Came and Went
Posted by Jordan Reiter on December 8 2007 at 3:09 p.m.
Ok, clearly I'm not cut out to maintain a blog. Maybe I will be timely at some point, but not yet.
Right, so my family is all gone: Sonia and Michael left a week ago last Friday and my brother a few hours after that (which is another story) and my parents left last Saturday night (really Sunday) at 2 am. I've already pretty much adjusted to them being gone. I have to admit, it was wonderful having my family around but also very stressful. So much of them time I felt like I was responsible for everything -- good or bad -- that happened to them. When traveling it's hard to control everything, and this is even more true in Egypt I'm guessing, so by the end of their visit I was pretty worn out. Not the best of situations to be in, since I also had around 2 weeks of work to catch up on. I still don't want to think about that.
Toby arrived first and I basically took him around Attaba for a while to see the markets. On Friday we slept in and then headed down towards Helwan, stopping in Ain Helwan to check out the humorously decrepit Wax Museum and walk around the remains of the natural springs which once used to be the focal point of a spa probably located around there -- you can still see remnants of buildings around the spring, as well as an old wooden pagoda that probably dates back to the same time as the museum, maybe the 1920s or so.
Then it was off to Helwan to meet up with my friend Samir, who is really a great guy. Since it was getting late he let us crash at his house. Toby got to eat real Egyptian food: eggplants, fuul, and ta'amiyya; all homemade and pretty good. Samir's mom isn't a bad cook. We slept alright and the next day went to walk around in the Japanese Garden, this monstrously huge park set up by the Japanese government, in Helwan of all places. There are little buddhas and pagodas all over the place, as well as some large ponds which at one time might have held fish but now hold empty plastic koshari containers. From there we jumped on the metro and met up with David at Sa'ad Zaghoul where we went to what is possibly the best fuul joint in town. I have no idea where it is, though. At some point during these meals is probably when Toby got sick (more on that later).
Mom and Dad have joined the party
So then it was time to get Mom and Dad. I'd picked out href="http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294201-d614748-Reviews-Osiris_Hotel-Cairo.html">Hotel Osiris for them to stay at. It wasn't my first choice (I'd hoped to get them into a hotel closer to my apartment), but it had nice reviews and as it turned out is really an excellent hotel. They got us a taxi and we picked up Mom and Dad and brought them back to the hotel. For dinner we went to Felfela which is touristy and a bit kitschy and general overpriced, but good and a nice introduction to Egyptian food.
The next day we woke up early to jump in a microbus for the desert. It was a long trip and we got to the href="http://www.craweentours.com/">Golden Valley Hotel, the same people I'd had the first time out in the desert. After a small lunch we spent the afternoon in a jeep zooming through the desert. I'm not sure if this is the norm for these tours, or whether it makes sense to choose a different set of guides in the future, but it seems a lot of the time is spent in the jeep when you go on these things, being dragged from one place to another. We went to a natural hot spring, very hot in fact...it was difficult to keep your foot in the water for much longer than a few seconds before you could feel it being cooked. For the sunset we went up to something called the English mountain...apparently this is where the English army had put up a fort during one of the wars I should probably know something about...the views from there were very beautiful. We ended with some Bedouin tea. They took us to camp where we had a nice meal of grilled chicken and vegetables. Dad took a sleeping pill and slept like a baby. Mom did not fare as well, getting not much sleep at all. Toby, on the other hand, was very sick at this point. The next morning we went back to the hotel, where Toby booked a room and, we found out later, slept the entire day. While Toby slept we headed deeper into the desert, spending the afternoon at the house of one of our guides, the same olive/lemon/date grove from my last trip. This time I got to meet some of his family members and hold, if I remember correctly, his brother's baby, who was unfortunately very damp.
In the afternoon we went to a few more sights and stopped to harvest some peanuts before camping out in the middle of the white desert. This time dinner was a vegetable stew and large hunks of beef, served with rice. Later that evening we roasted the peanuts in the coals and at them, peeling off the charred shells and eating the roasted, slightly chewy peanuts in side.
The next day we went back to the Hotel, stopping by Crystal Mountain on the way. We got back to Cairo in the late afternoon. That evening me and Toby went off to pick up So
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