Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turns out you need more than one day to see all of Egypt


Today we were in Egypt. The boat arrived in Alexandria at 7 a.m., and left at 10 p.m. We had to meet our tour at 7:30.

Once we got on the bus, we had a 2.5 hour drive in to Giza and the pyramids. As we got in to Giza, we could see the three pyramids on the horizon. We were warned that merchants would follow us around trying to sell us stuff, and that the best way to deal with it was to ignore them entirely. We were also warned that if you went for a camel ride, there was one price to get on the camel and another, larger price to get off.

There were many merchants and people with camels at the pyramids. Oddly, the pyramids seem larger from a distance than they do close up – although walking around one of them would take a while. There are 9 pyramids at Giza – the great pyramid, two other large pyramids, and 6 small (“baby”) pyramids.

After a while there, we went to get a panoramic view of all three major pyramids. We then went to the other side to see the sphinx. By the time we finished there, it was around 12:30 and time for lunch. We had lunch at a hotel very close to the pyramids.

After lunch, we went to Memphis, the first capital of Egypt. We went to an open air museum and saw a huge statue of King Ramses II. We had 40 minutes for that stop, but due to the heat and how tired everyone was, we were all back on the bus in 30 minutes.

Next it was off to the Step Pyramid of King Zoser. We went in to some of the tombs around the pyramids. They are covered with hieroglyphics, and look like something out of a book. We could see more pyramids (the Red Pyramid, and one that is oblong) in the distance.

Finally, we went back to Giza for a stop at a papyrus institute, to see how papyrus is made. The stem of the papyrus plant is a triangle. They cut it to the proper size and take off the green outer coating. Next, they beat it with a mallet to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to flatten it more. This makes it pliable instead of brittle. The next stage involves soaking it for 6 days (for a light colour) or 12 days (for a darker colour). After it has soaked for the right amount of time, they then take the strips and put them horizontally and vertically (kind of like weaving, although I don’t think they actually weave them) until they get the proper size of papyrus. They put this in a press, and keep it there for 6 days. When it comes of the press, the different strips have fused together and it’s ready to use.

We also went next door to a bazaar, and picked up our kartooshes that we had pre-ordered. A kartoosh is a pendant with a name (or word) in hieroglyphs. I got a silver one with my name in gold hieroglyphs.

Finally, it was time for the 2.5 hour long trip back to Alexandria. When we got back, we went for supper and managed not to fall asleep. Immediately after supper, though, we went back to the room, since we were all exhausted.

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