Monday, May 31, 2010

Egypt: Afternoons & Evenings . . .

I'm coming to believe that no matter where you are on this planet, watching the sun set is pure magic.
Cairo was no exception.

Although I came home without a single sunset photo, I did manage to record a few things we did during the afternoon and evening hours:

Golden Hour After a day in Giza, we set out to tackle the touts and find a fairly priced felucca. A felucca is the traditional sailboat of the Nile. Despite the fact that motorized boats do all of the real transporting and commerce, feluccas still remain. I was impressed when I learned that they have been cruising the river since the days of the Pharaohs.

Without a motor, they rely on the winds and on the river's current. It was the perfect way to catch the breeze on a hot summer afternoon.

Setting sail!

Hannah enjoying the sights on the bank and watching the river traffic.

Already tired from sightseeing earlier in the day, I was happy to just chill on the ride. However, all that relaxin' quickly ended when our tour guide put me to work.

Yep, that's me at the helm!
Although at one point I may have gotten us a little too close to a small cruise boat at the dock, for the most part I think I did a fairly decent job. I even managed to successfully maneuver us under a bridge. It was my third time on a sailboat (I've been on the Adventuress a few times) and my first time steering.
It took a bit more muscle than I was expecting, but overall it was good fun.

We spent our last sunset in town down at souk Khan el Khalili. Now, we have a few "souks" in Abu Dhabi, but they are nothing compared to this bazaar. For starters, this souk is over 600 years old and, according to our guidebook, basically unchanged since the 1300s. The place is brimming with the bounty of the East: spices, perfumes, gold, silver, fabrics, carpets, brass, leather, pottery, musical instruments, and hundreds of other little trinkets.

The souk left me a bit dazed. There were so many things to see, so many intoxicating smells, and so many people. It was definitely a whirlwind of activity as tourists, local shoppers, and pushy vendors filled the streets and packed the narrow alleys. Even though there were thousands of beautiful and interesting things to buy, the hassle of bargaining was enough to put me off and prevented me from spending much money. Thanks to Hannah's persistence and her mad negotiating skills, I came home with 1 decently priced little lantern.

Twilight The Cairo Tower is a lovely (yet pricey) place to watch the the sun set and see the stars come out.

Sun turns the evening to rose (photo by Jill)

Given that it's the tallest thing around, was designed by a local boy (Naoum Chebib), and constructed to look like a lotus flower (the symbol of upper Egypt), it quickly became a big deal. Big enough, I guess, to be Cairo's second most famous landmark. (Go here if you're having trouble figuring out what's #1.)

(photo by Jill)

Situated on an island in the middle of the Nile, it makes you feel like you're at the heart of the city. We were even able see the pyramids peep out of the sand and smog! I thought the Nile looked especially stunning from this height.

(photo by Jill)

The Tower reminded me a bit of the Space Needle. Take away the pyramids in the distance, the men dressed in tunics and pharaoh crowns wanting to write your name in hieroglyphics, and the Nile below; add the spectacular Mt. Rainier and sparkling Puget Sound and . . . voila! Same-same. (Okay -- so maybe they're not so similar.) However, they do have a few things in common: they're about the same height and the same age. (The Cairo Tower is only 9 feet taller and 1 year older than the Space Needle.)

Between sailing the Nile, shopping at the market, and simply enjoying the panoramic views, our afternoons and evenings were pleasantly busy. I loved how our experiences allowed us to see Cairo from different angles: looking up to surveying the bustle on the banks of the river as we sailed past; catching glimpses of fabrics and faces and mashrabiya in the old souk; peering over the tower railing to watch the city frantically buzz below and gazing up at the sky to watch the stars quietly shine above.


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