Before I Even Arrived In Egypt……

I was experiencing the hospitality of Egypt from an outgoing, young, helpful, english fluent Egyptian named Moro.

In Vienna, as I was boarding the airport shuttle bus to my Cairo bound plane, I exchanged brief pleasantries with a man on the bus. He said he had come a long way today and was going home to Cairo. I asked him how far away was ‘a long way today’? (I was confident I could win the traveler bragging rights on distance traveled.  Hell, I was flying half way around the earth). He had flown from D.C. today, after visiting his sister, one of several trips to visit her in Virginia that he makes every year. We had been on the same flight from Dulles.

I beat him by 5 air time hours and an additional 3000 miles. We connected immediately.

Within 30 seconds I was getting recommendations about places to visit. He gave me his phone number and email, then was showing me pics on his phone!  Moro said I could call him anytime!  Although I was dead tired, my first thought was “my first friend on my walkabout”.

The plane on last leg of the trip was nearly empty. There were multiple empty rows and most rows had only one person, but I sat in my own row and did not talk with Moro. I listened to music.

On the plane, I celebrated passing through Vienna for a second time by listening to some hometown music – Mozart. (I stayed in Vienna for one night about 15 years ago while traveling across Europe by train following two weeks of sightseeing in Poland).

Traveled a total of about 9000 air miles today and I am very tired. But it has been a good start.

Departing Vienna, we flew SE – over Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, F.Y.R. Macedonia and Greece but you could no see anything as there was heavy cloud cover until we got over the Aegean Sea north of Rhodes.

Since I left PDX 8:00 AM Saturday and was arriving in CAI at 2:00 PM Sunday (and I was feeling like a lonely boy out traveling on a weekend), I listened to Neil Young’s “Out On The Weekend” on the Harvest album.

Lyrics:

“Out On The Weekend”

Think I’ll pack it in
and buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own
and try to fix up.
Start a brand new day.

The woman I’m thinking of,
she loved me all up
But I’m so down today
She’s so fine, she’s in my mind.
I hear her callin’.

See the lonely boy,
out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can’t relate to joy,
he tries to speak and
Can’t begin to say.

She got pictures on the wall,
they make me look up
From her big brass bed.
Now I’m running down the road
trying to stay up
Somewhere in her head.

The woman I’m thinking of,
she loved me all up
But I’m so down today
She’s so fine she’s in my mind.
I hear her callin’.

See the lonely boy,
out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can’t relate to joy,
he tries to speak and
Can’t begin to say.

We landed in CAI and Moro showed me where to purchase my 30 day VISA for $25.00 and followed me through customs and immigration. I opted for the “Nothing to Declare” lane and my backpack and day sack were prodded as though I was smuggling a baby or a live endangered species within each bag.

Gabriel, a retired Egyptian policeman, was standing with a Pyramids View Hotel sign as we exited Customs and he took me to the duty free shop where I picked up a bottle of tequila for $30.00 which I will enjoy on the hotel rooftop during the 7PM pyramid laser shows the next 4 nights.

First impression of Egypt in the airport parking lot? New cars, clean, efficient – not a third world appearance.

Traveling to Giza we would traverse Cairo.   It had a soviet feel – thousands of 5 story apartment buildings, both lived in and under construction.

Malls, shopping centers – IKEA, Toyota, Honda, Victoria’s Secret.  Lots of English signage.  The highway had 4 or 5 lanes, but there were 6 or 7 lanes of traffic. Gabriel constantly goosed the gas and then braked – every 6 or 7 seconds – as we negotiated the freeway.

We crossed over the Nile – it did not look as wide as the Columbia where I usually fish – more like the Mississippi in St. Louis. Trash and garbage increased and soon  there were piles, mounds and in places truck loads of debris on the shoulders of the freeway. Several piles were on fire. There were tire sellers/repairers and lemonade stands occasionally in the far right lane of the 5 lane freeway.

We stopped in the bridge over the Nile and I took some pics.

 

 

 

All My Bags Are Packed,

I’m Ready To Go….

So sings John Denver, as I find myself listening to “Leaving On A Jet Plane”.

Departing PDX at 8:00 AM tomorrow.  PDX to Dulles to Vienna to Cairo in 20+ hours, with aisle seats the entire route.
Soon I will be staying on the edge of metropolitan Cairo, population 17 million.

I arrive at 2 PM Sunday.  I have arranged a ride from the airport to the hotel.

Check out this link: http://www.pyramidsviewinn.com

Wiki says:

Cairo (/ˈkaɪroʊ/ kye-roh; Arabic: القاهرة‎, al-Qāhirah, Coptic: ⲕⲁϩⲓⲣⲏ, Kahire) is the capital and largest city of Egypt. The city’s metropolitan area is the largest in the Middle East and the Arab world, and 15th-largest in the world, and is associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta,[1][2] modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE by Jawhar al-Siqilli (“the Sicilian”) of the Fatimid dynasty, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a center of the region’s political and cultural life, and is nicknamed “the city of a thousand minarets” for its preponderance of Islamic architecture.

 

image

The first four nights I will be staying in Giza, on the edge of Cairo, one block to the east of the pyramid complex and 100 yards from the Sphinx.  The hotel is American owned and had great reviews on TripAdvisor.


As an avid reader of all of Paul Theroux’s books on solo travel, the following quote often floats through my mind:
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

So, I guess I am a traveler. After the first four nights, I have no reservations. I plan on getting a 30 day VISA for Egypt and then heading to Morocco and then north across Gibraltar to the Continent, then over to the UK and Ireland. There are several places in Britain that I want to have a pint of beer in a pub – in celebration and rememberance of my father and his younger brother – both B-17 Pilots that flew 35 missions over Europe in WWII…….  More on that later.

I purchased travel insurance for a 90 day trip, so I guess that is the end game plan.
Stay tuned.

 

 

So….What’s On The Menu?…

Typical Food of Egypt
Typical Egyptian Dishes, Meals and Desserts
Egyptian cuisine and some of its recipes date back 5000 years and archeologists have even revealed the use of food as a means of payment during ancient times. Of course, there have been some adjustments to the dishes over the years, mainly with the addition of ingredients and styles taken from other cultures (note the dropping of alcoholic drinks has also been a part of this change).
Egyptian cuisine depends heavily on legumes such as beans and lentils as well as vegetables and onions making a regular appearance in most dishes. Vegetarians normally have no problem getting by in Egypt since meat has traditionally been expensive and thus less common. Around the Egyptian coast you will find more fish in the meals.
The Egyptian Bread Aish also forms part of most of the meals. Did you know that Aish is the Egyptian word for bread and also means life. Also, if you find there is no cutlery, it is common to use your bread to “spoon” the food.

Typical Egyptian Dishes

Aish – Aish is the Egyptian traditional pocket bread similar to pita bread. It is made by mixing wheat flour, water and salt then baked.

Aish baladi – same as above but it uses whole wheat bread.
Baba Ghanoush – Made from grilled eggplant that is peeled then mashed and mixed with tahini (see below), lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley, cumin and dressed with olive oil. This dip has a smoky flavor and is best served with pita bread.
Baba Ghanoush – Typical Egyptian Food
Basbousa – A sweet semolina cake which is soaked in a syrup that has a floral scent (made from rose water and sometimes lemon and honey).

Beide Hamine – Almost like hard-boiled eggs though smoother and creamier due to them slowly simmering for 6-8 hours.
Bram rice – Rice made with milk which is stuffed with chicken liver.
Falafel – (or ta’amiya) is a well-known dish in the Middle East thought to have originated in Egypt. It consists of balls of fava beans (broad beans) or chickpeas that have been deep fried.
Fatta – a garlic and white vinegar flavored meat soup served with rice. Traditionally a Nubian dish, Fatta is usually prepared on special occasions such as weddings, a woman’s first pregnancy (baby shower) and as the main meal during the Eid al-Adha religious festival.
Feseekh (or Fesikh) – fermented, salted and dried gray mullet fish. It is normally eaten during the spring celebration of Sham el-Nessim.
Ful medames – Mashed Fava beans (broad beans) that are cooked with oil, chopped parsley, garlic, lemon juice and salt added to them. Traditionally eaten with pita bread and onions with some pickled vegetables and fresh rocket leaves on the side. At breakfast time you may find it accompanied by an egg.
Hamam Mahshi – (stuffed pigeon) This is similar to Mahshi (see below), though is made by stuffing rice, wheat or herbs into pigeon then grilled or roasted it.
Hummus bi Tahina – a dip made from chickpea and sesame. It is usually served with grilled or toasted bread. It can also be used as a spread or in a sandwich.
Kofta – Sometimes called Kefta, these are spiced meatballs (looking more like small sausages than balls) often served on a skewer.
Kibda – fried liver (beef) usually sold from a cart.
Koshary – (Also known as Kushari) Considered one of the most famous dishes of Egypt, this vegetarian meal contains rice, spaghetti, macaroni, black lentils, chick peas, garlic, and is topped with a spicy tomato sauce (sometimes Chilli sauce) and fried onions. You will find Koshary being sold cheaply at street stalls and also in restaurants, some only specializing in this dish. So basically, you can’t leave Egypt without trying this.

Macaroni béchamel – Penne pasta with a layer of cooked spiced meat and onions and white (Béchamel) sauce.
Mahshi – (stuffed vegetables) A healthy vegetarian meal made by stuffing vegetables such as cabbage leaves, tomatoes, green peppers, aubergines, and courgettes with rice seasoned with herbs and spices. This is then placed in a pot and topped with tomato sauce and lemon.
Molokhia (or Molokheyyah) – A soup made from finely chopped mallow leaves mixed with ground coriander and garlic. It is a staple part of Egyptian food though is normally only eaten at home.. Sometimes chicken, lamb or rabbit is added to this greenish soup.
Roz meammar – milk, butter or cream, chicken stock or broth add to rice that has already been cooked which is then all baked together in an oven.
Samak mashwy – fish that has been marinated and then grilled. Typical dish of Alexandria.
Shawarma – This popular Middle Eastern sandwich is made from shaved goat, chicken, lamb, beef, or turkey. It is rolled in pita bread and tahini sauce. This meal has its origin in Laventine cuisine and was incorporated into Egyptian cuisine.
Tahini – sesame paste
Tehina – This dip is made from sesame tahini, mixed with lemon juice and garlic to make a dip or spread that is typically served with pita bread.
Tehina salad – This salad is made by mixing sesame butter, chickpeas, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper, cumin, parsley, and olive oil.
Torly – Baked squash, potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomato sauce served on a tray to make a meal.

Egyptian Desserts

Baklava – Layers of flaky pastry filled with chopped nuts and honey syrup.

Bouzat haleeb – Egyptian ice-cream (though more like milk sherbet than cream)
Halawa – a popular confection in Egypt made from sesame paste. It is normally sold in blocks (by weight)
Kishk – a cold yoghurt sauce.
Roz Be Laban – rice pudding with a hint of vanilla
Umm Ali – Layers of bread soaked in milk with raisins and sometimes topped with nuts. It is served hot.

It Has Been A While Since I have Been Here…..

It has been a long time since I have been here.  

Here is here.  Here is working on the computer and blogging  – planning, reading, writing, investigating and then just pecking away.  I have neither recorded nor shared since clearing U.S. Customs and Immigration in January of 2015 –  when I reentered the US after 101 days of out-of-country travel.

Upon that entry to U.S.Customs and Immigration, I was immediately targeted for further scrutiny.   I was throughly vetted, inspected, questioned and searched.  I spent over two hours in Customs having every item I had with me inspected.  They even wanted to see the pics that I had on my iPad!!  

It was because I had been to Turkey.  

Just a month ago Kizilay Square, in downtown Ankara was in the news.  Kizilay is the heart of Ankara – a  place I spent hours sitting, eating at sidewalk cafes, walking.  Arriving in downtown Ankara at the evening rush hour on day 1 of my 101 Walkabout, I exited the bus from the airport in Kizilay Square.  I had flown from Portland to Dulles to Munich to Ankara – about 30 hours – to get to Kizilay Square.

As I exited the bus, there were people everywhere, mostly business people – all of us in the heart of a modern city of 4 million.  And I was lost and the only person lugging both a backpack and a day sack. I knew my hostel was near, only 3 blocks away  – and after numerous attempts at directions, I was escorted to the doorstep of my hostel by a friendly young Turk that spoke no English.  By the time I left Ankara, I was comfortable navigating Kizilay.

Recording experiences, blogging the sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, experiences is enlightening.   I am leaving an online trail I can retrace upon my return home – on my iPad in the comfort of my lounge chair, listening to music while streaming travel pics on the TV.  It is like rereading a chapter of a favorite book.  

“Oh, I remember that” or “I did not write about what happened BEFORE of AFTER that moment”.  

15 months after I was in Kizilay Square it was car bombed and dozens were killed.

I also recently received a notification from the U.S. State Department regarding travel in northern Lao.  There were several shootings on a road I traveled during my two visits to northern Lao.  Guess I may not make a third trip to Vang Vieng.  

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapour, just outside Kathmandu were I spent a month in a $11.00 a night guest house and walking the brick paved backstreets, was seriously damaged in the giant earthquake that devastated Nepal just 4 months after I departed.  Homes where I ate and drank tea were destroyed.

Upon reflection, a song pops into my head.  “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy”.

Rest assured, bad things can happen anywhere.  People are killed going to Mc Donalds, in church, in grade schools or attending a university.  People die in their bathtubs.

 

Some may ask why I am going Walkabout again.  The answer comes from a previous blog posting:

 



Original post 1/9/15

Updated 1/11/15

Back home. Arrived late PM 1/8/2015.

My inet is still not set up after travel and a new ISP.    But TV cable works.  

Have a few good travel story drafts of the last few days for the blog….  Over the next few days I will peck them out on the iPad as post as updates using my phone as a hotspot.

A good walkabout…lots of ground covered via:

Munich, Germany

Big planes

Ankara, Turkey

Nice, new, modern 1st class busses

Big tuk tuks

Suicide busses

Little tuk tuks

By bus along the Black Sea

Sane traffic on roads in Turkey

Tibetan Monasteries

Kathmandu

Vehicle ferries

Full planes

Trekking in the Himalayas

Lhasa, Tibet

Bicycle 

Expensive flights

Slow boats on the Mekong

On a rented motorcycle around Northern Thailand

Free for all traffic in Nepal

Bangkok, Thailand

Little planes

Making border crossings on foot

Passenger ferries

Cheap flights

Nearly empty planes

Big international airports

Hong Kong

Old, beat up really small taxis

A rickshaw

On a motorcycle through the back roads of Bhaktapour at night

A kayak

Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world

And many, many more experiences…….

I flew around the world.

I stayed on the top of the hill in old Ankara, just 50 meters from the oldest mosque in Ankara. I attended prayers in that mosque. Then traveled overland over the Himalayas from Kathmandu to Lhasa, with a stop at the Tibetan Everest Base Camp at 17,200 feet elevation.  I made many great friends in Nepal and have many fond memories of people I met everywhere. 

Maybe except some Chinese Tourists, both to which I developed an aversion and an overly critical eye and a nearly confrontational – hmmmmmm……..attitude.  You would have had to been there to fully understand.  I still can act like a Tighthead Prop on the front row of a rugby scum if I need to…..especially if someone 50% of my body mass starts cutting in line in front of me and rudely pushing me.   But if a 61 year old gweilo rugby player acts out in a Chinese Police State, like Lhasa, he will be arrested. So I kept my elbows in.

I rode in a police car in Sinop and spent time in a Turkish prison (visiting).

The trip to Lhasa was a dream come true.  I loved shopping in Thamel.  Bhaktapour started to feel like home.  Traffic in Kathmandu was an unbridled free for all, and absolute chaos.  I made the border crossings from Nepal to Tibet and from Thailand to Lao on foot.  I landed and took off safely at the Lukla airport, touted as the most dangerous airport in the world.  (One end of the runway is a 1000 foot cliff and the other end is a 75 foot tall vertical wall of rock and it is a short runway.)  I returned for the two day slow boat ride down the Mekong and again visited Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, home of the Happy Pizza.  Luang Prabang was even more enjoyable than the first time.

I went through roadside searches and was monitored closely by the Chinese in Tibet.    I ate yak butter, yak cheese, drank yak tea and had several yak hamburgers. And doubtless it was yak pizza, as yak was the only red meat.  I walked the streets of Lhasa alone, among both the morning and evening waves of Tibetans circling their holy sites while constantly being watched by the Chinese with CCTV cameras.  I attended a Full Moon Party on Koh Phagan.

I took pictures of Chinese police, a strictly prohibited act.  Tibet in certain ways was a surprise.  Solar power was everywhere….most road signs and lights, street lights, cell towers were solar powered…….and Tibet had surprisingly good roads with relatively sane drivers. 

I made it 1/2 of the way to the Nepali Everest Base Camp, hiking about 40 miles on difficult rocky trails gaining and losing thousands of feet elevation.  

I stood at the Tibetan Everest Base Camp, at 17,000 feet elevation.

I made the following flight connections:

Portland to Washington DC

DC to Munich

Munich to Ankara

Ankara to Sinop

Ankara to Istanbul

Istanbul to Kathmandu

Lhasa to Kathmandu

Kathmandu to Lukla

Lukla to Kathmandu

Kathmandu to Bangkok

Bangkok to Surat Thani

Surat Thani to Bangkok

Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Ventiene to Bangkok

Bangkok to Hong Kong

Hong Kong to Vancouver BC

Vancouver to PDX

Namaste.

I now have the answer to why I am going Walkabout in a week.