Monday, July 25, 2011

The Other Girl: A Travel Journal Part VIII: Alexandria, Egypt

This travel journal entry will conclude the series of The Other Girls writing from our travel experience with Significant Other in 2009, it was supposed to have been done weeks ago, but with all the upset we've had in our life we really haven't had the time focus on it, rather we needed to write about what was going on day to day so we could keep things on track...we've fallen so far behind in our completion of our stories of how we go to this last year all thanks to our tenant fucking us over and stealing stuff from us, and getting canned last Monday.

It's hard to believe it's been a week since we got fired, it feels like forever.

Thankfully this last entry hadn't made it here, because we have some job hunting to do and not a lot of time to write. 

Today James (@mr_jmm) and us went to the public library to check out some books on writing query letters to literary agents and publishers; so while we search for jobs, contemplate our options regarding staying here or moving to a new city...we will pour over these books and try to figure out how we can turn our writing into something more help us, and to help others.

So while we do that, why not read some of the travel journals written by some of the others and The Other Girl? (
or our post from yesterday with a bunch of archives in it?)...we'll be back to writing about James' visit tomorrow, all the things that have happened...if he'll allow us to talk about the day we had yesterday anyway...

It would be a few months after this vacation that things would start to fall apart heavily for all the others, and before I became part of the picture again.

All the entries up to the last days in Cairo....

Original blog post date: 11.09.09

October 24th - Saturday
Today we headed to Alexandria which is on the Mediterranean (keep your ooo's and ahhh's at bay...).
Our mode of transportation was the Egyptian Train, first class. First class here does NOT mean the same thing as it does in North America, or when you are flying. First class means you get a seat, people are not packed like cattle into your car, and you have toilet facilities. Toilet facilities...that are a straight drop to the railway, trickles water to remove any waste that didn't drop (i.e. tissue paper, etc.) and gave the impression that someone(s) decided that urinating on the floor was preferable to using the toilet. I was the first to use the train bathroom, trying the left bathroom first and realizing the smell was too pungent to tolerate, and then decided to check out the right one. A little better smelling.
The boys didn't take me seriously so when their turns came to use the toilet I waited to see their expression when they came out, and it was exactly as expected, a revolted grin that said "boy where you right!".
The train ride in first class was pleasant enough...we had air conditioning! The sights that I could see through the mud smeared windows were pretty amazing as we drove north along the Nile Delta. You were nearly transported into biblical times for most of the trip, seeing farmers with donkey and plow in the field, windrows of wheat felled from sickle in hand and woman transporting their produce, baskets on their heads, children in tow.
This country is not for animal lovers (or people with sensitivity to smell, sensitive or delicate stomachs, those nervous about being lost in a foreign country, those uncomfortable with not understanding a word of the language including 99% of what is written on the signs...i could go on...). The animals along the delta, like the stray cats that roam the city, are dirty, thin and dehydrated looking (think beef jerky stretched over bones). They drink from the Deta streams that are overrun by garbage, animal feces, other dead animals, and most likely human feces.
It is interesting to see along the way the little towns whose buildings, like so many in Cairo, have no roof on the top level. I had previously though this was because they don't need a roof, receiving only about 1 cm of rain a year, but have learned that until a building is complete the taxes don't have to be they just don't finish the building!
Alexandria was a 2 1/2 hour ride from Cairo and when we arrived I was relieved to see there was a little less garbage, although not by much. We wandered off to try to find the Mediterranean, and a restaurant near it that was recommended called the Sea Gull. We finally came upon the Mediterranean, dodged a freeway full of traffic to cross (there was no crosswalks...why would there be?) and got a whiff of lovely salty sea air. We watched some fisherman drag in their nets from the rocky shore and continued on to locate the restaurant. We walked a long time before we realized we would have to consult someone and possibly find a cab.
On our cab ride I had my first and only real fear on this entire trip. The cab driver seemed to be taking us in an odd direction, stopped at a gas station type place and signaled something to someone and then continued on until it seemed we were leaving the city. It was at this moment all the warnings and stories ran through my head, the ones where they take you in the middle of nowhere and demand money, or leave you in the dessert...and worse. I was not the only one who felt this way, as we exited the cab at the restaurant [Significant Others Dad] expressed that he was also concerned.
Lunch was pretty interesting, upon entering the gigantic restaurant, and passing, of all things, huge pelicans, monkeys, birds and rabbits, they take you to an area where fresh fish are displayed on loads of fresh ice, not a fishy smell to be found as far as I could tell. In this room you get to choose the fish you want, the EXACT fish you want! I ordered grouper to be grilled, [Significant Other] ordered red snapper and [Significant Others Dad] had big shrimps, also to be grilled. While we waited at our seaside-ish table we got to observe the offshore oil rigs, ships in the distance and ponies. I have a feeling this place doubled or tripled as other things, seeing as there were tons of antiques everywhere and animals all over and a play area and I think a pony ride area. It was actually such a gigantic place that these things were pretty spread out.
They served us some appetizers which was fresh baked pita, and about 9 different dips which included hummus dip, chickpeas that were very lovely flavored, cold cooked potatoes and cold beets. While we enjoyed the start of the meal a man walked by our window...he was walking a camel!! Although it was really stinky it was pretty cool....while we ate, ponies ran by our open air window. Overall the restaurant was pretty cool. On the way out they gave us peanuts to feed the monkeys...I actually got to feed moneys peanuts!!! One of them grabbed my hair when I didn't give him the next peanut but instead opted to give it to his cage mate. Sad as it was that they were caged I thought it pretty amazing that I got to feed real live monkeys...and now I want one as a pet! 
After lunch we headed to the catacombs which were recently uncovered in the late 1800's when a donkey and some horses fell through the roof. They have unearthed 300 mummies from the tombs which we will likely see tomorrow at the Cairo Museum. I actually got to touch the walls and feel what was left of hieroglyphic carvings and reliefs. It was simply amazing! We got a bit of an unauthorized tour from a guy who wasn't supposed to take us in a closed area still under excavation. He got yelled at. They took my camera as I entered but [Significant Others Dad] kept his and once we were in the catacombs we were encouraged to take pictures by the guide. Seems everything can be had at a price here and protocol, rules and regulations can be ignored most of the time. I can't explain fully the tombs, it was by far the best experience so far and made the day that much better. when will I ever get to touch ancient walls inhabited by mummies for centuries AND feed a monkey peanuts?
While the Mediterranean was pretty dirty and disappointing the rest of the day was exciting. It was another day of people staring and it seem amplified today, at one point [Significant Other] commented that I was "totally getting stared down" and it was by EVERYBODY. I think it was the combination of the three of us, a white women and two white men who were showing their legs! (Men here do not wear shorts) I felt like I was half naked standing in a mall the way people stared, I wanted to yell to them that they should just get a good long look and get it over with. [Significant Other] suggested I carry around picture of myself and just hand them out so they can look at a picture of me instead. LOL
I am now off to have my dinner and fall asleep to the sounds of honking car horns, the faint smell of burning tires (pollution) and a smokey mesquite bbq smell that lingers in the air. Hopefully after I am awoken at 6am by the chanting from a local mosque over a loudspeaker I will be able to get a little extra sleep!
NOTE: I do want to just mention that I am in no way trying to sound negative about Egypt, I am simply stating the facts and experiences. We picked up a Lonely Planet guidebook today and they also do not cast Egypt in the greatest of light and actually reiterated a lot of what I have said.
Also, in yesterdays note I mentioned that some still wear "traditional dress", and I should elaborate that it is traditional Muslim dress, not traditional Egyptian.

Gallery Selections from our day in Alexandria, Egypt.

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