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There's lots of stone in Egypt, part 2 · 29 January 06

I haven’t had Internet access for most of this trip, so I haven’t done a great job at keeping up with the story. I’ll try and cover the last few days…

The day after the rest of the group arrived we went back to Giza. The annoying camel hustlers and trinket pushers were still everywhere, but since we pretty much stuck together in one to three larger groups, it was a lot easier to keep them at bay. We spent the morning touring through the pyramids (and listening to Bob Brier, who seems to know everything about Egypt). The day was clearer (more blue skies), so I think that many of the pictures will turn out better (I still have only glanced through the pictures and haven’t fully processed anything). After spending several hours around the pyramids, we headed up to a panoramic overlook (this was all pretty much the opposite path that we had taken the day before). At the overlook, the group paid for a few camel drivers to pose for us in front of the vast panorama of the Giza plateau. I think that I took about three hundred pictures of the same camel (and his driver). We ate lunch back at the hotel and then came back to Giza in the afternoon to take pictures of the sphinx. Several of us got bored after a while and wandered around the surrounding area, but didn’t find much of interest. That evening we ate at Cristos (a restaurant that is supposed to have a good view of the pyramids at sunset), but the food wasn’t that good, the service was worse, and they were both better than the view.

The next day we left the hotel early to visit a camel market (in a small village outside of Cairo) at dawn. This place was incredible. There were hundreds of camels all moving around pretty much freely (except that they had one of their legs tied up so that they couldn’t move too quickly… they could still run you over though). The shooting conditions were tough (between the early dawn light and the thick haze caused by all of the dust in the air), but there were good subjects to shoot everywhere. Occasionally, a buyer would wander through with an entourage of people and loud haggling would ensue. It was pretty amazing. Other than leaving that place with shoes covered in camel dung, that was a perfect place for some amazing photography. We ate lunch at a restaurant in Cairo that had decent food, but the waiters wouldn’t listen very well, and then we left to go to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.

The museum was heavily crowded and no photos were allowed. We all strained to hear our guide talk about stuff and then eventually gave up and wandered around on our own. They had tons of ancient Egyptian artifacts from every era of Egypt’s past, but none of them were as beautiful as the display of Tut Ankh Amon’s jewelry, mask, and sarcophagus. We even went into an area that was displaying about a dozen mummies (all from Egypt’s Old Kingdom, I believe). After leaving the museum, we drove to down town Cairo to take pictures (and shop) in the bazaar.

If the camel market was a mad house, then this place was at least twice as bad. At least you knew how to avoid the camels. The market is full of twisting alleyways and dead-ends with tiny stalls filled with people pushing their wares on you (and trying to get you to pay them for anything else, like tours of “three-thousand year old spice grinders” that happen to be powered by electricity). After a while, I needed a break, so I joined a group that was leaving the market to drive to a carpet factory in a small village outside of Cairo. This trip was a complete waste of time. We took a one and one-half hour bus ride (which, somehow, only ended up being half an hour coming back… and I never saw much traffic) to a carpet store where the weavers had all gone home for the day (no great pictures here). They then proceeded to give us a big sales pitch on buying their silk carpets (which cost many thousands of dollars). Boring. I was glad when we left. We drove back to the market and had dinner at a restaurant somewhere in its bowels and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning, we got up early and flew to Aswan (a city far to the south of Cairo on the Nile river). Aswan is the spot where they built a dam to keep the annual Nile flooding in check in modern times. We checked into our rooms on our cruise ship (Radamis II) – our home for the next several days and then left the ship after lunch to explore the island Temple of Philae. This is a beautiful temple on an island in the Nile river. The temple was relocated block-by-block after the dam was built because the change in water levels caused the island that it was on originally to become submerged. The temple is filled with amazing statues, hieroglyphs, murals, and columns and was a great spot for photography. Again, I won’t go into detail about the temple (there is lots of better information online), but I should have some great shots posted when I can get around to processing the thousands of photos that I have taken in Egypt.

Well, that’s all for now. More to come later…