Thursday, January 20, 2011

EGYPT: Memphis, not quite Graceland but still was home to a King

2nd largest Sphinx, little bit of a difference between this one and the largest

Our first day tour in Egypt took us out to see the ancient capital of Memphis and the first pyramids in Saqqara. We travelled well out of Cairo and we arrived in Memphis by mid-morning. The temperature was already well into the late 30’s and it would only get hotter. Memphis was the ancient capital of of the Old Kingdom of Egypt and was founded by the Pharaoh Menes. We saw ancient statues and artifacts such as the second largest Sphinx and an alabaster statue of Ramses II.

Statue of Ramses II

By the time we arrived in Saqqara it was almost noon and were sweltering out in the middle of the desert, where the temperature was already in the 40's. I read a lot about Egypt before I arrived as I knew it was a Muslim country and modest clothing was required in order to not attract attention and be respectful. In a lot of the guides it said that I was to cover the top of my arms and knees to prevent any offense or unwanted attention. So I made sure I packed a lot of light coloured modest clothing to battle the heat.

Unfortunately we would be visiting at the hottest time of the year and while we were there we did visit some places where the temperature hit 48 degrees. Little did I know there are so many tourists in Egypt that at the main tourist sights it was common for females to wear whatever they wanted. At the pyramids I witnessed butt scraping hotpants and mid-driff baring tops, I know it's hot but it's just a tad inappropriate!

Even the camels and donkeys were trying not to exert too much energy

All over Egypt there were tourists who couldn't handle the heat wearing very revealing clothing. After witnessing that, I gave up being completely covered up and just tried to be somewhat modest while trying to keep as cool as possible. Keeping cool was definitely proving to be difficult. Thankfully we had a great insulating backpack that kept our water cool but drinking about three 1 litre bottles of water each a day just to stave off heat exhaustion and dehydration.

After experiencing the desert in Saqqara, the one thing I always kept covered were my feet. I was wearing sandals and I kept coming across these huge ants scurrying everywhere. I had to keep dodging them as I was walking and couldn't stay in the same spot for too long because I'm allergic to insect bites. When I'm bitten my skin blows up, becomes bruised and scars easily. I was once bitten by a bullant on my forehead as a kid and it was not a pretty sight, I looked like a Star Trek character.

In front of the Step Pyramid,of Djoser. Paranoid packer, far too overdressed for the weather!

In Saqqara we saw the first pyramids such the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser (which was under reconstruction) and went into some underground tombs and also saw hieroglyphic graffiti. We then headed out to a carpet making school where children are taught this skill for the future and help earn money for their families.

The children trying to teach me how to weave the carpet

When we went back to the hotel we were all famished and thirsty so we went to a local restaurant and ate a great meal. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures (other than the bread and dip) because I was so hungry!

The freshly made bread

The dips, whoops couldn't wait to get into it

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