Saturday, June 21, 2008

egypt rocks

Unfortunately, the one thing that does NOT rock in Egypt (er, specifically Alexandria) are the internet cafes. I can only find this one, and the computer is molasses slow, and the keyboard is molasses sticky. So hopefully I can fill this out later, but for now, just a skeleton post. It doesn't convey any sense of what it's like to be in Egypt (sorry), 'cause for that I need photos and a less sticky keyboard and some more time. But I'll try to get some excitement across.

EGYPT ROCKS!!

I've been excited about Egypt since this trip started -- like everyone on Earth, I'm an Ancient Egypt dilettante -- and I built it up to impossible expectations. So I prepare myself on the plane to lower those hopes; as Joshua always says, satisfaction is outcome over expectation. I get here, and...

1 - Traffic and honking are worse than the US, sure, but I was just in India. Coming from India, this is sleepy-time land. Alright!

2 - Folks are so nice! Part of this is, again, a comparison with India's flood of touts and liars (hey, tons of Indians were wonderful to me, but...). The other part is that, while I don't look particularly Egyptian, I don't look particularly NOT Egyptian, so the minority of crooks (every touristy place has 'em) don't flock to me and ruin my wandering. And when I was having this little daydream thinking I could actually live in Alexandria for a year, this random guy on the street gives me a high five! It was a walk-by high-fiving!

3 - Egypt is cheaper than I expected. My room is $6 a night. A great fruit shake overlooking the Mediterranean runs $1. I like this!

4 - Traveling within Egypt... lemme explain. I want to go from Alex to Siwa, and it's a $6, 8-hour overnight bus. HAHAHA! 8 hours, to go across half the country?! I could've kissed the ticket guy! Getting across a quarter of India was 31 hours with a transfer at Delhi, and this is an overnight 8-hour jog? Baby!

5 - The HISTORY!!!! I'm gonna mush this in with #6: the DIVING!! I dived Alexandria's harbor yesterday. Ummm...

- BLOCKS AND PIECES OF COLUMNS FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA !!!!!!!!!
- SPHINXES, 4 OF THEM !!!!! I RODE A SPHINX UNDERWATER!!!!
- 5 OCTOPI!!!! ONE WAS EATING A CRAB!!!!
- A BRITISH WWII PLANE!!!!! FANTASTIC CONDITION, PILOT MASK STILL THERE, MACHINE GUN ON THE WING AND BULLETS ALL AROUND, BEST WRECK I'VE EVER SEEN !!!!!
- COLUMNS FROM CLEOPATRA'S TEMPLE, AND HER TABLE, YOU CAN FEEL THE GRANITE !!!!!!!
- 2000 YEAR OLD URNS, HALF BURIED IN THE SAND !!!!!!

UNBELIEVABLE DIVING!!!!!

Egypt has so much history it just piles on top of itself. From Narmer uniting the country to the first fall (I don't remember if this one or the next one is the "Intermediate Period") to the Middle Kingdom, then another fall with the Hyksos, then the New Kingdom, and then the Greek period with Alexander, then Ptolemy the umpteenth finally capitulates to Rome and the whole Cleopatra affair? That's three THOUSAND years of history, and we're still in BC! Then there's this big chunk I don't know about at all (and this computer doesn't allow multiple tabs/windows, so I can't look it up), but then there's the rise of Islam and then Muhammed Ali (the original... I think), and I'm hazy on English and French colonialism, then WWII with Rommel and the Afrika Corps, and the formation of Israel and a couple of wars there, and then I came to say hi. So much history in one little country it doesn't even fit. The second dive, amidst the ruins of 2000-year-old Cleopatra's Temple (I know!), in the shadow of 500-year-old Qaitbey Fort (I know!), is the best-preserved wreck I've ever seen: a British WWII plane (I know!). SO MUCH HISTORY. WHAT A STORY!! How can you not love Egypt?!

I LOVE this place. I LOVE THIS PLACE!

wow

wow

WOW

I'm going to Siwa tonight! Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!!!!

5 comments:

jdcooper said...

seriously sounds like just the best diving possible

Anonymous said...

So glad you're having fun. How's the weather? How easy is it--or has it been--to get rooms and bus schedules etc.? And what are you eating?

So enjoying the blog.

--Mom

Betty said...

Hi, Jake! Just a quick 'hi' to say your adventures are truly fascinating, and we are following your progress here at the Aquarium's volunteer office. Your diving experience in Egypt sounds incredible, but we need you back in Chicago to do more underwater presentations and scrub the algae and clean the sand pits in our Caribbean Reef exhibit. The turtle and sharks and stingrays are probably wondering where you've gone. - Betty

Jake Cooper said...

Hey guys.

Really sorry I can't post like I'd like (for you, sure, but for me too! this is my travel journal, after all), but the internet here is jut too darn slow. I won't even try photos, and getting pages up to type takes some patience.

Thanks for the note, Betty! Believe you me, if I could fly back for a couple shifts and say hi to Nickel and the eel and the shark crew, and be back in Siwa by dinner, I would! I'd even clean the sand pits and do breakout, if you asked nicely.

Joshua, it was! But as a fellow diver, you know that the visibility you see on Discovery Channel is NOT what you get. The first site was terrific, with vis at maybe 40 feet (Caribbean vis ranges maybe 30-80', for reference), but the second dive, with the WWII plane, was tough: 5-8 feet. With better vis, it would've been my best diving ever. As is, Ni'ihau still takes the pudding. No cultural history there, but Discovery Channel-style biota and seriously, 200ft vis. It was insane.

Mom: the weather is hot, but not too humid, but the sun really bakes. I'm on the lookout for one of those Arab head scarf things.

Getting rooms and buses is "easy," but partly because I'm kinda used to it by now. You have to learn, quickly, the Arabic number symbols, so you can read bus numbers and prices and times. People have been very friendly and helpful, though neither English nor French are that common, so often I have to get out a scratch sheet and start drawing maps with buses and stuff. But it works.

Finding rooms has been a cakewalk so far. Here in Siwa, I'm at a TOTALLY respectable place, with a top notch roof terrace overlooking the desert oasis, and it's the least I've paid yet. 15 pounds a night is just shy of $3. Wow!

What I'm eating? Ah, that's where I miss India a bit. Vegetarianism is unheard of here, and I'm still playing around with how to eat. So far it's been lots of packaged goods and ice cream (I know, very healthy), though I scored a pancake thing from a street vendor, and this morning had some lentil goop with bread. It and a mint tea was $1.

I'll try to get a post up in the next day or so (or today?), but this is really slow going. On the plus side, Siwa is this agrarian paradise, and a slow going seems to be the theme. It's wonderful to unwind.

Well that was a long comment!

-Jake

Brent said...

I gotta say, your writing conveys your giddiness pretty darn well.

I'm taking the GRE on Saturday wish me luck.