Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Museum and some shopping...

It's Sunday and time for a new work week to begin. The weekends here are Friday and Saturday.

One of the main attractions in Cairo is the Egyptian Museum. That was my plan for Friday along with the extra challenge of taking the Metro to get there. I actually did fine--I gave them 1 LE (Egyptian pound), they gave me a ticket, and then I rode for 20min until my stop. The first 2 cars are reserved for women. The museum is a little hectic--there are 4 different lines to buy tickets and go through security check points. Once inside, it's a little overwhelming--the amount of stuff is incredible. And there are so many tour groups pushing around. Matt warned me beforehand that it would be crammed with artifacts--and he was right. All the rooms have some main, big pieces (busts, sarcophaguses, pieces of rock covered with hieroglyphics, etc...) and then there are pieces lying against the walls. Everything is numbered, but only a few things have descriptions. The Lonely Planet guide mentioned a few of the most important things. My favorite parts were the King Tut exhibit and the animal mummy room. I know I've seen pictures of King Tut's funerary mask, but it was pretty neat to see in person, along with 2 of 3 of his inner coffins and numerous coffins. The animal mummy room had numerous cat mummies, bird mummies, a horse mummy, and 2 very long crocodile mummies. Don't worry Tara--I'm absolutely up for another trek to the museum! There another special exhibit of the royal mummies that I didn't check out and the place is just so crammed full of antiquities, that it's definitely worth another trip.

Yesterday (Saturday) I finally started shopping. The "typical" tourist-y gifts are everywhere--pyramid paper weights, egyptian "papyrus" (usually dried banana leaves), stuffed camels, wooden camels, Egyptian cotton everything, etc... First, my roommate and I headed to a local shop in the Maadi district. He remembered her & knows other Americans so gave us a good price--no hasseling needed. It was nice to get a sense for what's available and to shop at a small, local place before heading to the Khan el-Khalili. The Khan is overwhelming--a few main streets connected by very narrow alleyways with shops lining it the whole way. It's also a popular tourist destination, but it's been around for hundreds years, long before the stuffed camels and tour buses. Two friends who've been there before showed us around, which was immensely helpful. There's no way to distinguish between the dozens of silver jewelry shops or glass shops, but going with someone who already has favorite shops was fabulous. It's a noise, hectic place. All the shop keepers are standing in the streets trying to entice you into the shop..."For you madam, special sale! 200% off! I'll give you 300% off! Look for free! Surgar, step inside please..." I find it rather amusing and entertaining--they're just trying to make a living and I think they get many of their phrase listening to American music. I did bargain and got a few deals--I forgot how much fun it can be to hagle over prices! For example, I was looking as some drinking glasses, and asked how much. The shop keeper said 20LE. Usually, they'll say something way too much, sometimes outrageous--they don't expect Americans to bargain. But it's all in fun. I act like I'm being robbed, and then maybe over 1/2 of their price or less if I'm buying more than 1 of something. One of the deal makers is to walk away and not be interested. I was a little rusty, but still, it was fun and I found a couple of shops that I'm looking forward to going back to (bring money Tara!!!).

Time to run to lab...Tonight, I think there are plans to watch the superbowl. Not on tape delay, mind you, it comes on on some channel live at 1:15am or something crazy like that. Just when I'm feeling over jet lag, I'll be up watching the game. Should be fun. :-) And I'm finally going to the gym this afternoon--too much good Thai food and fig cookies. More later this week... Thanks for reading & leaving comments!!! :-)

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