Saturday, March 28, 2009
Coptic Cairo and the Pyramids
So the picture yesterday was of St George, slaying the dragon. He's kind of a big deal around here (among the Christian community, anyways). In fact, the subway stop that Coptic Cairo is at is called "Mar Girgis", which translates to, you guessed it, St George. There's a long history of Christianity here. Some of the first Monks were from Egypt. The Coptic Museum is actually quite enjoyable, and covers a lot of the history of the Christian Community here. Unfortunately, they don't allow cameras (as with many of the museums), so I don't have much to show for it. But trust me, it's worthwhile.
Old Cairo itself is built around an old Roman fort, of which the walls are still mostly standing today (with others being excavated). It was founded in the 2nd century AD.
Then today, I went to the Pyramids. I spent a little while wandering around the main square downtown, trying to find the bus to the Pyramids. I had it on reliable word that it should be 2 L.E., and it was air conditioned, but after interrogating a few people in my broken arabic, gesticulating Pyramid with my hands, I got onto a bus that was only 50 piasters*... a quarter of what the other bus was. There wasn't any A/C, but the weather here has been pretty cool (for the desert, that is), so that wasn't a huge problem. It was also crowded, but I think the other one would have been too, so no loss there.
I wandered around the Pyramids, taking lots of pictures and waving away people who wanted me to ride their camels... Someone else in my Hostel is doing something of the reverse of my route, so he just came from Jordan and he said that they're much cheaper at Petra, and not nearly so pushy. Anyways, yeah, lots of pictures.
I've also noticed that I've become very suspicious of Egyptian people, often in proportion to how well they speak English. It's not that I think they'll cause me any harm, but I can't tell you how many times I've had someone come up to me, very friendly-like, and after a few minute spiel, try to sell me something. I suppose it's a side effect of thousands upon thousands of tourists coming to the country, but it's still quite irritating. What's worse, though, is that not every one is trying to sell me something, but because of the ones who do, I end up suspicious of everyone.
Another thing: lots of people have come up to me and said that I look Egyptian. Often, these are the ones who are trying to sell me something. I should point out, by the way, that they usually say this in English. I suppose it would be really weird if somebody just walked up to you at, say, the Winchester Mystery House or the Empire State Building and said, "Hey, you look like an American!" If you need to say it, it's probably not true. But there are some people who make me think I *do* look Egyptian. On the subway out to Coptic Cairo yesterday, someone leaned over to me and asked a question, in Arabic. He spoke too quickly for my rusty skills to comprehend, and even if I had, I probably wouldn't have known the answer, but it's things like that that maybe change your mind.
* A note on currency: 1 US Dollar is around 5.5 Egyptian pounds (L.E.). Each pound is broken into 100 piasters (P.T.), although I haven't seen anything smaller than 25 piasters. It's kind of odd to think about 1 penny bills, but that's what they have, more or less.