check passports. we tried to sleep, but it’s nearly impossible in those cramped seats, especially w/ our governor’s performance in “collateral damage” being blasted at 1000 decibels on tv. we finally managed to sleep while breathing the delicious carbon monoxide, only to be awakened at 6am by the loudest most grating arabic music known to man. nice touch!

we had heard a lot about cairo. mostly bad things. well, ok, actually *all* bad things. other than seeing the pyramids at giza, cairo was described as a dirty, filthy, overcrowded city filled w/ locals whose sole purpose is to hassle you or be rude. well, in some ways, it lived up to it’s promise. upon exiting the bus, i hadn’t even gotten my first foot to touch the ground when someone came up to me yelling “which hotel? which hotel? WHERE YOU GO???”. i was barely awake, extremely tired, and the last thing i wanted was to be yelled at. we spent the next 15 or 20 minutes calling a couple hotels, and trying to get a taxi, while these two guys constantly barked in our ears trying to get us to go their hotel. after getting ripped off on some cab fare, we checked out a few dumpy and/or full hotels before we finally found a place to stay. *phew*.

we decided to start out or day at the egyptian museum. now, this place is huge. ok, to call it huge is an understatement. according to the book, if you spent just one minute at each piece in the museum, you would end up being there for 9 months! luckily, we found a guide to show us just the highlights in his speedy 1.5 hour tour. this guy was hillarious. apparently his name was moses, and after dubbing us the “sunshine group” he raced around the museum shouting out “sunshine group!!! follow moses!” not only that, but upon arriving to any exhibit, he would just shove all the people there out of the way to make room for us. there were many startled angry glances from the shoved tourists, but no one dared to mess w/ the crazy old man!! all in all the museum was pretty cool. lots of really neat stuff that was lliterally 5,000 years old!

we later spent some time walking around. i defintely have mixed feelings about this town. on one hand, i keep thinking “wow, it’s *cairo*!!!”. but on the flipside, i just keep thinking, wow… it really is dirty. we walked up to the nile. ugh. through the filthy haze, you could almost barely not make out the other shore. the bank was completely polluted w/ garbage all over the place. it was difficult to breathe. hrm. not to mention the constant looks from everyone around. now, these weren’t the curious looks that we received in syria… these were much more critical, unfriendly looks. we got a quite cheery “fuck you!!” from some kid walking by. *sigh*. what can you do? who knows though… maybe it just seems bad cause we’re all so tired. maybe it’ll be nicer tomorrow.. we’ll see!