Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cairo, the musical

I left the house for the second time this morning without any kids. It was nice to be able to teach yoga without having (my) children screaming, running around, and jumping on me while I’m trying to balance on one leg or pretzeled into a ball…at least when I’m teaching. Any other time it’s fine.

When I got home I found that Dad, Josie, and Miriam had all gone down for naps, that Andrew and Rachel had just woken up, and that we had no water. We weren’t too concerned since we had planned on spending the day at the pyramids and after waking everyone up and getting ready to go—without using any water—we headed out.

Surprisingly, we had a really good time today. The pyramids slowly start to lose their magic after you’ve been to them and dealt with all the vendors so many times. I think this is time number seven for us and we weren’t really expecting to have a great time. But we did.

Rachel happily pulled Grandpa and Auntie Josie around, showing them her favorite parts while explaining over and over again how much she hates camels. She strongly dislikes the beasts and won’t go near them with a 10-foot pole.


She was also rather wary about climbing pyramids today so I stayed down on the ground with her while we watched everyone else climb up. After watching them do it, though, she decided that she wanted to so I helped her climb up a little ways.


We also made sure to take some nice pictures of Miriam by the pyramids since she’s usually all tucked up in some sort of baby carrier and is hardly visible in any pictures. I figure that one day when I make baby books for my girls they’d appreciate having such pictures included.

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We walked to the second pyramid, the pyramid of Khafre, which was surrounded by new fencing in response to an incident earlier this month when a man climbed up the pyramid—the whole thing—and then got stuck on the top. The back of the pyramid was still open, though, so Josie and Dad climbed up a little bit, but not far enough that a helicopter had to come rescue them.

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Grandpa, Josie, Miriam, and I rode camels around for a bit while Andrew stayed with Rachel. It was Miriam’s first time on a camel—and for Grandpa and Auntie Josie as well.

I think we’ve developed a certain air about us that lets the locals know that, in our own way, we’re local, too, and we hardly got harassed at all. The guy we bartered with was actually quite easy to work with.

“Look,” he said, “I can tell you are from Egypt, so I am going to give you the Egyptian price. I’ll start at 100 LE.”

We told him that we thought his offer was ridiculous and got him down to 30 LE for two camels without even getting into much of a heated argument about it. There were a few catches along the way, of course, but we were able to placate our guides with candy instead of money. Also, since they were like 10 years old they were intimidated by Andrew and his negotiation skills.


It was a pretty fun ride, all things considered. Grandpa had his own camel and Josie shared with Miriam and me.

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After riding the camel Miriam decided she was starving so we pulled aside to have a picnic of peanut-butter-and-jelly for those with teeth and breast milk for those without teeth. Then we played some more on the discarded, tumbled-down pyramid blocks.

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The saddest part of the whole trip was coming across a recently-deceased desert fox—a vixen, and a mother. We could tell because she was still swollen with milk. It almost makes me cry thinking about her poor kits, stowed away in a den somewhere out in the desert, wondering when their mommy is going to come home.


But, moving on from morbid tales of death and subsequent  abandonment, we’ll get back to the pyramids. It warms my heart to see police officers astride camels—they’re like the Egyptian version of the RCMP.


Even with the dozens of tour buses parked around the pyramids it wasn’t too crowded. In fact it was a beautiful day—not yet too hot with a refreshing breeze every now and again.


At the very end of our trip we stopped by the Sphinx, which, contrary to popular belief, does not require an extra ticket to enter. When we were walking up the ramp to get to the Sphinx a tour guide was explaining that they used huge pieces of rocks and scored them to make them seem like they had used several equal-sized rocks instead. After explaining that she started counting them.

“One, uh, two, uh, three, uh, four, uh, five…”

And she touched each one as she went. All the way up to nine. Like somehow the perfectly intelligent group of people she was leading couldn’t count for themselves.

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On our way down from seeing the Sphinx we started counting the “bricks,” ourselves.

“One, uh, two, uh, three, uh, four…” we sang, mimicking the tour guide’s accent and touching the wall.

“Five!” an elderly guard chimed in, smiling with a toothless grin.

“Six!” a vendor called out as we walked past his makeshift stall on the floor of the hallway.

“Seven!” called out his friend.

“Eight!” a young girl hawking headdresses sang.

“Nine!” another vendor said, “And ten!”

“Very good,” I said, “And what comes after ten?”

“One-sixty-eight!” he answered.

We all started laughing. It was like one of those impossible scenes from a musical where everyone randomly starts singing the same song and doing the same dance. I mean, granted, we were only counting, but it was still rather hilarious.

Later I had a singing battle with a young vender who was trying to sell me some piece of junk or another.

“Laa, laa, laa!” I sang.

“Laa, laa, laa!” he answered.

And then we back-and-forthed like that for a while choosing different pitches and rhythms until we got bored, which didn’t take too long. We left the complex and found a cab to take home.

We had hoped that the water would be back on by the time we got home, but it wasn’t. So instead we all smelled like camels and desert and taxi cab all afternoon. I took a nap with Miriam and then we left to go on a felucca ride, still as stinky as ever. Luckily we live in Egypt and no one really cares what anyone else smells like here.

Since I was napping and no one else bothered to make dinner, we picked up some burgers and fries to eat on the felucca. You can’t get much more Egyptian than that…well, you could, but I don’t want my dad to starve while he’s here. He hasn’t been too fond of anything he’s tried so far—koshari, shawerma, tamiyya, couscous.


The felucca ride was fun, and filling. It was too hazy to see a good sunset, but we still enjoyed each other’s company and the fresh Nile breeze. I’m going to post a whole bunch of pictures now…it’s late and because daylight savings begins tomorrow it’s technically even later, so I need to get to bed. But you can probably tell from the pictures that we had a good time without me having to say much.

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Rachel loves boat rides and wanted to spend most of her time sitting on the bow. I told her she had to have a grown-up with her since there is no railing to keep her from falling into the river so she was constantly pulling anyone who would go up the stairs to the front of the boat.

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This has nothing to do with feluccas, but Miriam has started to suck on her bottom lip so much that she is starting to get a little rash. I have no idea how to break her from this habit and I don’t even know if breaking the habit would help illuminate the rash since she drools so much, anyway.


We finished off the evening with some shopping on Road 9, where Grandpa and Auntie Josie picked out a few gifts for some friends.


We stopped by Sobry’s to pick up some papyrus copies of the facsimiles from the Pearl of Great Price. Sobry is hilarious and wonderful. He never quite recognizes us for who we are, even though we’ve been to his shop several times—he’s old and we can forgive him for that. He does, however, always know that we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Ah, I know what you are looking for,” he said when he saw us, “I know you are looking for three very special things. Do you know what I am talking about? You will find them in a drawer in the back.”

We already knew this so we started walking into his store.

“Do you want to know how I always recognize the members of your faith?” he called after us, “It is in your eyes. There is something different about your eyes—a happiness and light—and I just know. Every time. I love working with your people!”

I think that is beyond wonderful because that is what the gospel is for me—happiness and light. And no matter what happens in our life—good or bad—that happiness and light are there through everything. Faith is a profoundly powerful thing.

By the way, the water was back on when we got home so I showered and I must say that I am very happy to no longer smell like a camel!


  1. I am in new-found awe of you for taking your baby on a camel ride. Also, slightly mortified by the photo of the dead fox.

  2. Hah!! I looked at the first picture and thought, wow, Nancy kind of looks like Josie in that picture...just came back for a second read, and realize it is Josie!

  3. That looks like so much fun! Good for you guys and I was also very sad to think about the fox babies. It will probably haunt me all day. I'm also really relieved that water came back on for you. Now I'm going to get a nice, big cup of ice water and realize how lucky I am. I also really think it's cool what that one guy said about seeing the light in people's eyes. That's just so interesting that he could tell from that.

  4. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I am curious about the newly erected fence around the pyramid of Khafre that you mentioned. Do you happen to have any photos of the fence? How high is it? Anything else you can share about the fence would be appreciated.



  5. The northern and eastern faces of the pyramid of Khafre are roped off. The southern face is open, but the western face has been closed off with metal fencing—like a road blockade, only for pyramids.

  6. I am actually unsure of when they put the fence up, but I know that it wasn't up in January, which is the last time we went and I don't remember the rope being up before, either.

  7. Thanks Nancy,

    Andrew sent me a link to the photos. I am pretty sure this fence was erected just after the person climbed the pyramid.

    I have noticed in recent photos you and others have taken of the Sphinx that it also has a large fence around it. Do you have any idea when and why that was erected? Perhaps it has something to do with the Red Bull motorcycle event to be held there in a couple of days.