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Pyramids, the Sphinx, and Charlie Brown the Camel

Did you notice there was one thing that I didn't list on my bucket list? It's the only existing original wonders of the world. And I got to visit it years ago.

Guess it yet?

That's right! Back in 2007, I visited Egypt with my family! (Thankfully this was before all of the drama started going on in Egypt) My sister Madelyn studied Arabic and got to study in Egypt for a year. So of course, we had to go visit her (see what all of my family's years of tight wad saving can get you?). Though I apologize in advance, I don't have a heck of a lot of pictures. These was back in 2007 before iPhones and the ability to take a multitude of pictures. My dad was in charge of the digital camera and we did try to take some pictures but now I can't even find half of them. But thankfully I have my half decent memory and some souvenirs to remind myself.

First, we flew from our home state of Arizona (desert to desert, am I right?) to New York City. Meaning yes, technically, I've been to New York, but just JFK airport. From New York we flew to Cairo, Egypt (where on the trips to and from, I attempted to watch Casino Royale twice and fell asleep both times. Still have no watch the whole thing). And so began our grand international adventure!

We did all of the typical tourist things. One of the first things we did (besides check into our hotel) was visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, which were right out on the outskirts of Cairo. We all thought they would be way out in the desert, but Cairo is over populated and expanding so rapidly, that you can see the Cairo skyline.

Here's a picture of me, my mom, and my sisters Madelyn and Hilary and me on the Great Pyramid. Look how big the blocks are compared to us! It's crazy to think how they could have managed that so long ago. Technically, you're not allowed to climb that high on the pyramids, but let's just say that the rules are kind of lax in Egypt. (And please forgive my From First to Last shirt. That was way back in my emo days) My sisters and my dad got to go inside one of the pyramids, but they said you could only go in a little bit and it was cramped and humid from so many people going in. So apparently I didn't miss much.

While we were at the Pyramids, there were a bunch of men selling rides on their camels. Being a camel fan (thanks to one of my very first stuffed animal Jacob the camel), my sister Hilary and I had to ride one. The camel's name was Charlie Brown and he was as sweet as a camel could be (which is pretty ornery). It was actually kind of terrifying at first, because camels stand up by raising their back legs first, so you jolt forward and have to hold on for dear life before the camel evens itself out by raising their front legs. As you may imagine, Hilary and I were a little taken aback and may have let out a shriek. May have.

As big as the pyramids were, the Sphinx itself was actually much smaller than I had imagined. Still impressive, but small and the whole place was swarming with people (like most places in Egypt). One place that was not at all crowded when we went was the Egyptian museum. My personal favorite of the whole entire trip, the museum had the most amazing objects from Egyptian history. From carved stone pillars, to things found in pharaohs' tombs (boats, walking sticks, even some falling apart sandals for walking around in the afterlife). Not only did we get to see King Tut's golden sarcophagus and death mask, but we also visited the very amazing mummy room. It was incredible to see these ancient royalties' bodies preserved after thousands of years. One even had hair! (Please note that after we left Egypt, one of the royal mummies was stolen. We got to see it before it disappeared! But who on earth would steal a mummy??)

For me, those were some of my favorite highlights of the trip. But we also went on a cruise down the Nile (sadly, I did not spot any hippos in the water. I was quite disappointed) and saw some amazing sites. Here are some of the places we went:

  • Edfu Temple
  • Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple
  • The Valley of the Kings
  • Abu Simbel Two Temples (the Great and the Small)

Seeing all of these places made me feel like Indiana Jones, discovering ancient worlds and their secrets. It was fascinating to see the hieroglyphics inscribed on old stone. It blows my mind how so much is still standing, thanks to the Egyptian government. Not only did we see very important things and explore (going into one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings was incredibly amazing. Some of the hieroglyphics there had elongated heads. Ancient aliens, much?), but I got to experience what was Cairo the city aka a total culture shock.

One thing about Egypt is that their main way of making money is tourism. So there are always lot of people around, whether you're by a historical site or on the street, trying to sell you something, from souvenirs to even getting you to visit their shop. There are even bathroom attendants that give you toilet paper and paper towels when you walk into the bathroom. Hilary and I had no idea that you were supposed to tip them after you use the bathroom, so we got chased by an attendant at a restaurant. After that, my family decided that we would carry an envelope of money wherever we went so we could give out tips to the attendants. Again, Egypt's main money making way is tourism and everyone wants to get in on the action, no matter how little they make.

Haggling is also a very big part of buying anything in Egypt. When we were staying at our main hotel in Cairo, the night before we left, I decided to buy a friend of mine something from the hotel's gift shop. After learning the initial price of a set of bracelets from the shop keeper, I started bartering with him to get a lower price. After him accusing me of robbing him, he finally gave in because he said I reminded him of his daughter. Success! I was the only one to haggle for anything on our trip to Egypt.

Some other places we visited were: a total tourist trap of a papyrus making/painting shop and a pottery making shop. Despite our tour guide totally wanting us to spend money, it was actually fun to see how they made the paper and we got a free soda out of the deal. Same with the pottery shop. My mom got a free small vase but it broke in her suitcase (boo).

And like any good American, there was another place I just had to visit: McDonald's. Though I didn't eat there, the menu was exactly the same as it is in the US, except for one specialty item. The McArabia sandwich, which my sister Madelyn, the previous local, told me was pretty much just a chicken sandwich with some spices added to make it taste Middle Eastern. Also, there were a heck of a lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants everywhere.

Egypt was a totally different world that I will never forget. Whether it was the crowded sidewalks, the scary streets that you had to pray before you crossed (just in case you got hit by a car. Crosswalks were strangely missing in Cairo), the smell of too many people, garbage and pollution crammed into one city (it took me so long to get that stench out of my clothes), dodging the vomit/spit from Charlie Brown the camel when posing for a picture, running away from a taxi driver after we tipped them enough but he didn't think so (that was a scary moment) or brushing our teeth with bottled water (in case you want to get super sick from the water), it was a great first international trip. When things quiet down over in that part of the Middle East I'd love to go back and do it all over again. But for now, that's one thing I can check off of my bucket list.

Has anyone else ever been to Egypt or the Middle East? What were some of the most crazy culture shocks for you? Thanks for reading!

Stay Weird,

PS. The pictures of my ticket stubs are from my Smash book. Thank goodness I kept those! Sorry for the lack of pictures.
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