Here I am at 3AM in Luxor(8pm ny time) and I just cannot sleep. I can't figure out what is wrong, my sleep cycle is totally fubar'd. I know I am not jet-lagged cause I will be up when we need to be up and be all energetic and ready to go but overall I just cannot seem to fall asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. I refuse to take ambien. Today(Tuesday, i think it is tuesday) we have a big day. After all the running around and seeing airports and train stations for day and half to 2 days without seeing a single sight in egypt things have begun to calm down as now we truly do have a structured itinerary and everything is pretty much set for the rest of our time here, i am happy at how things have changed in just a day and a half for the better, but it had to get worse before it could get any better.
I am still trying to figure out what we should do on Friday and Sunday in Cairo(saturday is giza..anticipation has been building up since we saw the pyramids from the plane on sunday). Thank god for the internet and guide books that help you get a basic idea of what to do and see in a city. However, I don't want to just see the touristic sites, I want to get down and see the culture of cairo, how people love, live, eat, interact. To me coming to a city is one-dimensional if we cannot see the city through a local's eye. Please wish me luck on that adventure as I try to figure out spots where I can see the nitty-gritty cairo city life.
I am liking egypt so far to a point, we flew into Aswan on Monday and then took the train from aswan to luxor. That plane ride, all though 50 minutes was just way to turbulent and looking out the window all we see is pollution, I want to hope that its all the sand just dusting around but i doubt it. So we landed in aswan safely, or else this entry would not be here and began our back-tracking trek.
I think so far Aswan seems like such an interesting and beautiful city just by driving through it. It has this weird unspeakable charming look to it that has my eyes noticing and I cannot wait to be back there later in the evening at our movenpick resort overlooking the nile and the sunset felucca ride to come(ya ya, i probably am a romantic at heart).
So we got in at 4pm in Aswan and soon as I got out of the plane I feel like I was bitch-slapped by the hot humid heat. My god! Wear that suntan lotion people cause it may just hurt you. we chilled out for a bit, the train station was close by, had a falfel drank some water. This is where I say STAY FRACKIN'THIRSTY, my friends! Seriously, drink bottled water, it is ridicuously cheap and it will save you from dehydration. So we got on our train in the 1st class compartment all A.C'ed and it got kinda chilly BUT and I say this as a YOU MUST! Please take the train between aswan and luxor the scenery/landscape is just beautiful and mesmerizing. Seeing the nile on the side of the train and seeing the sun set in the back of the high hills overlooking the nile is just great.(I like photography and scenic landscapes so this is just pure heaven). But also you get to see how the people live in the rural areas with their donkeys and rice paddy fields among other things. But you also get to see the darker poorer side of egypt as you see trash, people without shoes and dirty, it helps me realize how lucky we are in the US for having the things we do and taking the things we have for granted. But please please take the train ride it will be worth it.
So if you noticed I wrote I like egypt to a point. There are some negatives that I need to put out there so people can be better prepared. Pollution is the biggest problem, it is just ridiculous at how polluted the air is, everytime I take a breath I feel my lungs becoming dirtier, darker and less able. Another thing is, for most people who have not been to 3rd-world type countries Egypt can be quite a culture shock. For example a friend had a trash bag in hand and the train conductor just took the bag and threw it out which leads me to hate the fact that trash is so rampant everywhere.
Lastly, and we found this really really funny, we went to eat dinner after walking around at 10pm in luxor(stores and people seem to stay open and out, respectively, well past midnite here. I like that carefreeness). I've noticed that people that have less are oh so much happier and care free and more relaxed. Look at me, I am 23, living in NYC and am stressed out of my mind every freaken day with the bad job market for law students and planning on what my next move is. I just want to be carefree, go with the flow and say eff it, what life has in store for me it will just lead me to it, there is no fighting it.
Oh right, back to the story, sometimes I get lost in my own thoughts, so we went out to this pizza place where we got 2x1.75litre water bottles, 2 cans of coke, large topping pizza and french fries all for only $11 and if you split it it is less than 3-4$. That is amazing! The funny thing is that when our friend paid the bill the waiter gave a ripped dirty old 5LE note among others. I looked at it and said get this changed, most people don't take old notes. And my theory was proved correct when we called the waiter over and he saw the 5LE note in our hand he had this smirk and knew exactly what we wanted.
So that is my last warning, don't take old ripped notes as most people(taxi, stores, etc..) will not accept them and they try to hand it off to travelers who don't know any better. I feel like tonight we earned egypt street cred by getting our bill exchanged but also felt proud that growing up in ny we know a bit about street smarts and haggling.
People when you come to egypt, BRUSH UP ON YOUR BARGAINING SKILLS, if you cannot bargain you deserve to be robbed, seriously!
For example the abu simbel/felucca ride was offered to us for $65USD per person we managed to bargain it down to $35, that is about half the original price. Be persistent and make them earn your money, you earned yours through hardwork and so should they. I am not egyptian so I don't know if the price we got for abu simbel and felucca ride is great or not but comparing it to what we've seen and read it seems like a pretty good deal(any comments on this?). So Please don't be one of those ignorant travelers who just says yes to everything cause you might as well be waving your foreign passport in one hand and throwing ALL your money at them in the other.
P.S. if anyone has any requests regarding egypt and stuff email me, facebook message me or leave me a comment.
P.P.S I took a picture of the giza pyramids from our plane on the iphone, not the best picture but check it out here: http://img26.imageshack.us/img26/9117/padcmisc237.jpg
Till next time
-Nilay, under Construct