(Note - I've been challenged with formatting this post; not all of the photos have captions or are in order - but I think you will get the gist of things!!! -Joan)
Day 3 of early wakeup calls, but we were pumped because today we were headed to see the pyramids! We had a very early breakfast in La Veranda, at a window seat, and watched as activity on the pier in Port Said reached fever pitch. Buses were lining up, police and military men were walking about, and vendors were setting up shop.
I am not a very experienced "cruiser" (this was only our second cruise, ever,) but I was surprised when we left the boat that the passengers had to walk through a gauntlet of very aggressive vendors on our way to the bus. This was after passport checks that seemed somewhat random.
We boarded the bus and met Hannah, our exuberant guide for the day, and set out for the long drive to Cairo. As we started to drive through Port Said on our way to Cairo, we noticed that police vehicles were stopping traffic to allow our convoy to proceed through intersections (making several U-turns around boulevard dividers along the way,) and that these police AND open trucks with machine-gun toting soldiers were accompanying us. The predominant noise was honking horns - not only in the city, but once we got on the highway as well. Our driver was excellent at honking his horn : - D As we drove through the streets of Port Said, we noticed people on the streets waving enthusiastically and blowing kisses our way. We later learned that our ship, when it had visited Port Said two weeks earlier, was the first cruise ship to dock in this port for two years. For many years tourism was one of the major drivers of the Egyptian economy, but after the Arab Spring it is now producing less than 20% of the revenue it once did. Clearly the local residents were happy to see our convoy.
|Local citizen photographing our bus as we pulled away from the port|
|KFC Delivery vehicles|
|Traffic stopped to let us pass; note the horse carts in the background|
|First view of Cairo|
|Lily Pond with a stand of Papyrus Reeds in front of the Museum|
|Cooling off with a tasty beverage outside the museum|
|The entrance to the pier where our boat was docked, on the Nile River|
|Interior of the boat. The waiters wore tunics with belts copied from mummy-style jewelry|
|Another interior shot, photo credit to Kristoferb via Wikipedia. The display cases are old oak glass cases, some with ornately carved legs, some stacked on top of each other.|
We were warned both before leaving our ship, as well as by our tour guide, to NOT get on a camel for a ride and to NOT accept offers from locals to take our photos. The Camel Drivers frequently “take you for a ride” that may cause one to miss their ride back to the ship, and then basically demand ransom to let you off the camel. Helpful photographers likewise demand ransom for cameras and cell phones, or simply run away with them. We were told that both are very aggressive – however I think their aggressiveness was tempered by the gun-toting security guards escorting our group.
On the grounds at Giza is another museum, the Cheops Boat Museum. This was an unexpected, fascinating stop. In the 1950s an archeologist working near the pyramids discovered a pit covered with huge granite blocks. Inside the pit was an ancient Egyptian boat, disassembled into 2,000 plus pieces. The wooden pieces were removed from the pit and the boat was reassembled. The museum showcases the restored boat. It was in the water at least once; historians are unsure whether it may have been used to transport funerary items for the burial of one of the pharohs.
From the Cheops Boat we had a short drive to see the Sphinx.
The sphinx was our last sightseeing stop of the day, but it was not the last sight we saw. Our visit to Egypt occurred as the 4-day observance of the holiday of Eid was beginning. During this holiday, it's customary to sacrifice a sheep (or a cow) and then give the meat to the poor, so that everyone is able to eat meat during the holiday. So there were flocks of sheep and some cows on the streets of Cairo (and being transported in the beds of trucks on the highway.)
At one point Hannah, our guide, got on the loudspeaker and said "Look on the left! It's a wedding party!" She explained that the bride and her family are responsible for contributing certain household items to the new home as part of her dowry, and the groom and his family bring appliances etc. There is a happy procession to deliver all these items to the new home. We looked out our windows (we were on a highway) to see lots of happy people sitting on the backs of pickup trucks, other trucks with the wedding goods, another truck with guys dancing on the roof, and still more guys on motorcyles and on foot singing and dancing in the road.
We also spotted a middle of the road restaurant, waiting for customers.
All in all this was an incredibly full day which I will remember and treasure forever.