Yesterday, the whole group headed back to the pyramids and the Sphinx on the Giza plateau. It was our first full day of the tour and this was the first time we would have a chance to shoot with the mentors and get the ancient Egyption lowdown from Bob. We had taken a bunch of shots there on Wednesday so we were looking for something different today and it largely came in taking pictures of OTHER people being taken for a ride. Heh heh. Certainly a cost savings for us and we knew this time how to say "No thanks". Let's just not talk about how much less they paid for their rides than we did.
Bob was fantastic, giving lots of information about the site including, among other things, the latest theories on how the pyramids were built (perhaps a ramp on the inside? Studies are upcoming though I still have my money on alien technology), where they fell in the history of Egypt (very early) and what actually happened to the Sphinx's nose (wind erosion - not Napoleon's army taking target practice). It was like having a backstage pass to the one remaining ancient wonder of the world.
Today we had a full day scheduled. While IM'ing with Leslie this morning, I told her we were headed to the Camel market and asked if she needed me to pick anything up. "Yes, two camels. A blond one and a crunchy one." Okie dokie.
We left at 6 am and arrived at the camel market outside Cairo just as the sun started rising. If you've never been to a camel market (and unless you were there with me today, I doubt anyone reading this has) I highly recommend it. Hundreds of camels hopping about. Hopping because they bind the front left leg to keep them from being able to run very fast and get away. Lots of locals trying to keep the herds in order and together. And today - about 70 photographers running hither and yon trying to get the perfect shot while avoided being trampled by camels. I'm not sure which was more interesting - the camels or the people. It was our first opportunity to see a real slice of life. Not a crowd of people dedicated to extracting every last piastre from us but people engaged in their daily work...
Not long after we arrived, the auctions began. Camels were huddled together and the auctioneer would be yelling out bids and offers in Arabic, while others would circle the camels with big sticks, whacking them from time to time if they started to get out of order. I busied myself taking pictures of the frenzied activity while trying to avoid accidentally buying a camel or two. I'll say this: they are very cool animals but I have no extra room in my luggage and they are way too big to share my seat on the way home. In case you're wondering, they go for about $1,000 and up with the top of the line racing camels selling for upwards of half a million US dollars though I didn't see any of those today. Nor did I see any crunchy ones.
After the market, we went to the Egyption Museum and saw many of the items I had been reading about in preparation for this trip including the Narmer Palette and a replica of the Rosetta Stone but the big hits were the mummies and the relics found in King Tutankhamon's tomb. I've seen books about the treasures of King Tut but seeing them in person is much more impressive. The incredibly ornate jewelry, masks and coffins were amazing. Even more interesting were the actual photos of how everything was just stacked together in the small tomb. If they put this much stuff in this little nothing of a king's tomb I can only imagine how amazing the tombs of Ramses or Khufu must have been.
I'll post a few pictures but they are pretty much all from the camel market since we could not bring cameras into the museum. Tomorrow morning, we are headed for Aswan to begin our cruise down the Nile. No idea if we'll have internet connections there but next time I find one, I'll post more.
We arrived just as the sun was rising.
The camels were having their breakfast.
The handler is getting ready to bind this camel's leg