|Riding horses around the Pyramids was pretty darn unreal. Khalid and I took a bus out to Giza without a real idea of what we were going to do. We met a local school teacher on the bus who directed us to a stable near the pyramids that rented horses. After much negotiation we got a full day of riding down to 350 Egyptian pounds for both of us. Our guide Yassir guide took us through a back way to the Giza plateau- a hole in the fence- so that we didn't have to pay the entrance fee. Then we charged towards the pyrimads. It was an incredible feeling to be galloping full speed through the desert sands with the Great Pyramids staring at us in the distance. It was such an odd experience that it almost didn't feel real, it felt like I was an actor in a Lawrence of Arabia sequel. From the Pyramids, which you just stare at and can't believe you are there and can't really comprehend, we rode off towards Saqqara, where some of the original pyramids were built. It was a 2 hour trot through small Eyptian villages, backroads and more barren desert to Saqqara. We stopped for some tea with some local villagers, admired the view, which was nice but not as impressive as the Great Pyramids, and hopped on the horses to head back to the stable. After 2 more hours my ass almost couldn't handle it any more, and I was thankful that we gave up trotting and galloping for a slow walk back home. We strode into the stable under moonlight after one incredible day of riding.
I said goodbye to Khalid last night as he ventured off to the Sinai Peninsula. We had quite a few good adventures together. From Cairo and the Pyramids we took an overnight train together to Aswan, a town on the Nile that has a lot of famous tombs, temples, statues etc. (after awhile all of the Egyptian sites just start to blend together). Aswan was an okay town, but ofcourse, more constant hassling by locals trying to sell you souvenirs, spices, horse-carriage rides, felluca rides, clothes, cigarettes, tours, water, hotels, drugs, food.. should I go on? After awhile you get good at just staring straight ahead and not even acknowledging them. The minute it looks like you might even have the thought of possibly turning your head to see what they are selling, you are dead in the water. You just learn to ignore the "Hellos" and "Welcomes" and "Good price, look for frees" and "Where you froms?" and just walk straight. One thing I have learned is that when Egyptians ask where you are from it is not because they are really interested. In Europe people would ask where I was from and when I told them Alaska they would be very fascinated and curious and would respond with the very predictable "Oh, very cold!" In Egypt they say, "Alaska?... oh, America." In other words, they want to know how much money you have. They love England and America and will tell you that all the time. From Zimbabwe? Get out of town.
In Aswan we found a felluca captain that would take us on a two day trip up the Nile back towards Luxor. For two days it cost 80 pounds each including food, not a bad price at all. We had 4 other people on the felluca, 2 girls from America, a Spaniard named Franc, and an English guy named Ben. It was such a peaceful, relaxing time, tacking back and forth on the Nile against the wind as we sailed north. At night we would pull over on the banks, usually another boat or two of travelers would show up, and would build a fire, cook some dinner and listen to the felluca captains and local villagers bang on the drums and sing Arabic songs. Every so often they would through in something different, such as "She'll be coming around the mountain," or "La Bamba." Nice change-ups. One of the coolest experiences I had was one night I wandered away from the fire towards the inland. It was a full moon so I had no problem seeing and I walked until I ran into some villagers. The people in this area are Nubians, dark-skinned friendly people, and a little different than typical Egyptians. They were curious where I was going and when I told them I didn't know so they told me to follow them. This was all in broken English, mind you, so I wasn't sure where I was headed. They showed me their mud and brick barn where they kept their 2 bulls, 2 cows, and 3 donkeys. They then invited me to their house in the village for tea (I think). We made small talk along the way, I learned their names, they asked what I did for a living, we talked about Aswan and Luxor and the Nile. I had a beer with me from the campfire so when I approached the village they told me to throw it in the water because we would be near women soon. Women and beer made craziness was their simple explanation. Soon we were joined by a few others and I was walking in the dark with five curious, friendly Nubians towards the village of Bon Bom. It was hard to remember their names because they all wear they same long traditional Egyptian robes and head scarves and all have unfamiliar sounding Arabic names. But I tried my best and they even taught me a few more Arabic words. Children looked on curiously and waved and said hello as we entered the village. The women smiled shyling when we came in to the house but were very friendly and quicky made the men and myself some sweet, strong Egyptian tea. There wasn't much to talk about because of the language barrier so we just smiled a lot and laughed at the strangeness of me being there in this big room with 10 beds that housed one big family. The young guy Ahman took me into a separate room to meet Ali, the father of the family. He was a small, tough looking old man who got up out of bed to come shake my hand. All in all I met about 12 different members of this family all living in this one house. It was a simple mud and brick hut ofcourse, but actually pretty clean, spacious and inviting. The men kept offering me cigarettes and I refused (I think they were a little offended), so when they offered the sheesha pipe I accepted. We had to go into a different room for that, so as to not be in the presence of the women, and it was a comfy room with pillows and blankets on benches. Let me tell you, the sheesha we smoked here was a little different from that mild apple-flavored sheesha we had in Cairo. A few puffs from that and I had an instant head rush that made my head spin. I just looked around at everyone who was staring at me and I had a sudden feeling of being in another world. Here I was in a small village thousands of miles from home, miles from my felluca in surroundings and a culture that I really couldn't comprehend. It was mysterious, fascinating and strangely enough very comfortable. The hospitality of these people was incredible. Here they are, vastly more poor than myself and everyone back home and so willing to invite me in to their home and give me tea and sheesha and probably anything I wanted. I wanted to stay, but I knew they were cooking dinner back at the felluca and wondering where the hell Jason went.
At night the eight of us slept on the felluca and actually fit pretty comfortably. But the nights on Nile this time of year get very chilly. We all had to bundle up and sleep close together and share the blankets to stay warm. We joked with Frank that he had to use his Spanish heat to keep warm, the girls called him "The Spanish Heater" and dubbed him "El Fuegoito." Frank was pretty quiet and I am pretty sure he thinks all Americans are weird.
After two days and two nights we got into a little town of Kom Ombo that has the pretty famous and impressive Kom Ombo temple. From Kom Ombo we took a mini-bus to Luxor, where Ben and Khalid and I found a hotel to stay. More on Luxor soon...
sooner or later, all vagabonds discover that something strange happens to them en route. they become aware of having wandered into a subtle network of coincidence and serendipity that eludes explanation. on tiptoes, magic enters.
—ed buryn, vagabonding in the usa