I was stationed in Egypt from 1997 to 1998 with the U.S. Army. It was my first foray into the Middle East. My unit was actually in El Gorah in the Sinai. I was part of the Multinational Force and Observers committed to patrolling the Sinai to ensure that neither Egypt nor Israel broke their treaty and placed military forces in the Sinai. It is a peacekeeping missions. One of the few of which I am aware that is successful.
The guys at El Gorah are probably on lock down right now. Poor Bastards! Nothing to do there but drink, surf the web, watch movies and hit the gym. It’s a pretty small camp. A run around the perimeter will get you your two mile run but most of that is wasteland used for the firing range, an obstacle course and a small runway and heli-pad.
While I was there, we were locked down completely for about a month. Most of the time we were allowed to take weekends in Israel or Egypt. A four hour drive West and across the Suez Canal would place you in Cairo. A four hour drive East and past Gaza would put you in Tel Aviv.
I preferred Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is like New York on the Mediterranean. Shopping malls. Green Grass. People going about their business much like we do in America. The city of Tel Aviv is a mix of America and Europe. The city was light and airy. A beach runs from Jaffa [Joppa of Bibilcal Jonah and the Whale fame] almost all the way to Haifa. Miles and miles of beautiful beach and sunny Mediterranean Sea.
And the women…my God. The women were beautiful. Half the city looked like models out of Fredericks of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret.
Cairo was a different setting. Different but still amazing. Cairo is an eclectic mix of Modern and Ancient. Modern day Hotels and The 73 War Panorama and the Cairo Museum set amidst the Giza Pyramids, the Mohammad Ali Mosque. Ride a camel around the desert and come at the pyramids from the rear. Walk from the pyramids to the Sphinx. Right across the street. Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. That was a bit surreal to me.
Cairo has the city of the dead. A giant cemetery. Ancient monuments to families and individuals both great and small. People living inside the cemetery. The poorest of the poor.
Walking around downtown. I distinctly remember the smell of kerosene. I couldn’t figure out why. When I asked I was told that they used kerosene to burn the human waste in the public bathrooms. A bad smell turned disgusting.
I really didn’t meet any Egyptian women in Cairo. I was hanging out with friends. After days full of sightseeing and climbing pyramids and exploring catacombs, we were pretty tired. I remember crawling down to the burial chamber of Nefertiti. The tunnel got smaller and smaller until i had to bend to make it through. At the bottom, my buddy Humberto and I took turns climbing into the sarcophagus to take pictures. Not much inside the chamber anymore. It’s all been removed by grave robbers of the antiquities authorities and placed in museums. So we spent only a few moments inside and made good our escape. Back up the tunnel to the light and fresh air. It’s an odd feeling knowing that you are under those huge pyramids.
Rolling around Cairo in a taxi cab is an adventure. I don’t think there are any rules out there. Buses have the right of way and they will take it. When a bus starts pulling over into your lane, you have no choice but to find a way to get out of it’s way. Horns are constantly blaring. A three lane road turns into 5 or 6 or 8 lanes. Drivers pay no attention to road markings. The traffic circles are chaos. Driving there makes Paris look calm and orderly.
Cairo, or al Qahira in Arabic, was an adventure for me. I can’t wait to get back and do it again. This time, I’ll be going down South. When I was there last time, I was in the Army. We were restricted from going South to Aswan and Luxor because of the terrorist activity. This time. Nothing will stop me.
Insha’allah, I will be seeing Egypt again 1-10 August 2008. Almost ten years exactly from the date that I last visited.
DAY 1: CAIRO
Arrival at Cairo airport, where our representative will be waiting for you. He will then meet and assist you through airport formalities and escort you to your hotel in Cairo, situated at the pyramids’ area. Check in and overnight at hotel in Cairo.
DAY 2: CAIRO
Today we visit the great Pyramids of Giza and their guardian Sphinx and then head to the Cairo Museum. Overnight at hotel in Cairo.
DAY 3: CAIRO – ASWAN (Cruise)
This morning we are transferred to Cairo Airport for our flight to Aswan. Then we will be escorted to embark on the Nile cruise ship-our floating hotel for the next five days. After lunch, we sail by ‘felucca’ a traditional Nile sailing boat, to view Kitcheners Island and the Agha Khan Mausoleum. Overnight in Aswan.
Optional: Abu Simbel excursion in the morning
DAY 4: ASWAN – KOMOMBO – EDFU (Cruise)
Today we visit the impressive Aswan High Dam and its huge lake, and the Temple of Philae. Then we cruise to Kom Ombo to visit the Temple shared by the Gods Sobek & Haroeris. Tonight we enjoy a special costume party featuring Native Egyptian and pharaonic style. Overnight in Edfu
DAY 5: EDFU – ESNA – LUXOR (Cruise)
This morning we explore the Temple of Horus, the falcon god. Then we sail to Esna and continue sailing to Luxor. Overnight in Luxor.
DAY 6: LUXOR (Cruise)
Today we explore the Necropolis of Thebes, the wondrous Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s Temple, and the Colossi of Memnon. In the evening, we visit the Karnak and Luxor Temple. Overnight in Luxor.
DAY 7: LUXOR – CAIRO
Today we will be transferred to Luxor airport for our flight back to Cairo where we will be met and escorted to the hotel. The balance of the day is free for shopping. Overnight at hotel in Cairo.
DAY 8: CAIRO
The tour ends
We’ll have two more days in Egypt to do as we please. I’m thinking Alexandria would be a great palce to hit before we depart for home.
I did “meet” one woman in Cairo. My buddy Humberto and I were at the bar of the Moevinpick Hotel near the Airport on our first night in Cairo. We were drinking a few beers together and planning the rest of our weekend. This beautiful Egyptian girl walks past our table. I’m talking beauty. She kinda glances our way and gives us a twinkling of a smile. Humberto and I were impressed. We had heard that there were some remarkable beauties in Cairo. This girl definitely seemed to fit the bill. But as luck would have it, she was with a man. Humberto and I finished our beers and decided to cruise downtown to check out the Cairo nightlife. On the way out the door, we checked out our girl one last time. Her beau had walked away leaving us an opening. I waved at her, smiled and said; “Salaam!” She smiled at us and revealed the blackest set of teeth that I’ve seen outside of a Halloween costume party. lol I was taken aback. It was a bit difficult to recover but I managed to smile back and keep moving.
Later, I learned that many Egyptians have this discoloration problem because of the water. Lack of chlorine and such. It’s pretty shocking if you are surprised by it when trying to get all Rico Sauve on some girl in al Qahira. haha I know I was shocked.