Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Monday, December 18, 2017

Exploring the Nile ~ ‘Just like Bogey and Bacall. . .’

It had sounded so simple. . .an on-our-own island tour. In Egypt.
You know. . .'just like Bogey and Bacall' . . .(yes, I know they did Key Largo; bear with me):

It felt so adventuresome as we set out to explore a bit of The Nile in our hired boat, that I found myself humming the tune. . . . ‘just like Bogey and Bacall’. You know how some places just feel so extraordinarily fantastic that you know it must be a movie setting? Well that’s what this part of the Nile River was like.

Since arriving at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, we’d felt as if we were traveling in a time warp - back in the ‘golden age of travel’ - so why not imagine being the lead characters in some old black and white mid-20th century adventure film?

Our first stop: Elephantine Island, that bisects the Nile in Aswan. It beckoned each time we walked out on our hotel balcony; especially at night when street lights cast a mesmerizing glow on the river.

Elephatine Island from our balcony
From our balcony we had a near spot-on view of  the excavation site of ancient Abu, an important customs point and trading center dating back some 3,000 years BC.

Ancient Abu Egypt

On this sunny morning we planned to travel around the island by boat but begin our outing by exploring the island and its two villages on our own.

It sounded so simple. . .

We'd start from the Museum at the entry to the Abu excation site and walk north meeting up with our boatmen at the only hotel on the island, the Movenpick. According to our Lonely Planet’s Egypt guidebook:

“Siou and Koti villages lie between the ruins in the south and the Movenpick Resort. . .A north-south path crosses the middle of the island and links the two villages.”

Easey- peasy, we thought. Even better, we’d be away from the tour-touts along the river’s corniche that swarm like the area’s flies, offering river tours, land tours and combination tours. We didn't want a tour. We didn't want a guide.

Our adventure begins. . .
The man at the museum ticket booth pointed to a gate that led into a goat pasture when we told him where we were headed. By the time we reached the gate, it had a gatekeeper: a tall, slim-built man with graying hair, clad in a white galabeya (the long flowing robe worn by many men in this desert climate). He flashed a smile, showing a single front tooth. “Welcome,” he said, “I am the Mayor. I will show you my village.”

Our tour begins 
Despite our protestations, he insisted he would show us the village - and not just out of the goodness of his heart. “How long you want? Half hour or hour?” Half hour is 75, more for an hour.” 

We took the half hour option as it was clear we were going no where without the Mayor. 

Nubian House - how 'tourist' would this island be?
Our first pause was at an obvious tourist attraction a 'typical Nubian House', which was closed. Had we wanted, the Mayor would have had it opened (undoubtedly at a cost). When we declined, he set off with us in tow to see his village. Now, weeks later, we are still wondering where that simple sounding ‘north-south path’ was that the guidebook mentioned.  Like entering a maze, the dusty pathways twisted and turned through the town. We hadn't gone far before I was completely turned around.

A main 'road' path through town
At one turn a woman clad in a full body burqa, slit opening for her eyes, lowered her head and covered her face completely as she got close to us. A bit further and around another corner we passed three burqa-clad women sitting and visiting on the concrete steps of a home. One was using a stone mortar and pestle to grind grain. They ignored our passing. We came upon the first retail business, a grocery store,  I told the Mayor I wanted to take a photo. The woman running the store stepped out of camera range. This place was shaping up to be the 'real thing' - not a tourist village by any means.

The village grocery store. . .
Past open doors into homes with the barest of interior furnishings. Yet many wore colorful paintings and Nubian designs on their exterior walls. Proud of his village and a fountain of facts about it, our guide/Mayor would point out places I should photograph including this home with a crocodile skull hanging above the door.

“Crocodile!,” proudly pointed out the Mayor, "it brings good luck.”

PicMonkey Collage
Crocodile head above the door for good luck, check.
“So can you think of any of our friends – any body we know – that would want to be here with us right now,” The Scout asked me.  “None that I can think of,” I truthfully answered, chuckling at the thought.

PicMonkey Collage
Coffee anyone?
The Mayor asked if we’d like a Nubian coffee – we declined, explaining we’d just had coffee. As we approached the coffee shop, I was glad we’d passed on the offer. Just as I was glad we declined his offer for water from the village jugs outside the mosque.

Got thirst?
We did get a chuckle when after winding our way through dusty neighborhoods, past garden plots and pastures, we saw something so incongruous with the the setting that it couldn't be possible, but there it was:

The village museum
The village museum – which was also closed – had earned a flag of distinction from TripAdvisor!

Were we finally on that north-south path?
Our private tour ended right on the dot and the Mayor bid us farewell pointing us north, with a right turn, followed by left and another right to reach the hotel. We think we might have been on a portion of the ‘north-south’ path.  We managed to end up on a few dead ends before finding the hotel, where we were most happy to see our boatmen waiting for us. . .we were ready to set sail on The Nile.

The Nile River awaits. . .
We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo. . .

That’s it for this week.  Our wishes for Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year to you and yours! Again, our thanks for the time you spend with us. Safe and happy travels. . .and next week we’ll tell you about Christmas in Greece.

Linking this week with:
Best of Weekend
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sunday at the Souk: Spicing up life in Egypt

Souk: Arab marketplace or bazaar.

Just saying the word ‘souk’ conjures up images of exotic spice displays with pungent scents filling the air and tiny shops with dark interiors selling goods straight out of the tales of Arabian Nights.

Spice for sale in Aswan, Egypt
Sometimes though, those conjured images are better than reality. So we set off to find out just how exotic this Egyptian souk would be. It was a blue-sky Sunday morning with temperatures in the pleasant low-80F as we reached our destination: Aswan's Sharia as-Souq, a market that stretched for several city blocks. Shops opened onto the street, their displays creating a colorful pathway and assuring us this would be as good as imagined.

This wasn't just a tourist attraction, this was where locals shopped
Turns out Sunday morning was a slow time at the market as many shops were closed. There were still so many open and beckoning that we were on sensor overload by the time we emerged a couple hours later from this commercial area a few blocks back from The Nile River.

Merchandise arrived
Without crowds of locals in which we could blend in, we stuck out like the tourists we were. Here I should note that we took guidebook recommendations seriously though and dressed ‘conservatively’ with long dark travel pants and long sleeves for me, short aleeves for The Scout. I kept my small camera in its bag only pulling it out for an occasional photo. Still, the vendors had us pegged and called out:
“Hey, lady! What you want? You want spice?”

Shops lined the street in Aswan's souk

“Bon jour, welcome to Aswan!”  We were welcomed in French and German.

'Where you live?' Greece, we replied, causing each questioner a moment’s pause, then a quick, 'Kalimera!' The few times we said we were Americans, the jovial response was, “Welcome to Alaska!” (it seemed to be some new ‘clever’ phrase, as they used it often).

Souk shopping to spice up life in Aswan
And yes, for those wondering: we felt safe!  I don’t think we’ve found a welcome anywhere in the world to be as warm and genuine as that with which we were greeted in Aswan. Everywhere we went. By all whom we met. We were made welcome. The souk was no exception.

Now there are the tourist touts who will offer you taxis, tours, boat rides and shopping deals but even they, who can be as pesky at times as the flies that populate this city, were kind, chit-chatty people. Everyone we encountered spoke  English . . .and many it seem speak German, French and Spanish and a few, Greek.

From farm-to-table gardens here
The spices did fill the air with their pungent scents. Vendors would sprinkle spice onto my hand and have me guess its name and purpose. Vegetables – cabbages in particular - were huge and tempting. Caged birds, butcher shops and fish displays – all of which attracted those pesky flies were less appealing.

Nubian woven items 
Nubian baskets, scarfs and skull caps, swords and daggers and African masks all left no doubt that we were definitely in Africa.

Colorful displays filled the streets - Aswan, Egypt souk
Walking the full length of the market was not difficult. However the street surfaces were uneven and sidewalks pretty much non- existent.  Those that did exist were uneven and not easy to navigate.  Cars parked outside the souk area are within inches of each other so often times you must walk a distance on the street to even get to the sidewalk.

The sights and sounds of the souk never disappoint
The souk didn't disappoint. It simply added to that magnetic pull that Egypt has on us. Our flights to and from Cairo were two hours or less from Athens. Aswan was another hour's flight south.  It is a shame, as we’ve said before, that tales of terrorism continue to keep tourism in a slump. For Americans the exchange rate is 17 Egyptian pounds to $1; making the place a shoppers paradise!

I'm still in that Scheherazade mood, so I have more tales from Egypt coming up in the next few weeks and hope they'll tickle your travel bug.

Whereever you are we wish you and yours happy and safe travels. As always, thanks so much for the time you spend with us!

Linking this week with:
Best of Weekend
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Monday, December 4, 2017

Egypt: Where Enchanting and Exotic Meet

There is something about the plane landing after dark in Egypt where the vast stretches of darkened desert provide a backdrop to the exotic feel of the adventure. It has a lonely sort of mysterious feel about it; there's no doubt you are leaving your comfort zone behind.

Our plane taxied to a stop some distance from the terminal - even though it appeared to be the only on that had landed in some time - and we traveled the last few hundred meters on a bus.

We were definitely excited but were feeling bit disorientated and vulnerable as we made our way through the empty arrivals area -- following a man we'd just met -- to collect our bags and have them checked through customs. He was also the one who would get us to our hotel.

Boats on the Nile in the evening's light - Aswan
Such was our arrival in Aswan, Egypt.

(And I have to admit we’d arranged transportation with our hotel so that man we were following was their representative. Well worth the $45US we spent for that service as it was a bit more complex than we'd been led to expect.)

Sunset on The Nile - Aswan, Egypt
He led us to a van parked some distance from the terminal building and then joined us and the van's driver for the trip to the hotel. After we'd traveled some distance along more darkened expansive desert we noticed traffic slowing to a stop for armed guards ahead of us. They were looking into vehicles and opening trunks. He explained this was being done because our route into town led us across the Nile River and we were about to cross the old Aswan Dam.

A darkened desert. . .armed guards. . .Aswan Dam! Nile River! It all added to the mystery and the out-of-the-ordinary feel of this travel adventure. We were definitely back in Egypt, one of our favorite travel destinations.

This time though we were spreading our wings beyond Cairo’s 'comfort zone.'  This trip we are spending most of our time in Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city. . .in the land of the Nubians.

Image result for map of egypt

Land of the Nubians

The Nubian region stretches from southern Egypt into Sudan. It is believed the first Nubian civilization was in this area now known as Aswan as long as 5000 years B.C. With so much history here, there are plenty of museums and archeological sites to keep us busy. Not to mention two islands to visit, the Nile upon which we plan to spend some time and of course, who could come to Egypt and not shop in their enchanting souks?

Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
One thing that drew us to this city was our desire to stay in the Old Cataract Hotel. It had a large role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.  Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, the old hotel as well as its ‘new wing’ built in 1961 underwent a major renovation in 2008 and reopened in 2011. We are in one of the 76 rooms (along with 45 suites) that are in what was the original hotel, now called the Palace Wing.

Lobby area Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
I’ve struggled to describe this place as the words, 'old world charm', 'exotic', 'elegant' and 'magical' are so cliché sounding but sometimes those are the only words that work to describe a place like this. It is simply enchanting and staff members dote on guests. It's as though we've re-entered that golden age of travel for which Cook originally built the place.

PicMonkey Collage
Our room - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We splurged a bit booking a room with a view of the Nile River, although the garden view rooms have beautiful views as well.  But when in Egypt, and staying at this hotel in particular, it seemed we really should be viewing the Nile River. . .and do we ever!

Our room with a view - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We lucked out and also are directly across the Ruins of Abu on Elephantine Island. That settlement dates back some 3,000 years BC.

Ruins of Abu - Elephantine Island Aswan, Egypt
While it is difficult to pull ourselves off our deck and the amazing show created by the every-day activities on the river, we have visited the souk (or should I say, 'run the gauntlet' of the souk) and have been out on The Nile. Today we had an adventure when we set off to explore the Nubian villages on Elephantine Island on our own and ended up on a guided tour led by the self-proclaimed mayor of the village. A memorable experience but one we agreed most of our friends would not have enjoyed.

I'd hoped to have some Agatha Christie mojo rub off on me but with so much I want to tell you about this place, I am feeling more like Scheherazade  – so be prepared. I don't have 1,001 tales for you but I've got many more coming from this enchanting Land of the Nubians.

Old Cataract Hotel Gardens and entry - Aswan, Egypt
Following last week's post, a number of you've sent wishes for a safe trip and others flat out expressed concerns for our safety in Egypt. And we thank you who took the time to write or comment for caring about us. What saddens us is that a group of terrorists can so negatively impact tourism in this country and keep so many travelers away.

We have been traveling on our own and have wondered through Aswan’s souks, along its main roads, and through Nubian villages -- and never once have we felt unsafe or threatened. In fact, just the opposite - we've been warmly welcomed. We’ve been thanked for visiting. People are geniunely flattered that we like their city. 

We've barely touched the surface - and we'll definitely be back!

That’s it for this week from Egypt.  Safe travels to you and yours and thanks for being with us. We hope you'll be back next week  ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
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Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Weekend Travel InspirationBest of Weekend

Sunday, November 26, 2017

When Travelers Become 'Nestless' and Restless

The symptoms were all there. I had just ignored them.

The first appeared shortly after arriving in Greece: I wanted to make a meatloaf for dinner. That was followed by a near frantic quest the following week to find and buy brown sugar, oatmeal and raisins to make cookies.

I am not one to lust for the kitchen.  I’m the have-bag-will-travel-at-a-moment’s-notice gal. Ready in a nano-second to try a new restaurant.  The one who goes into the village bakery for a loaf of bread and comes out with a bag of cookies as well. Bake cookies. . .at home?  Really?!

A road trip through the Greek Peloponnese is a favorite outing
Yet, there I was in the kitchen having traded my travel guidebook for a cookbook; my camera for a cookie pan.

I realized then, that this traveler was suffering from a need to nest.

Nest: a home where people live.

The Stone House on the Hill from our olive grove

That self-realization may have been the biggest surprise that came out of our ‘summer of slogging’.

For those not with us in recent months:  we got rid of our life’s accumulations, sold our U.S. home of 30 years, filled two storage units with our remaining treasures, packed an enormous pile of suitcases (by our travel standards) and came to Greece for a full-time expat adventure.

Ancient pathways to discovery - Monemvasia, Greece
While starting the new chapter has been an exciting time, we found that closing out the last wasn't. During our last few weeks in the Pacific Northwest our day-to-day necessities were kept in plastic storage bins and suitcases. We slept on a mattress on the floor.  Dinners became a stream of 'Happy Hour' outings as nothing remained in the kitchen with which to cook. Lunch was often a cellophane wrapped sandwich from Starbucks.

We had a roof over our heads but for all practical purposes we really were ‘nest-less near Seattle’. 

Our Casa Kirkland January 2016
Our last two days of that chapter were spent in a at a hotel a few miles from what had been our house. It was similar to a ‘staycation’ but more appropriately named by The Scout, it was a ‘leavecation’.

“Welcome to Bellevue! Have you stayed with us before?” asked the chipper desk clerk at the Marriott Hotel. ‘Well, no. Until today, we used to live just down the road.’

The Three E's: Euphoria, Exhaustion and Expectations

Those ex pats to whom we turned to for advice and encouragement described feeling euphoric at the new sense of freedom this new lifestyle brings.  I hate to admit that I am still waiting for that euphoria to hit. The reality was that we arrived in Greece feeling, well, . . .exhausted.

I'I didn't shed a tear (somewhat to my surprise) as we drove away from our Kirkland home. It was such a relief to be done with cleaning it out and selling it that if I came close to euphoria that might have been the moment.

Our new garden spring 2017 at The Stone House on the Hill

By that point our focus was expectations for Greece: how large the new plants would be, the size of our olive harvest, the type of car we'd buy.

Reality can dash those expectations as quickly as exhaustion can quash euphoria. Many plants had been baked into the ground by the summer’s unusually hot temperatures. Even those heat-tolerant plants were varying shades of brown and tan. The olive crop so small we considered not harvesting at all. And you know from the previous post what an adventure we had buying a car. 

However. . .

Those Sunny Skies ~ And An Indian Summer

Nesting on the hillside in the Peloponnese

That same sun that had baked the garden only weeks earlier had mellowed by the time we arrived in October. It continues to make one of the loveliest Indian Summer backdrops to this new life that you can imagine.

We've replanted the garden. Flowers and vegetables have already begun flourishing. Our olive harvest was small, but we had one. Our Hi Ho Silver has already had his inaugural road trip.

Oh, yes. . .I also made that meatloaf. And I baked cookies (having successfully found two of those three ingredients and substituting Craisens for raisins). I’ve puttered, or pottered as my British friends here would say, in the garden on a near daily basis.

Our village, Agios Nikolaos, slows for the winter
Now, after nearly two months in our Greek home, we are back into the rhythms of village life. Olive harvest is in full swing now in the Messinian Mani marking the end of autumn, many restaurants and tavernas have closed for the winter. Just as the village slows its pace, so have we.

We have rested and nested.

But those of you who've been with us for awhile must know that means for us. . .

It's Time to Fly!

“A bird in a nest is secure, but that is not why God gave it wings.”
  - Matshona Dhliwayo

We had different responses to our summer of slogging: I suffered from a need to nest while The Scout grew restless. We had far too little travel. Travel planning came to a screeching halt. So while my nose has been in cookbooks, his has been in guidebooks.

Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt

Since part of the reason for relocating here was to take advantage of travel on this side of the Atlantic, it is time to do just that!  With low airfares and close destinations, it is difficult to decide which direction to head. Did you know it takes less time to get from Athens to Egypt than from Seattle to San Francisco? You can be there in less than a couple of hours.

The Nile as it flows through Cairo, Egypt

And that fact won the coin toss. We are heading back to Egypt the end of this week. We're going to spend most of our time in Aswan, a new destination for us to explore, but must spend a couple days in Cairo - one of our very favorite cities!

[Note:  Timing is everything. I'd just finished writing this post when news broke on this side of the world about the despicable terrorist attack at the mosque in the Sinai. We've not changed or cancelled our plans to visit Egypt as result of that incident. Our feeling is that life is rather a crap shoot these days no matter where in the world you are; you could be a victim of mass murder while attending a concert in Las Vegas or while attending a small church in rural Texas or while praying at a mosque in Egypt.]

We know many of you have made lifestyle and life location changes recently and we are curious about what you discovered about yourself as you transitioned to your 'new normal'? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below or shoot us an email! 

As always, thanks for being a part of this new journey of ours – the time you spend with us is always appreciated. 

Happy and Safe Travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
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Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Departing Cairo ~ A ‘touch’ and go affair

Gently her hands circled my breasts before moving down my rib cage, then up my back and front in a seemingly unbroken motion of discovery. She’d averted her eyes as we stood face-to-face barely inches apart, her concentration focused on what she was – or wasn’t – feeling. Her palms down my arms, around my wrists; up the leg – all the way – and down the other. Front and back, round and round.
It reminded me of some of the massages and the Turkish bath that I’ve willingly shelled out big bucks to experience. This was, however, free and to my way of thinking, had a much bigger potential health payoff:  it just might just keep some nut from boarding my flight and blowing it out of the sky.

View from the plane as we depart Cairo, Egypt
That wasa portion of the security check we underwent just inside the newly renovated Terminal 2 at the Cairo Airport. The terminal, scheduled to open in late 2015 had been only open for two weeks before our December 2016 departure.

Still so new it looks almost empty - Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
The sleek, modern building is expected to boost annual passenger capacity by 8 million. It’s expanded capacity, which will include accommodating those enormous double-decker A380 planes, is hoped to play a role in luring travelers back to Egypt. In articles about the new terminal tourism officials said that in addition to enlarging the terminal they were taking steps to make visitors feel safe while visiting the country.

Plenty of eateries from which to choose - one day anyway
If our experience at the airport is any indication, they are taking that safety and security business seriously.

That first security checkpoint was footsteps inside the front doors. Bags, coats, and shoes went into bins and through an enormous scanner (we find it curious that after the ‘Shoe Bomber’ incident a few years back we often are NOT required to remove shoes when going through airport screening on that side of the Atlantic).  Here shoes were off then humans walked through a scanner, then were hand searched as I described above.

New shop being readied in Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
That was the first of four such thorough security checks we would encounter between the front door and our boarding gate. A second one was done after obtaining our boarding passes and checking bags. British Airways required boarding passes be issued at the airport, you couldn’t print them out in advance.

Business Class lounge - Cairo Airport
The third screening was just outside the Business Class lounge that serves several airlines.  The lounge was spacious and comfortable and made waiting for the flight a pleasant experience. However, just steps outside the lounge we again ran bags through screening machines, walked through a scanner and again each of us was ‘patted down’. (We had to wait a bit until they could round up a woman to ‘pat me down’ at this checkpoint.)

New terminal 2 at Cairo Airport
We entered the waiting area at our gate by walking through a scanner and there officers ran a swab over our clothes and bags – all belongings -- then checked the swab for traces of explosives. By then we’d had enough screenings; I’d announced the glamour days of travel were long gone. We’d pulled out and replaced into our bags our computer and the plastic bag of carryon liquids enough times for one day (although we did it again in London). Our passport and boarding pass had been scrutinized by many. . . enough, already!

Waiting area Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
Intimate and intense pre-boarding security checks aren’t new to us and like other frequent travelers we could probably tell a horror story about the process encountered at any of the major European and American big city airports.  But because I’ve devoted a number of posts to the wonders we’ve encountered in Egypt, I felt I needed to tell a bit more of ‘the rest of the story’. Airport security is intense if not tedious, but after two recent plane crashes of undetermined-but-suspected-terrorism causes, it should be.

We’d been home only a few days when the Seattle Times newspaper ran an Associated Press story, about the crash of the EgyptAir flight last spring.

It was headlined, Explosives found on crash victims of EgyptAir flight
'CAIRO – Traces of explosive have been found on some victims of an EgyptAir flight from Paris that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea in May, Egypt’s government said Thursday, a find that could deal another major blow the country’s tourism sector.'

Tourism in Egypt has tanked thanks both to a well-publicized revolution in 2011 and those two airplane crashes not to mention a couple other attacks on tourists. Many of you have written comments saying that safety concerns are keeping you from visiting.  And while I’ve written glowingly of our explorations, both with guides and on our own during our last two visits, the environment is one that not all travelers – no matter how well-traveled – may want to tackle.  However, we are already excited about what we will do in Egypt next March when we fly via Cairo to get back to Greece! 

A final smoggy view of Cairo from departing flight
It’s a new year and we hope it is filled with travel adventures for you – whether real time or armchair.  We do want sincerely thank you for the time you’ve spent reading our posts, sharing them with others (the icing on the cake!) and for taking time to comment or send an email about them.  Our world is better because you are a part of it!  Until next week, stay safe and be happy!

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kicking down the cobblestones in Cairo, Egypt ~

. . .Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy. . .

-- 59th Street Bridge Song

We set out on foot – one of our favorite ways to explore any place -- but especially Cairo, Egypt where we spent three mid-December days.  Past the entryway Christmas tree that greeted guests at the Cairo Marriot Hotel -- cleverly built around the historic Gezira Palace –  we were off to revisit the Zamelik neighborhood in which the hotel is located.

Just past the guard house at the hotel’s entry gate  – with its armed officers and a leashed German Shepherd that check all arriving vehicles - we were greeted by a bevy of taxi cab drivers each offering ‘a good deal’ to the Pyramids and Sphinx or anywhere we might want to go.  They spoke English and didn’t badger once we explained we were going no further than our feet could take us.

Cairo Marriott Hotel entryway is part of the old palace

This is the second time we’ve used Cairo as a ‘gateway city’ from which to return to the United States after a stay at The Stone House on The Hill. So both times we’ve arrived here from our laid-back rural area of Greece and have been jarred by the sheer size of this city with a population hovering at 20 million. The sprawling megalopolis is often blanketed in morning smog, traffic is continuously horrendous, and yet it has such a charm that it keeps bringing us back.

Gezira, means island, and that's were we stayed in Cairo
Zamelik is one of two Cairo districts – the other Gezira -  on an island in the middle of The Nile River. It is one of the city’s more affluent areas and home to many ex pats. There’s an interesting mix of businesses on its bustling' 26 July Street'; some shops in brick and mortar buildings and others mere sidewalk displays. There seems to be a bookstore on every other corner, (our favorite, Diwa) and traditional coffee shops where men wearing long-white white gallibayas, (think long white shirt) and puffing on shishas, (the traditional water pipes) while away a few hours each day. It isn’t unusual to find a small eatery or two sporting a ‘Recommended by Trip Advisor’ certificate on the door.

Gezira island - Wikipedia photo
As for kicking back those cobblestones, a more accurate description is cautiously stepping around dips, rises, and uneven surfaces that make up the area’s rather challenging walkways. Those sidewalks and the never-ending traffic were the only ‘dangers’ encountered on our outing. Crossing a street, even with a green light beckoning us forth, felt more like  filming a “Survivor” television show segment than taking a stroll, especially when parked cars force long detours out into traffic before reaching the other sidewalk.

Can't always walk between parked cars in Cairo
We were delighted to find many of our favorite businesses still in operation.  They are typical neighborhood 'mom-and-pop' shops selling goods to locals, not dependent upon tourists like us.

The displays in this store are a work of art
One of the many fruit and vegetable markets that we pass on this route strikes me as a work of art. Its vendor always positioned just to the left of his displays, scanning the sidewalk for possible customers.  I think he was flattered, if not a bit perplexed, when I asked him if I could take a photo of his store.  I got a thumbs up and smile though when I showed him the photo above.

No doubt about what this store sells!
The businesses really do mean business here. And most, like the one above, left no one guessing as to what was for sale. 

Eateries tease with aromas and displays
The eateries are all miniscule in size but taunted the taste buds with many temptations.

A florist shop display extends into the street in Cairo's Zamelik district
Sidewalks are shared by pedestrians and vendors. Blankets and makeshift shelves displayed merchandise ranging from books and bread to produce and flowers. A carpet repair shop had several repair stations operating on the sidewalk. Florist displays cascade into the streets. Arabian bread is sold by the bag from street vendors found at regular intervals.

Roasted yam, anyone?

Bread and roasted yams brought a new meaning to ‘fast food’.

Bread for sale
Veering off the main drag we took a winding route back to the hotel, walking the residential area’s tree-lined streets.

A secret garden filled with flowers and statues
The district, one of the city’s most affluent is home to stately 19th century mansions and villas as well as high density apartment building complexes.

Mansions and villas lined some streets

Other streets had high density housing
A number of you have commented that while you’d like to visit Cairo you do have concerns about your safety there. While I am addressing that topic next week in a bit more detail, I did want to assure you that we do have certain ‘safety rules’ we follow when setting off on foot to explore any new foreign city:
*First, is to be educated about where we are. We read up on the place in advance of our arrival.  Novels set in the area provide a bit of history and contemporary color, guidebooks, travel blogs and on-line articles and traveler’s reviews are all part of the pre-travel research we do. We heed the advice of others. There are Cairo neighborhoods we wouldn’t explore on foot - just like there are places in Miami, Chicago and Seattle we’d avoid.
*We get a city map from the hotel concierge, discuss where the hotel is located on the map and where we are thinking of walking. We heed his/her recommendations and warnings.
*We dress conservatively and try not to call attention to ourselves. In Cairo that meant wearing long dark pants, not jeans, and shirts with sleeves.  I wear or carry a scarf just in case I need one to cover my head and shoulders to enter a mosque. As much as we love our sports teams back in the Northwest, we would never wear sports logo clothing when traveling abroad. Nothing targets you more as  “American”  than a bright colored tee-shirt with a sports logo emblazoned on it.
*We carry local currency in small denominations in case we do need to catch a taxi back to the hotel. If the map doesn’t have the hotel’s name and address on it written in the local language we carry a business card with it on it on the off chance we find ourselves needing to ask directions.
*As much as I want to snap photos, I limit the times I pull out the camera or phone.  That is another act, that screams out "tourist". And I ask permission if a person might be identified in the photo.  Besides being considerate of the individual, this saves embarrassing moments as I’ve encountered some who say yes to a photo but want to be paid for having their photo taken. . .I don’t pay for photos.
The Nile from the Marriott hotel
So far Cairo has never let us down. We’ve returned from our outings having met someone or learned something about the neighborhood, or the city, that we’d have missed had we opted to take a tour bus or taxi.

That’s it for this week. This is our last post of the year for 2016.  We thank you for joining us on our adventures this year and look forward to new destinations and experiences next year.  The time you spend with us is always appreciated! Our wishes for a happy and healthy New Year ~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration


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