The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

From Hippy to Revolutionary

The following takes place between days 184-186, May 30 – June 1, 2011

Even though I still felt queasy and tired from the food poisoning, I still managed to get up and leave the hostel in Essouira in time to catch my bus that would begin probably not so much the longest travel day of the trip, but certainly the one with the most connections and distance. 

IMG_7286It started off with a bus from Essaouira to Marrakech where I would switch to a train for Casablanca. As the Casablanca airport is so far out of the city, I would then need to take a separate train from Casablanca back out of the city to the airport. Considering I had at least 7 hours to wait for my flight, I initially thought I could store my luggage at the Casablanca train station or something and run off to see the 3rd largest Mosque in the world, and also one of only two in the country that allows non-Muslims to visit.

Sometimes, though, things don’t necessarily turn out the way one plans.

Maybe it was because I had just spent nearly two weeks traveling with Kelly and Jaime(whom I never got a chance to say goodbye to, so I’ll do it here. Miss you guys! Thanks for letting me join up with you guys!) that I got a bit too complacent on the bus. When you travel with others, there’s a better sense of knowing that someone will know the stop. On my own, I kinda zoned out listening to my iPod and lost track of what stations I had passed. In my defence, the stop we were at when I jumped off the train in the hurry had a lot of people getting off the train and in my head I was thinking “Well, it makes sense that this is the Casablanca station as that’s a major station. Therefore, more people would be hopping off.”

I was wrong.

I got off two stops and twenty minutes early. This left me with a difficult choice. I could wait 45 minutes for the next train heading to Casablanca to see the Mosque, or wait 30 minutes to take the 30 minute ride to the airport as that train happened to go past this station. As the Airport Train left Casablanca only once every hour, and the ride was about 50 minutes, it would leave me with very little time to get to the Mosque and see it. In the end, I skipped Casablanca entirely and spent the hours in the Casablanca departures lounge.

I flew overnight from Casablanca to Frankfurt and then took another flight three hours later from Frankfurt to Cairo. In all, I had already been traveling for more than 24 hours.

My first thoughts getting out of the baggage claim area was “Oh fuck. I messed up on the time.” I had booked a hostel and they had avaliable an airport pickup. So I looked at the time I was landing and sent them an email with my flight details. I don’t know what I was thinking though. My flight was schedualed to land at 14:15pm. I told the hotel: “I land at 4:15pm.”

Way to read army time Corey. Good job.

IMG_7289In the end, this nice gentleman helped me get a reliable taxi, airconditioned, and for a decent price. . . I think. At least I wouldn’t have to pay extra. At first, I thought 18 euros was a bit steep. Until we started driving. It took at least an hour to get to downtown Cairo from the airport. And then, even though he said he knew where he was going at the airport, he got lost. We drove around the congested streets of downtown Cairo for a good 40 minutes before we finally found my hostel, right by Tahrir Square. I knew it was near there, I just assumed he did too. Stupid of me.

By 5pm, I had finally arrived in my hostel. Got into my room(paying a single bed price for a room with a king sized bed and two twins. Take a guess as to what bed I chose to sleep on) and promptly fell dead asleep.

My first day in Cairo I devoted to heading out to the Egyptian Museum. I figured before I go see the pyramids, I might as well get a bit of a background on them and see a bit of the countries history. Getting to the museum should’ve been easy. It’s literally across the square from the hostel, a short five or seven minute walk. It took me an hour and a half.

IMG_7290First, someone befriended me and offered to take me there through a quieter portion of the freeway. Like an idiot, I followed him. By coincidence his perfume and oil shop was on the way. And in I was dragged. A guy from Belgium was already there. He looked at me and smiled and said “So you’re the new victim” while he packed up the stuff he caved in and bought. I spent half an hour saying I just wanted to go to the museum. That I didn’t want to buy anything. But eventually I just caved as well and bought a tiny vile of oil just to get out of there. My mind was not up for it.

Attempt number two ended with me getting another guy “helping me” get across. I fell for it again as I was at a part of the sidewalk with no opening to cross onto the street. “It’s over this way,” he said. And then pulled me into his papyrus shop. I didn’t cave this time and managed to convince him to let me leave after only fifteen minutes of a sales pitch. I felt horrible as I know they’re hurting for tourist business . . . but I just didn’t want to buy anything. He at least was kind enough to help me cross the street safely and wish me a pleasant stay.

IMG_7317So after all that, I finally got to the museum. As pictures were not allowed to be taken inside, I spent as much time outside taking photos of the items they had there. A large burnt out building stood beside the museum which I later found out was one of the headquarters of Mubarak’s government that the fire department let burn.

Ah, but the museum itself. I’m not sure what I was expecting going in. It’s a world famous exhibit with many priceless artifacts. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with the museum layouts in other cities, but I found this one pretty crowded and with only a little semblance of organization. I mean, there were literally thousands of items. You would need days to see it all. So from that, I can understand the clutterness feeling, and the crowded feeling. My only pet peeve was the lack of information around explaining what a lot of these items were. There were some information papers beside some items, but they all looked like they had been typed up on a typewriter back in the 1930s. And I wasn’t about to spend an exhorbanant amount of money on a guide. Good thing too, after hearing others in the hostel talk about how bad their guides were.

Highlight of the museum for me, and probably for most people, is the exhibit oIMG_7299f items from King Tutankhamen's tomb. There always seems to be this strange fascination with the Boy King and I’ve never fully understood why. It could be as simple as that is the only king many people seem to know right off the bat. 

I waded my way through the crowds and hawkers back to the hostel where I rested up and decided to head off for a nearby geocache that no one had found yet. In an effort to ward off any potential hawkers, I decided to try the iPod trick. ie// wear my earbuds and pretend to be listening to my music even if I’m not. Surprisingly it worked for all but one. The one that didn’t, I just did some sign language I knew from home and he just assumed I was deaf or hard of hearing. I feel dirty having admitted doing that, but it worked.

IMG_7329I found the geocache with little difficulty in an abandoned courtyard of an old mansion. It was an intense thrill to be the First to Find in such a far off country. Especially considering that this particular geocache had been set up for at least two months already. Walking back, covered in dirt, I had another good excuse to use for the hawkers if they ignored the ear buds. “I tripped and fell. I just want to go to my hostel to have a shower.” That worked too. Yay for geocaching!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for finding it first! I love the pics of the desert you posted!! That is amazing scenery! I'm still soo jealous lol. P.S. I didn't take you as a big time partier! Keep having all the fun you want :)