Turkey & N. Africa 2006: The End is Just the Begining

Aug 17, 2006
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A view of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt
Above: A view of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

My stay in Turkey came to an end a few days ago and I am now in Cairo waiting for a night train to go down to Luxor.

I will be reverting back to email for the rest of the trip though cause it is few and far between to find an internet cafe that will let you connect your own laptop...

The rest of Turkey went well. Can't remember what the last thing I wrote about was, but I discovered that beer actually keeps you healthy... We went swimming in the Tigris on one of our first days off and I was the only one that ended up getting violently ill for 4 days. And since I almost never got sick while traveling when I was drinking -- and because none of the people that were drinking got sick -- I blamed it on the alcohol... Good thing the bet is over and I can take my medicine every night for the rest of my trip ;-)

Many of you also probably remember the poor relations that we had with the neighborhood kids of Bismil last year... Well this trip was significantly improved! My one dig director hired a local girl to be the nanny for her daughter and as a result we made friends with many of the local children and families. We were even invited to learn how to make bread in the local street ovens (there are ovens on the street throughout the small towns and villages of Turkey that are used only for making a special kind of bread that is served at every meal. Most of the ovens are shared between several families).

I also got a very cool job toward the end of the dig, when the Archaeological Museum in Diyarbakir asked me to come and photograph many of their key finds from their collection. Of course, as per Murphy's law, my camera lens broke the day before I was supposed to go! Luckily, the owner of the hotel that we stay at on weekends knew a camera store owner and convinced him to open a brand new camera kit and sell me just the lens... I probably would have taken the opportunity to upgrade to a better one, but I think I probably got the only canon SLR lens in Diyarbakir! So I spent the day taking photographs at the museum, however I was in Turkey so it couldn't go smoothly... They ended up starting with the least important material to get it out of the way before lunch, which we took around 2:30. We planned on only taking 30 minutes so that we could get going again right away, but by the time they had served us two glasses of tea and found the one guy again that had the key to the depot it was already 4pm... And we had to stop at 5... I got through the photos for a couple sites but never got to the small finds from our site or the really important site from the region... Oh well - maybe next year!

On my last day in Diyarbakir, I finally tried a turkish haircut and shave... I have never had a barber stop for a tea break literally in the middle of a hair cut before! He also did this thing that is common here where they take a stick that is on fire and burn the hair off your ear. That and the three types of lotions he rubbed into my face was definitely an interesting experience.

So on to Cairo... I arrived a couple days ago and immediately almost got in three accidents on the taxi ride from the airport -- only to find out that the car that was supposed to pick us up didn't show because he had gotten in an accident on the way there! This place is probably the craziest driving I have ever seen! Each time you cross the street you kind of have to ask yourself if it's worth it! The one girl I am traveling, Ashley, was almost hit by cars twice already: once when she froze like a deer in headlights in front of a truck and once when she miscalculated how fast a car was moving and I literally had to pull her out of the way!

This is also probably one of the hardest cities that I have ever tried to get around in... The public transportation system isn't something you can really figure out in a day, as we ended up getting crammed into a microbus that dropped us off in some market square called Attaba at least a mile from where we wanted to be. Attaba ended up being a local marketplace / bazaar that was definitely not used to seeing american women... I have never travelled with two girls before so I wasn't thinking about the added difficulties that might come up along the way... We eventually made it to the area we wanted to be in - a bazaar area call Khan al Khalili. Some guide latched onto us right away but we went with it and let him lead us through the Egyptian side of the bazaar, which for obvious reasons was way cooler than the tourist side. His gimmick from what I could tell was that he was taking us to his friends shops that would then give him a kickback of some money if we bought anything. We went everywhere from back alley factories to the living room of some guys house that was selling pillows -- that was the craziest cause as we went in he shoved his entire family into a small bedroom to get them out of the way. We ended up buying a bunch of Papyrus paintings which I vowed not to do until the end of the trip but I got the one I wanted down from 900 egyptian pounds to 400 egyptian pounds... Probably still way too much but I think I finally started to insult the artist at one point so I just went with it. It is a pretty large one anyways and it'll look good with the painting of Angkor Wat that I was stuck carrying around on my last trip!

We also went to the Egyptian Museum yesterday where we saw all the real treasures from King Tut's Tomb. It is really amazing - if you have seen the traveling exhibit that was in LA - to realize that that probably wasn't even 10% of the exhibit at the Egyptian Museum. King Tut himself is still in the valley of the kings so hopefully I will actually get to see him in the next couple days. They had a room filled with the mummies of the ancient Egyptian kings which was pretty cool also... Ramses II and Amanhotep are both just laying out for everyone to see...

Today was the Pyramids trip. We hired a car that took us around to the Pyramids of Giza, Saqqarra, and Memphis. We had planned on getting a camel and riding between them through the desert but apparently that has been banned after tourists were being robbed along the way. We did however hire a camel from a stable that took us all around the pyramids at Giza. Even that was a little shady though, as our little kid guides took us though the back desert entrance, paid off every guard they passed, and would wait with the camels just over the hills and not visible from the sites themselves... We seemed to be the only people that had to walk off into the desert in order to find our camels and guides... Hmmmm....

A view of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt

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