Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Just 36 hours into our visit in Cairo and we are both overwhelmed. Cairo, a city of about 12 million, is a dazzling sight, and the jewel of our two days here (so far) has been the Egyptian Museum where we've walked our feet off. Imagine hundreds of artifacts from the earliest period in Egyptian history, and that's what we've been wandering through. So far, my favorite has been the Amarna period with Akhnaton. Most of the pictures published for this revolutionary period stress Akhnaton's religious reforms, but his influence on art is equally ambitious -- and hated by priests and government administrators. His statues here are monumental, with thin, elongated faces and massive tummies and thighs! He was a very physical presence! Nefertiti also is shown "real life" and with the elongated face in a momunmental form. Very few of these sculptures are widely seen.

The other fascinating insight we've gained is over and over again how protective and loving the relationship seems to be between the gods and the pharaohs. One sarcophogus shows falcons and lions protecting the mummy of the king; another Nut, the goddess of the sky, carved in stone, her body studded with stars, immediately over the mummified remains inside the sarcophogus. I have taken many amazing pictures but can't upload any ... yet.

Traffic here is intimidating. All the cars are seriously dented and drivers forge ahead with little regard for traffic signals. To cross the street requires literally taking big risks. Some pedestrians do this with flair, gliding between the cars as if they weren't going 50 miles or so per hour. Others wait for groups (that would be us) and make a mad dash through this national pastime of playing chicken -- motorists and pedestrians.

Our hotel is lovely, complete with Arabic rock music until 11 pm when the local bars close and everyone heads home. The bakeries are incredible, many different styles of baklavaa, cakes and pasteries. Our favorite so far was the pizza stall with a medium pizza of green and black olives for about $1.50. Friday we transfer to a quieter hotel, the Victoria, for about $28 per night.

All else goes well. The computer works (electricity outlets no problem), and we are finding Internet cafes pretty much everywhere. We have already walked along the Nile River, modern buildings everywhere, and look forward to our cruise with a guide to visit Luxor and Aswan in a few days. I wish you could join me here in the land of real coffee, drunk French style with hot milk, or with tea. We so far have mastered only a few Arabic words. Most useful: Thank you (Shukran) and No thank you (La shukran).

I figured out that when it's morning there, it's evening here. Those of you at LBCC had some snow days due to ice, I think. Here, everyone is complainting of the cold, but it's warm to us!

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