01.06.2012 39 °C
My poor wee men have been driven from pillar to post over the last week. My parents in Law arrived with us on the 19th, and since then we've covered the whole cross-section of Lebanese antiquities.
From Tyr to Byblos to Beirut to Baalbek… highways, mountains, vineyards and more old stuff than should be allowed in one country. The temples at Baalbek are mind blowing. Not only because they are very, very old, but because they have been continuously torn down and reshaped by successive conquerors and earthquakes. It's a miracle anything survived.
It's also a miracle we survived the trip. There were some fairly hairy Lebanese driving moments, like the one where I swear a ghost car traveling at the speed of light appeared from behind in the lane I was trying to merge into. There were centimeters between us and a big mess. Or the entire miraculous trip up and over the Mt Hermon ridge in the Lemon Car we managed not to overheat. It is, in fact, only due to the supreme mechanical skills of my Father in Law who found the appropriate wires (god knows how, most of them have been cut off apparently) and jerry rigged the cooling fan that we made it at all. Having a qualified New Zealand mechanic confirm our theory that we were cheated by the people that sold us the car was about as vindicating as it was heartbreaking incidentally.
So. After a lot of driving and upset sleeping schedules, all of which my boys appear to have taken in their stride (apart from the fact they woke up five times last night), we arrived in Cairo and were met by our guide.
It's hot here. I'm not sure why I'm surprised by this. I suspect after living in Lebanon I just expected Egypt to be a similar kind of place. I forgot about the desert. It's quite big.
First impressions. Cairo is dirty. Not just 'middle eastern' dirty, but 'go out of your way to dispose of rubbish in the nearest waterway' dirty. The people are Arabs in a way the Lebanese are not, and it feels like everyone wants a piece of you - or more to the point, a piece of your wallet. There is a quote that goes along the lines "from the Pharos to This… I just don't get it". I'm inclined to agree. The blood of Cleopatra and Ramses II seems very diluted in the 'baksheesh' attitude that prevails in modern Egypt. It is certainly not 'service with a smile', it's 'service with the hand out at the end because I deign to move my shiftless ass and do something for you, you worthless European'. It reminds me a little of the Afghani attitude to American soldiers.
We were promised both car-seats and cots in all our vehicles and hotels. Luckily I bought our car-seats, and when we arrived there were no cots. An hour after check-in at our first hotel, one cot appeared. Pointing at the two boys, who at this point were having their dinner, I asked for a second. The second turned up about an hour after that and I wouldn't be surprised if King Tut himself sleep in it.
But, there are the Pyramids and the Sphinx. I'm a sleep away from them now and I'm still a little shell-shocked that I've seen them at all - let alone climbed on them and been inside one. I've always been fascinated by them, and I'm almost surprised that everything I've read, or seen on the discovery channel meets the expectation. It's probably the only time in my life I've been as impressed by the reality as I have by the hype.
My sons were less impressed. I think the 40 degree dry desert heat probably had more to do with it than the fact they actually weren't impressed by the sights. I don't blame them. It feels like it gets hotter every day we're here, and when you're a little fella still developing your heat regulation, strapped to a big person radiating heat, it's not surprising if you get a little grumpy when the air is that hot as well. Thank goodness there was aircon in the car and we were able to retire to it with some degree of decorum for some of the talking.
For the rest of our trip we have umbrella's and damp muslin for helping to keep cool.
p.s. The Internet in Egypt is slow and expensive. Please excuse the multipost that follows.