Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Aden: Random Memories 17c: The Return of The Natives: Egypt

I was told the ship was going to go through the Suez Canal, but we were going to disembark at Port Suez and go to Cairo. I felt slightly cheated that I wasn’t going to see the famous canal, but we were going to have an adventure and rejoin the ship at Port Said.
We got into the small boat that took us ashore, and already on board was a Gilly-Gilly man, or an Arab magician. His repertoire consisted mainly of regurgitating small chicks out of his mouth, removing them from a child’s ear and even, horrors of horrors, from out of my shorts! I have no idea how it got there for him to find it there. I didn’t even felt it inside my shorts.
We were ferried in a coach to Cairo across a flat landscape. It made little impact on me. Somewhere along the journey we were introduced to our Egyptian guide. He was probably called something easy for us to remember, a ‘typical’ Arabic name like Abdul or Mohammed. I can still hear him, especially the clear high pitch of his voice, calling us when he wanted us to gather together, “Memphis party, this way please.” Our round badges identified us, a picture of the Sphinx with Memphis written above it on the edge. In some of the boring parts of the journey he entertained us with comments like “I learned English from an American. See you later alligator!”
We followed a river, it was the Nile. It wasn’t blue or white, but a muddy brown. Nobody had taught us about the Muddy Brown Nile in history or geography. The city was vast, bustling, so much humanity. We were ferried to the Cairo museum. There we saw the treasures of the boy king Tutankhamen. Egyptian funeral rites were explained and shown to us. The famous mask for his mummified body was on show. It was a vast display.
No visit to Cairo would be complete without a trip to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. Our coach took us to the end of a road and we had the option to travel to the pyramids by camel or by donkey. I had already experienced riding a camel. I chose the donkey, not that it was more comfortable.
Nothing had prepared me for the majesty of the monuments. We were regaled with facts and history, part of which rattles about in my head and pops up from time to time. Alabaster was a word I heard a lot. So much was made of alabaster, covered in alabaster. They made such a fuss about telling us about alabaster, yet it seemed to be as commonplace as water as it was used so much.
We also went inside a mosque in Cairo, which I cannot recall but it was vast. We wore sacking over our feet as we walked around. It was a most stunning building. Yet again in my young life, I was facing something from another culture. Instead of a practical construction like the tanks at Crater, this time it was a religious building that could stand up against the cathedrals of Christendom.

© 2012 Gwailo54

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