Egypt Here I Come
It’s another sea day. We talked to every body about our plans for Cairo the next day. In our group meeting were Colleen and Ron, Amanda and Dave, Maiada and Najwa and us. I cant remember much what we did today to be honest with you.
November 21, 2009
It’s our Cairo Trip today.
We agreed yesterday that we would meet at deck 5 at quarter to 7 so we could go to the train station to catch the 8:15 am express train. We didn’t get out of the boat until after 7. We took two taxis and reached Alexandria station. At the station, we chanced upon AJ and Monica waiting for the train. We agreed to go with them. Then Najwa went to get our tickets, but there was a delay as the computer system was down so they had to handwrite all our tickets in maybe a 3 x 2 inches cardboard, really funny.
After the tickets were purchased we learned that there is no 8:15 train, but there was an express train at 9 am, which we were hoping would take 2.5 hours to Cairo - took a total of 3 hours, just like taking the bus. At the train station right before we went to get our tickets, we were approached by some men who wanted to take us to Cairo for a reasonable price, but Maiada was not comfortable with the situation. So we all agreed for our safety, the train is the best bet. When we spoke with AJ and Monica we learned they arranged for a tour in Cairo in the amount of 70 US dollars. We told him if he could get them to take us too, it would also mean that the price they would pay would mean less, right? Inside the first class cabin.
We found the train and boarded the first class cabin. It’s not really first class quality by Western standards, but it’s good enough. Inside the car we also found French Canadian couple who belong to our cruise. The main players (Roy, Maiada, French guy, and Najwa) were discussing logistics quite loudly, that garnered the ire of one local and he was not shy to let us know about it. He approached Maiada who I believe he heard speak Arabic and aired his complaints in Arabic, which Maiada translated for all of us as - "Keep it down, I'm trying to get some zzzz here." Me I just was too happy for this brand-new experience. I was watching the passing scenery. I couldn't keep count of the number of mosques we passed by. Mostly the scenery was rural. The restroom was another experience altogether. I’d rather have the squat toilets in Malaysia than this urine smelling awful toilet, but I’d chalked it up to experience of course.
Reaping Egyptian cotton.
When the train reached Ramses station in Cairo, Hubby spotted the Tourist Information. He asked about where to get some money exchange. The lady behind the counter was friendly and spoke good English. She told us that outside the square (Ramses Square) there is a mosque and to the left of it is a Forex foreign exchange. Needing some Egyptian pounds really badly, we went outside to find the place. Maiada and Dave went with us. Finding the mosque was easier said than done. When we went outside the train station and walked a few feet, there was a very busy main road and there was more than one mosque. The main road was fenched off so in order to cross it we had to walk a few feet to the left to cross, such a hassle. Hence, Maiada said there is mosque everywhere and we don’t know which one the tourist lady was talking about.
Inside the station there were ATM machines, about 4 of them I think. We tried to get some dollars, but our card was not accepted. Frustrated at not being able to withdraw some money, we kept trying on different machines, but all were failures. I really got worried because we did not have enough cash to go around. This got me down and ruined my day quite a bit. I was thinking of doing some serious shopping in Cairo when we go to the flea market. But well, I was going to roll with it. (We notified our banks that we would be going to Europe around the Mediterranean area from date a to date b and will be using the card. They wanted us to specify that at date so and so we would be at this particular city. That was the cause of the confusion with our bank/credit cards - sigh!)
When the negotiations for the amount of money needed to take the tour was completed with the people that AJ and Monica signed up with, we were ushered in a minivan for 7 people at the most and there were 12 of us. We had to make do with the cramped seating until after we got to the Museum of Antiquities, where the driver will fetch a bigger transportation for us while we visit the museum. Anyway, the amount agreed for the tour was 275 Egyptian Lira, which equals to 55 US dollars. Not really bad considering the amount quoted by NCL official tour was three times the amount.
Arriving at Ramses station in Cairo - busy station - while others were trying to negotiate with pricing for the tour, I was shooting.
This Egypt series is part of the Mediterranean cruise we took last November. I know I am way behind in posting.