After getting our money back from the shady bus-ticket salesman, the rest of the day went great. We rode through the crazy traffic one last time (no lanes, no crosswalks, no stop lights, with random buses stopping wherever, mule wagons, horse carriages, bikes, motorbikes, cars, trucks, vans, etc. turning, diving, weaving, and dodging) before hitting the tourist road on the Nile to Karnak. We kept riding past Karnak, where Luxor showed its poor side again as the city transformed into unfinished buildings, rural checkpoints, dirty strips of stores, and fields of wheat and grass in the shadows of palm trees.
On the way there, we had a bike race with a kid and a friend on their shared bike. They seemed distressed that Laura beat us all (I’m used to her bad-ass biking), but smiled the whole race. Out in the rural concentrations, children ran along with our bikes, yelling “Hello!” and “Welcome to Luxor!” They didn’t grab us this time. I heard birds chirping, donkeys beying, and watched the wind blow shifting patterns in the fields, and felt good to be on a bike in the countryside.
Continue reading “Money Funny”
A nice photo off of the felucca (sailboat) Laura and I sailed on in Luxor. We went to “Banana Island” (not an island; but a tourist myth), paid off the “mayor” so we could tour the banana fields, had some bananas as our captain smoked sheesha, and then sailed back to the “port” (a docking area in front of a huge construction site). Once docked, we met all the children apprentices, a shifty guy named Hassan “Joker,” smoked real Egyptian sheesha (raw honey tobacco that gave us a buzz), ate kushary, looked at photos from trips past, and left the boat without the captain even asking us to tip him! Great experience.
Laura and I rented bikes for two days while in Luxor. Great way to get around, get off the tourists roads, and avoid most of the touting. The nice Asian man who took this photo joked that he wanted backsheesh for it. We looked at him puzzled and he laughed, replying “No backsheesh! My pleasure!” This was shot outside of the huge Karnak Temple complex north of Luxor.
Continue reading “Luxor, Karnak, Nile Photos”
Friday, Laura and I rented bikes to run errands and visit Karnak 5 km north of Luxor. Our first stop was at the train station; we inquired at the tourist office about buying bus tickets to Dahab. Playing with his son, the nice man told us that the bus office was around the corner from the train station. So we walked the bikes over to a junky office, and, while standing outside a bit confused at the appearance, two men waved us inside.
As we entered, the man behind the desk rudely spoke to two Asian backpackers who where trying to see if they could store their bags there and return when they had to catch the bus. He offered them a price, they called him a thief, and he told them loudly to leave. He looked at us with all smiles and asked what we needed.
Continue reading “$4 Justice in Luxor”
Something changed during the last day in Cairo. After putting on the tough skin yesterday, and melting down the day before, the lotus flowers of Egyptian hospitality opened up a bit. I can’t quite grasp the reason why the nice Cairenes started showing up all at once, but I was finally glad that I got to be myself and share small moments with nice strangers.
Yesterday the cracks of a smile began to appear on the faces of the people we met, and today, Laura and I had many chances to smile, joke with, and generally say thank you to the generous bits of help we received.
Continue reading “Random Acts of Kindness in Cairo”
The overnight train from Cairo dropped us in to early morning darkness at Luxor. We got to our hotel a bit early, so had karkady on the roof top’s eating area, and caught the tourist balloons taking off. Though a one-party-ruled country, Egyptians love their satellite TV!
Still tired from the “sort of” sleep on the train, Laura and I checked in and decided to walk over to the Luxor Temple before the busloads of tourists arrived. We mostly beat the crowds, and enjoyed a self-guided tour of the complex (complete with mosque) of this ancient ruin. Caught this photo walking in through the First Pylon of Ramses II.
Continue reading “Sunrise in Luxor”
Didn’t cross many streets today but spent most of the day near the souq and the el Hussein mosque with Saadia and her brother and sister. After doing a bit of shopping, getting great prices thanks to Saadia, we spent three hours at a cafe right across from the mosque. We spent the time eating chicken, smoking sheesha, and talking more about Sudan, the Middle East, and humanity’s urge to conquer and control. At one point, a woman stopped to henna a nearby woman, and Saadia noticed the Sudanese henna style. She asked the woman to come over to our table and decorate Laura’s hand. It was beautiful.
Continue reading “Exhausted Again in Cairo”
Last night stands as the highlight of the trip. After a two-hour con from Adam, an older man who gave us tea, a Marlboro, and fresh juice, I’m glad that something nice happened here in Cairo.
After all those pleasantries yesterday, Adam took us shopping. He bought us dry teas, natural mosquito repellent, and a box of sweets. Whenever he bought something for us, he made us stand outside so he could get the “Egyptian price.” Though warning flags went up, Laura and I really wanted to trust the amiable gentlemen who said he was an artist.
He said he’d draw us something that included our names in Arabic. He took us on back streets where everybody knew him and talked about the history of Cairo. The whole time, Laura and I kept having aside conversations that revolved around trusting Adam. He seemed to have his heart in the right place, didn’t act like he needed money, and only seemed like he wanted to be helpful for us (and to practice his English).
Continue reading “Midnight Dinner in the Suburbs of Cairo”
The craziness of Talaat Harb Street, outside the Hotel Luna. Honking, noise, yelling, etc. 24/7. For those who know the book (and the movie), the Yacoubian Building was located at 34 Talaat Harb St.
Like an old friend, the Great Sphinx eternally sits and erodes along the Giza Plateau. The Pyramid of Khafre in the background. Fenced off from those who aren’t willing to climb to it, the Sphinx seemed smaller than I thought. It still holds power, majesty, and that unmistakable buzz of ancient history. The haze in the sky is compliments of over 2 million cars and 20 million people in Cairo! Continue reading “Photos from Cairo, Egypt”
“You speak English?” the cabbie named Mohammed asked me for the fifth time. By then, I kept trying to throw him off by saying things like “No, I speak Spanish. ¿Hablas Español?” He didn’t get it and would eventually ask again, then yelling “I test you!”
Laura and I got our first real bite of Egypt when we piled on to a shuttle bus at the Cairo airport en route to the car park. People got out of the way and made us both sit down. The boy beside me tried to grab my case, but I smiled and said “No. It’s OK.” Most of the men sitting around us kept staring at Laura.
In the taxi, we hit the road into Cairo around 1 AM. That’s when Mohammed began to prank me.
“What hotel you go to?”
“Luna, the one that hired you to pick us up.”
“You lie!” Laura, being intentionally ignored by the man, yelled out that last comment.
Continue reading “You Speak English?: Day 1 in Cairo, Egypt”
Some of you may not know that I don’t take normal travel photographs. I spend most of my time on long walks, not looking for churches, bridges, and museums, but instead trying to find all the stencils I can and sometimes shooting interesting shots of touristy things with as few people as possible. My mother used to comment, “maybe try to photograph some people every once and awhile.” So I began to answer, “I don’t photograph people.” I’ve gotten better and putting myself, and friends, in the shot, but I still compose most shots with no one in it. I’ll even wait minutes until people move out of the frame.
This being said, this was the first London photograph and the first photo of the trip. Street art makes me laugh all the time, and this poster was too hard to not photograph. I try to contain myself with only shooting stencils, but sometimes have to document another media.
Continue reading “A Painted London”
March 6, 2007
I sit in a backyard with a group of friends. In that circle I only recognize Stephen B. and another person who resembles a combination of two other friends (Pod and Jonathan). Stephen excitedly asks me, “how is your trip going, Russell?” I start talking to him about it as the combined person has to leave the group circle to begin setting up for a rehearsal. As I talk to Stephen, I realize that I’m still on my trip, so I must be dreaming.
As three circus performers show up to rehearse, I walk over to a large, raised circle made from small pieces of wood. Ropes have been tied across the structure. “It’s flimsy, but it’ll work,” the combined friend tells me.
A race is on so I ride a motorcycle contraption and try to keep up with the leaders. We hit traffic, so I begin to dart through cars. Things become quite dodgy when I approach a car with a snow shovel sticking out of its back window. I get by and the race ends up a hill at an old 70s-style suburban house.
Continue reading “Dreams at Brunswick Gardens”