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Friday, September 16, 2011

WALL OF HIEROGLYPHS - ER TEXT

NARRATIVE

The next day, I decided to get some long, light weight cotton pants (trousers). While wearing long pants might seem contrary in the desert, they keep the flies from crawling on your legs and more importantly, you noticing it. The flies get very old fast here.

So I needed a guide and got a twelve (?) year old kid named Tarek. If he'd been named Mackmood, it would have been better as my long time gamer friends may recall. Anyway, he took me through a couple of mini bus rides and through a maze known as the bazaar. He steered me away from vendors he thought were disreputable and to ones he liked better. Sadly, the tailors he took me to weren't very good - but they were cheap. A lot of people say "Buy for quality!" but that really doesn't apply to me. I may have to throw out the pants in a couple months or have them literally stolen in less. I am living very much in the 'right the fuck now'.

Getting clothing from Tailors you don't share a common language with (Tarek's English wasn't advanced enough for this) is a real challenge. I insist on trying everything on as well. Naturally, there are no dressing rooms in the bazaar so I was just climbing in and out of the pants pretty much out in the open until they got altered enough to somewhat fit. One of the tailors had the cheek to ask for baksheesh for altering them. I told him that I didn't think giving baksheesh (tip) for making pants I didn't haggle on at all and that still didn't fit well despite their measuring was going to happen. Hell, they didn't even want to alter it till I told them I'd be riding horses and camels and would need to have it less 'dress like'.

The pants feel a bit like "Lumsie pants". These are the pants that motivated amateurs would make me for NERO - usually without having me around. This is sad considerin these tailors were doing this for their living.

Tarek doesn't know how to read and write in Arabic but he does have a full time job. I know the bleeding hearts and stuff whine and cry about 'child labor' but it is a very different system here. This kid has a decent (if low paying) job at a hotel doing cleaning and odd jobs. It isn't especially dangerous unless a fat American accidentally sits on him and crushes him. So, by the standards of people I'm seeing around me, he is doing OK. Not great, but OK.

When you want to have custom made clothing, you get to pay in advance. Should you decide to get clothing for the desert, get the light colored stuff like the men wear rather than the 'more modest but hot as fuck' clothing that the women wear.

I even bought more pens as the ones I had gotten in Georgia exploded. Fortunately, I follow the 'everything that has any potential for leaking will' philosophy and had them in a plastic bag. That saved me from a lot of work cleaning out the backpack.

Fuck Stairmaster. I've got three flights up to my room and two more up to the roof. I'm working that body just crawling up to my room. At 18:00 they have free tea (just fucking one - except for me because I know how to haggle) and cake. The tea is extremely bitter. I normally don't have any sugar in my tea ("I'm sweet enough." - Bricktop from 'Snatch') but you need a little to make the tea palatable. Note, if I'm in someone's house (or tent, or yurt) and they bring me tea with sugar in it, I won't say shit. Just smile and try to drink some.

On one of the hot afternoons, I decided to try out the 'Siesta' thing - a bit of sleep in the hot point of the day then up later at night. It didn't work out so well.

I went to the West Bank of Luxor with Aaron and Tasha - a couple from New Zealand who look like they're in their early thirties yet have grand children. They are a lot of fun and nice people.

If you go to the valley of the kings (or queens, for that matter) study ahead of time and find out exactly where you want to go up front. When you buy a ticket, you get to choose three places to visit. I'm not sure how many their are but their are the or four times that many. We even went to see someone named "Queen Chicken-Soup's" (or something close) tomb. I've heard this is where several tourists were massacred a few years ago. This massacre is supposedly the reason tourists cannot travel on the day trains - though that makes no sense. The only tickets for tourists are the sleeper car and charged initially in USD. Plenty of USD. What a scam.

The train station at Luxor is the worst I've seen. This is another country where people have no concept of how to wait their turn. Que jumping is common. Either the procedure for selling a train ticket is too complicated for the people who work there or they just enjoy visiting with (and arguing with) each other so much they will have meetings throughout the day and avoid working. Waiting an hour in the train station and literally not seeing one person get their ticket made me decide to just get on the train and sort it out with the conductor.

I have been called 'half Egyptian' by people after bargaining with them. I take this as a high compliment. Some people have also called me 'the professor' in passing though I have no idea why.

In an 'oh for fucks sake' maneuver, the owner of the hotel I'm in likes to turn off the internet at night to let it rest. Apparently, leaving it on throughout the heat of the midday sun is OK but during the cool night it can tend to over heat and it needs its rest. This makes leaving uploads going a bit more tricky - I'd like to be able to leave those spinning on their slow, lame internet during the lowest (if any) usage part of the day. I suspect they turn it off to try to save a couple piasters worth of electricity.

Many of the children here are quite cheeky. They make inappropriate comments to tourists, especially women (such as we should have sex). I believe both they and their parents should undergo 'spanking therapy' for a period of no less than a solid year.

So far, this is the only country where I have literally had to shout at locals to leave me alone. The amount of scam artists, touts and rude people is really amazing. There are some genuinely nice people but most are hungry for money since tourism is only a small sliver of what it use to be.



DIE ZUKUNFT (THE FUTURE)

Apparently, tonight is my last day in Luxor. I thought I had another day or two but my dumb ass didn't keep track of when I checked in and such. Fuck it, I'm off to Aswan to see if it is any better than this place. If it is, and it is cheap, then I may check about getting an extension on my visa. If it is like Luxor (I've been assured it is nicer) then I will start planning my next jump.

I was pondering taking a boat down the Nile into Aswan but it looks like it could be a bit pricey - and my money is a bit on the low side. Additionally, I'm pretty realistic about this - I think I'd be bored out of my skull after the first few hours. Doing it for two days with a crew I can't really communicate with, meh. I'll just take the four hour bus ride.

Many people here (the hotel staff who would like very much to profit on my travel some more) have tried to find out my plans but I am very vague on them. Partially (admittedly) because I don't really know my plans and partially because I am following the advice of my mentor Adam when he said "Keep your own council." Adam doth guide my steps. He taketh me to water and doth throw me in. He doth show me where to sleep and tell me he will put a boot in my ass should I bother him again. Amen, bitches.

I was pondering Sudan but it doesn't look at that wonderful. India looks very interesting but they have a lot of touts (people trying to get you to buy stuff or go with them to buy stuff) and I'm quickly getting burned out on that crap in Egypt.

Right now, I have no idea where to go. The money is holding out but I need to get somewhere cheap to sit and recharge. I've heard Morocco is more expensive than Egypt so that's probably out. Tunisia is not doing well right now, also probably out. Not sure where to go but I do know what I'd like:

No snow (rain is OK)
Mutherfucking internet
Cheaper is better so I can more quickly recharge my money.
Being able to get there from where I'm at for under $800 would be a big plus.
Need to be able to stay there for long enough to make it worth going there.
Preferably somewhere I haven't been yet.

Suggestions are appreciated.



FUTURE TRAVELING WITH GROUPS

I may be fortunate enough to travel with Pete sometime again in the future. He is currently working on wrapping up his filming of "How to wrestle angry crocodiles in a Holmsian Fashion" but after that may be ready to go traveling.

I've heard little from Matt who discovered traveling is expensive. I think he went somewhere else when he realized that Georgia (etc) was on the other side of Europe and (more importantly) the airlines knew that and were charging heavy for it. I'm hoping that I get to travel with Matt sometime as he is a wacky fucker.

There is no telling if Jana will convince her parents to give her money for a car then use it to run off to Nepal.

If you (the person reading this) want to travel with me for a time and have the money/time to be able to do it, let me know. We may be able to work something out. Please don't contact me and say "Oh, I wish I could travel with you but I don't have money/time/both. Yes, I suspect a lot more people than read this blog fit into that situation. I don't need to hear about it. Just stop buying stupid shit, get a second job and save your money. My plans right now as to where I'll be are a bit 'in flux'. I really have no idea what is in Africa that I'd like to see. I'm still trying to figure out "Do I want to bother with it or head to India?" I'm thinking I'll probably try Africa but I've got to figure out a way to do it. I've been told that Africa is the hardest place in the world to travel. And... que dramatic music! ... And we'll just have to see if I can get a clue... Er, plan.



PHILOSOPHY

Something I wonder about as I stand among the ruins of an ancient civilization: For several thousand years, people KNEW that their religion (Egyptian pantheon) was the true religion. Now it is regarded as barbaric mysticism. Will the religions we have today which are half the age the Egyptian ones got to while still believed one day be regarded in the same way?

Just as I did over twenty years ago, I started to 'go native' when I first arrived. Note, for 'going native', I am using the definition of 'dress like the natives, eat where they eat, drink what they drink' rather than a more outdated definition. I see 'going native' as more of a positive thing - blending into their culture just a bit. The way I view it, there is probably a very good reason why people who live in Arabic countries wear a large square of light, cotton material on their heads. I figure I should test it out and see what's up. Often, there is a very good reason the natives are doing it. Sometimes, the reason they are doing things is the same as why the man's wife cut off the ends of the ham.



EGYPTIAN CUSTOMS

If you haggle for everything - and haggle hard - you are given more respect. If you don't, you are seen as a sucker and a two legged ATM. Prices can start at five times or more what they'll eventually sell for. A lot of people don't like haggling, think it's rude, a hassle, etc. My advice is to go with the expensive tour group that will take care of processing your money out of you, travel with a person who enjoys haggling or don't go. Seriously, the change on people's attitudes after I haggle with them is phenominal. Before, they look at me like "Hello potential money". After I haggle for even something minor like a soda, they are introducing themselves, telling me about their children, etc. Warning, if you feel yourself starting to get angry walk away from the haggling immediately. You've lost. Do not turn around, don't talk to them again period. You will ignore that sentence and pay for it later. You've already lost. Realizing it and leaving will save you a lot of troubles later. Keep a sense of humor and realize it is all a game.

At most of the ruins, they have metal detectors. Ignore them. You will beep. Pretend to be deaf. Just wander through the metal detectors neither hearing nor seeing them. The guards don't care but if you stop and start emptying your pockets and such it may be time for baksheesh. Unless a guard physically grabs you, don't look around and just keep walking. I have done this at every metal detector and have never been stopped. I don't know why they have them up - I figure it is modern art.

At all of the ruins there are lots of areas where merchants have set up shops. My advice is to completely ignore them. They are the piranha tank. What do we do when we are in the piranha tank? We move with a fucking sense of purpose. If you want to even glance side to side at the bright, shiny trash they have for sale you will be literally swarmed with people trying to sell you stuff and the occasional pick pocket. Two separate travelers at the same hotel I am staying at had pickpockets make a go for their stuff but were luckily foiled. Walking slow or even being polite, you will get harassed. You've got to storm through these areas like you are making your way with all speed to the toilet before something horrible happens. The only thing you can say to people is "la, shukren" (no thank you). I've found it best to do it in a distracted, yet hard tone of voice tinged with the boredom of having used it to brush off hundreds of these people. You should be able to get that voice down pat by day two at the latest. If you really want any of this stuff, I'd head to the bazaar so you don't pay the 'selling at the ruins costs a lot more money for the shop' prices.

Never tell the hotel you are staying at that you are curious about any of their prices for bottles of alcohol or they will go out and buy several and try to get you to buy them at approximately double the price you can get them for in America.

They have women here who wear veils and robes so that only their eyes are showing. I've heard them referred to as 'ninjas' before. Recently, I heard another term that the person who told it to me considered derogatory, 'black ghosts'. Personally, I think it is rather fitting - they wear all black, it is shaped like a kids 'ghost costume' and they are rather like ghosts (non-participants) within their own society. Thought that was interesting.

I'm not sure about other cities, but in Luxor they have 'over the top' religion. People are constantly reading the Koran, listening to the Koran on TV, praying, hearing the massively amplified via loud speaker call to prayer from the mosques, etc. Religion is everywhere. I'm wondering if the economic troubles have strengthened some people's 'faith'.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

While I was out stomping around Luxor trying to brush off the hordes of people who wanted to sell me useless shit, a guy on a bike riding the same direction as I was walking said "You walk like an Egyptian!" I glanced at him and responded "Ha!" He figured this had made him a friend and he want on, "I need a moment - I need a letter translated." I said "Sorry - I know that scam already!" [Note, this is a very old trick to lure you into a shop.] I took another few steps then looked around. He had vanished. Pulled a complete ninja. Be sure to read up on the scams of any country before visiting.

Two different guests at the hotel have reported attempts to pickpocket them. Usually it is someone selling one scarf - they don't have multiple so look for that. The scarf is used to hide the movements of their hands. Be on the lookout for this.

Get a student ID card - even if you have to make one yourself. If you don't have one or the skill to make it, chances are good that your hotel will be able to get one made for you. [The price at the hotel I am staying is 110 EGP.] Have a picture of yourself handy. These cards can save you quite a bit more than they cost depending on how many different places you go to visit. Students and teachers save half on exhibits. Generally speaking, if you like ruins and such as much or more than Logan, get one right away.

Within Arabic countries you are often asked what your religion is. Christian, Islamic or Muslim answers are easy, common and IMO wrong. [Not answering can be seen as rude or suspicious behavior. You can't say Atheist as they can imagine nothing worse than a godless man.] They put you on a side of the conflict. Since I don't really care about religion (it hasn't really done anything for me) I am saying 'Zen Buddhism. A) it keeps me out of the religious wars boxes, B) it discourages further questioning by the locals and c) it makes as much sense as any other religion does to me. Well, so does the flying spaghetti monster - but I don't want to irritate the locals by worshiping that. Or trying to explain spaghetti.

The tourist information center in Luxor (next to the train station) is actually useful. I recommend the one on Saad Zaghoun street (AKA Mahatta Street. If you are very lucky, Mourad Gamil will be working. This guy is the most knowledgeable guy I've talked to at any tourist information booth in any country I've been to yet.

They have different prices for Egyptians and non-Egyptians. If it bothers you, walk away and don't give them your money.



TRAVELER'S LORE

From a girl who lived in Thailand.
The following are considered very rude:
Stepping on the threshold of the door, eye contact, touching people on the top of the head.



COSTS

One quarter of a chicken with rice, soup, hummos, salad: 19 EGP.

Stella beer, 8.5 EGP.

Lamb kabob + french fries + 'babbagenush', 35 EGP.

Most of the restaurants seem to be 30-40 EGP though you can find 'dubious' food at street vendors for 5-10 EGP. How strong is your stomach?

Upscale market shirt, USD 50. Fuck that.

Luxor to Aswan via taxi, 300 EGP. I'd rather sit on the torture bus.

Sheesha, 2 EGP

Alcohol your choice, standard 750 ML bottle, 200 EGP (fuck that) from hotel.

Tea, 2 EGP

Service taxi to Aswan, supposedly 15-20 EGP but I couldn't find where it leaves from.

Estimate of a private taxi ride to Aswan, 400 EGP.



VIDEOS (since I was threatened by TJ if I didn't immediately produce more videos, here you go!!)

Nuweibas premiere restaurant
Fallout 3 bathroom
Don't touch the fucking camera
In the bazaar
Up on the roof
Street in front of my hotel

Paint Job
Bats
Confused
Karnak Money Shot
Dealing with Backsheesh Beggars
Stella
Leaving Karnak

1 comment:

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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