Captive on the Bus to Cario

We knew it would be a long day to get to Cairo from Port Said, so even though our bus was scheduled to leave at 9 AM, everyone was on the bus, ready to go, by 8:30. We had run the gauntlet from the ship to the parking lot, through numerous stalls of street vendors trying to sell us souvenirs, through the main gate where the uniformed band played on, and through the crowd of dignitaries who were waiting to thank us for coming. But we were on a mission, hoping to get an early start to our day, knowing we had a 3-1/2 hour drive to Cairo (plus the same to return to the ship).

There we sat on the bus. Then we had time to notice our surroundings. We saw military personnel carriers, sandbags piled high, soldiers with impressive looking weapons, two armed guards on the bus with us, and numerous police vans filled with officers. And the band continued to play on, but the bus did not move. It got to be 9 AM, and still no movement. Finally at 10 minutes past 9, the Governor from the State got on the bus, delivering a speech in Egyptian to us. None of knew what he was saying, but he said it with a big smile, so we figured he was thanking us for coming.

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We wanted to get on the road, but we sat. Finally, about 9:40 the buses left the port, in a police convoy, driving though Port Said onward to Cairo. We all gave a sigh of relief. We were on our way to begin the adventure.

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The traffic was bumper to bumper in places, but our guide tried to fill the time with all sorts of information about Cairo/Giza and Egypt. We were pleased to see a large number of international schools where children learned many different languages as well as other subjects. Also huge quantities of government housing that in many cases were empty, but would fill up soon. The political situation also is not totally stable, as many of the middle class citizens have been hurt by the cuts made to cost of living subsidies by the new regime that came into power last June.

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The fast growing population is putting a real strain on the country. A new child is born in Egypt every 39 seconds, which adds 1 million new people to the population every 9 months.

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School children crossing neighborhood canal by mini ferry.

The other major area for concern is that the cities of Cairo and Giza are carrying the weight of rapidly declining agricultural areas in which to grow food because huge slum areas (40% of both cities) cover the land around the Nile and tributary canals. Matter of fact, the slums have so much trash in them that the government is filing in the canals because the water cannot be used for irrigation since the land is badly contaminated with the rotting refuse and trash. Hence, 80% of the food must be imported in order to feed its people.

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Beach in Sharm el-Naga, Egypt copyright Vberger placed in Public Domain

After driving through many of these slum areas, we reached our first stop 4-1/2 hours after we boarded the bus in Port Said.

Our guide told us about Sakkara, the vast necropolis of ancient Memphis. The pyramids here include the distinctive Step Pyramid, dating back to 2686 BC and believed to be the oldest stone structure on earth. Especially noteworthy was the Temple design. There is very little wood in Egypt because of the desert conditions, however, the Temple features “wooden” logs fashioned from stone. Many building sections in this necropolis are buried under 90 feet of sand, awaiting excavation. And waiting for us to leave the bus were a pack of canines ready to take any crackers or cookies we may have to share. Our guide allotted us 15 minutes to walk around the area.

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Back on the bus, we headed to the plains of Giza to view the Great Pyramid of Giza (sole survivor among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). We saw all three of the major pyramids, built by the Pharaohs Cheops, Clephren, and Mycerinus ~ three generations of the same family ~ as the eternal resting place for their mummified remains.
When we arrived, we were warned about the camel drivers we would encounter. If you want a picture of the camel, with or without you sitting astride, it would cost a minimum of $5. Then it got complicated whether you had to pay the owner of the camel who may be different than the driver.

Our guide gave us 25 minutes at this site.

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We got back on the bus again to change locations to get a view of the Sphinx. What they failed to tell us was that the Sphinx was covered in scaffolding and not very picturesque at this time. Here we were given 20 minutes to go down to the fenced in area around the Sphinx to take a picture. But we were late in the day and the sun was falling fast, so our photographing was cut short. Plus, we were not given enough time to change locations again for a better view as they were setting up for the evening Sound and Light Show.

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We did get a lovely buffet dinner at the five star Le Meridian hotel, but then back on the bus for the long drive back to Port Said.

We spent a total of 15 hours on the trip and only 70 minutes were spent viewing our sites of interest. We truly felt like captives on the bus.

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Although we wish we had taken this shot of camels that are ubiquitous in Egypt, George Steinmetz for the National Geographic Society took it. The photo was taken directly above the camels in the desert at sunset. The camels are the whitish flecks. The black camel shapes are the shadows!

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6 Responses to “Captive on the Bus to Cario”

  1. Great to hear from you. Sounded like a long frustrating day, but at least you were able to see some of what you wanted to see! Your pictures were wonderful as always. Miss you. Not the same without you here in Oldfield.

  2. Enjoyed the report. It read like a mystery novel. Have you guys ever thought about writing a fiction book about your travels? Keep them coming! Aloha, Linda

  3. This is one of the many places that I have on my bucket list

  4. Wow !!! What a story …

    I have had the privilege of a great deal of international travel — but, most all of it was for professional purposes: for consultation about school change/improvement or professional learning communities, and mostly done as a solo. My husband always urged me to extend my various trips in order to do the tourist thing. I typically never took the time for doing so, except for one —

    I was invited by NESA (Near East South Asia consortium for educational services) to contribute to a leadership conference conducted by NESA, held in Cairo. That must have been 8-9 years ago before things became “unruly” in Cairo and environs. I remember so well the three-lane traffic streets, that were populated by five cars driving abreast, separated from each other by their thin coats of paint. The market in central Cairo/downtown, I think, was something else. Would take a day and a half to traverse it, I imagine.

    But what was really glorious about this trip was not the bus trip to the pyramids, but a husband/wife team and I took a short cruise down the Nile to investigate the temples and the underground crypts and ancient writing, still preserved on the walls. Incredible !!! It was the most touching and compelling thing I have ever encountered … don’t know why except to be in the presence of what had occurred thousands of years ago was somehow magical — although being underground is not my favorite locale.

    Thanks for your wondrous pictures and text … I am having a splendid techno-trip with you.

    When do we get to Petra?

    Be well, Sh

  5. rozzellmaryann@aol.com October 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Other then you “saw” these sights, it sounds like a tiring rip off.

  6. Yet again another fabulous stop! Thank you ! I am loving these reports. This one must have been just a little tense given the political climate over there. I am surprised but thrilled that you were able to see all that you did , however brief the stops. Such a wonderful trip your are both on.

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