I'm not sure I ever thought that I
would be in Africa for any reason in
my life. Im not sure people are really
supposed to go there. I think Africa
is just for learning about on animal
channels. Maybe in the back of our minds we all have this thought that someday it would
be great to go on a safari in Africa. Although in reality, when is this time in my life that
I'm going on safaris? It's probably right around the same time that I write my novel, learn
how to hang glide, and quit huffing paint. Yet landing a job on a cruise line has taken me
to Egypt. We pull into the port of Alexandria at about six a.m. and hop on a bus for
three hours . An armed guard rides with us, 'just in case'. We drive past typical highway
scenery with the exception of everything being in Arabic; billboards, road signs, even the
goats were in Arabic. Arabic letters consist of squiggly lines and random dots. It's what
doctors use to write prescriptions. Once in Cairo, all the buildings are either fallen
apart, or on their way to falling apart. We stop at an Egyptian museum, the highlight of
which I found were the mummified animals. Ancient Egyptians would mummify animals
and buried them with their owner. It was believed that when the mummified person was
reincarnated, their animal companion would be reincarnated right along with them.
Although some of the mummified animals they found were snakes, elephants and
crocodiles. What a mean prank that is?
"Hey Aheed, let's mummify this crocodile and bury it with Amed, then thousands of
years from now when he wakes up, he'll be stuck in a tomb with a reincarnated
crocodile!! Oh, that will so get him back for carving hieroglyphics in my face when I was
passed out drunk."
There was a glass case of what archeologists believed were caskets made for dung
beetles. Either the Egyptians had too much time on their hands, or some archeologist
won't admit that all he found were a bunch of jewelry boxes. Most of the museum
consists of small artifacts found from the time of the pharaohs; tiny statues, charms,
jewelry. Basically, it's thousands of years old crap. It was probably shit you would have
found in Cleopatra's junk drawer. Makes me wonder if thousands of years from now, my
old batteries, rubber band ball and banana magnet are going to be behind a glass case in
an overpriced exhibit.
After the museum we stop by an ancient mosque,
the back of which contains a courtyard with a
tremendous view overlooking the city. Two small
triangles camping out in the smog caked horizon
make up our first glimpse of the pyramids. From
the dirty buildings below you could hear the
at least two dozen cars horns screaming at each
other at all times. A random fire burned in the
middle of the decaying urban landscape. In fact
random fires were a regular sight in Cairo. I believe
the fires are subsidized by the Egyptian
government to ensure the constant feel of chaos
throughout the city.
As we head towards our hotel we pass through a residential area. Like most of their
roads, the opposing directions of traffic are separated by a stagnate stream of polluted
water. Our whole bus erupts with moans of disgust as we pass a dead horse floating in
the water. I wonder if that's some kids chore.
"Hassan, did you remember to take the dead horse out of the water?"
"But mom, I wanted to go play in the city fire!!"
It reminded me of that old wise saying: you can beat a dead horse in water, but you
can't make him drink with his gift mouth. Because he's dead.
We chill out at our hotel for a few hours before heading out for some hot Egyptian
nightlife. The streets are filled with these VW vans that have been spray painted white,
I can only assume to fight the day desert sun. Although they had no signs indicating it,
they appeared to be taxis. They would drive with their side doors open and let people
in and out along the strip. Its so manic through. Guys would scream and run alongside
one of these vans before the VW would slow down just barely enough for the person to
hop in and then speed off . It was almost as if there were four or five people hopping in
getaway cars around me at any moment. It was enough to make me hang on a little more
tightly to my purse.
It was at night that we got our first up close look at the pyramids and sphinx. Under
what context? You guessed it, via a mediocre laser
light show. Lasers consisting only of the color green
drew geometric shapes and lines on the thousands
of years old structures to the same cheesy music
that plays in every 'B' movie when the aliens start
landing on earth. How exactly did that decision go
down? Were people filling out comment cards after
seeing the pyramids saying, "Yes, I did enjoy seeing the
oldest and best preserved of the ancient wonders of the world to a point. It just
wasn't 'cosmic bowling' enough."
Next stop is dinner on a boat cruising the Nile. The ship has two levels on it, the top
of which was a dinning room with an Egyptian buffet. We had been told before the trip
not to eat any fruit, vegetables or drink the water. Despite the warning, I see a girl
from our tour bus eating a salad. I say, "Hey, you know we're not suppose to eat the
She replies, "If I want a salad, I'm going to have a salad. Ok?"
I've never wanted a salad so bad, that I'm willing to wear a diaper for the next week.
"Hey Nick, we're going to hop in pool, wanna go?"
"Sorry, can't. I'm wearing pampers. Yeah, I was in Cairo, and I couldn't say no to
cherry tomatoes. I know they warned me, but when in my life am I ever again going to get
the chance to have lettuce?"
As we ate, entertainment was forced upon us, to keep any sort of conversation
from transpiring. A band made up of twelve instruments, all of which were either a drum,
a flute or some sort of emaciated guitar, played in the middle of the dinning room. A man
in a skirt spun around in circles to the music for the better part of an hour. I was hoping
this was all leading up to him stopping and then trying to run in a straight line. That
would have been great entertainment. But all that really happened was that he stopped,
took off his skirt and put it on his head, and then started spinning the other way. The
band played a dozen or so songs, but I can't for the life of me tell you what the
difference between any of the songs were. After each song, they would stop, lean into
each other, talk, then return to their instruments and start playing what appeared to be
the exact same song they had just played. I wondered what they were talking about each
time. If they were just leaning in and saying,"So you guys want to play that same song
"Might as well, it's the only one we know."
The next day we hit the great pyramids, up
close, with no lasers. Pretty incredible. There is
an opening to one of the pyramids that allows us
to go down into one of it's tombs. A random man
sitting at the passage of the opening tries to scam
us by charging us one euro to go down. We say
that it was our understanding that it was free to
walk inside the pyramid. He says, 'Yes, you are
right. Go ahead in pyramid, have fun,' and let us
down. He was so up front about being called out.
I wish scammers in america were like that .
"Hey man can you give me a dollar, I just got fired today for being so hungary that I got
hit by a car."
"No you didn't."
"You're right, I'm actually doing pretty well for myself. Now go in pyramid and have
We walk through the opening and climb down a passageway leading to a tomb. I'm
careful not to hit any loose stones, for if Hollywood has taught me anything, that will
either cause the entire structure to come crumbling down around me, or open up a
passageway that would send me on the adventure of a lifetime. Which I'm all about
adventures of lifetimes, but I'm also all about not missing my tour bus. As I walk through
the passageway back outside, I smack my head on the opening. I hate when I hit my head
on a pyramid.
We go to the Sphinx. I think staring at the Sphinx truly had the most overwhelming
feeling of seeing the world that I have had so far. Although whenever I've pictured the
Sphinx, I've always pictured it in the
middle ofno where, in the desert, hundreds
of miles from anything. The reality
of it is that the Sphinx is actually
across the street from a KFC/Pizza
Hut. I was disappointed at first
until I learned that the KFC/Pizza Hut
was also built by the ancient Egyptians. I
have only about fifteen minutes to take
in the once of a lifetime moment of seeing the sphinx, our bus driver is bored and is
ready to drive the three hours back to Alexandria.
Once back at the ship, it hits me that I've now been to Africa. Sure, Egypt has
more of an Middle Eastern feel to it than the traditional images Africa brings up. But it
is technically Africa. I've now been to Africa, maybe I will someday write my novel.
Maybe I will someday learn how to hang glide. Ah, who am I kidding, where's my
sandwich bag of paint?