Cairo pt. II
The past few days have been quite a different Cairo experience. We finally met up with Lila, Tammer’s aunt. She runs an elite school for privileged children called the International School of Egypt. On Monday she arranged our trip to the Pyramids. Her driver picked us up at our hostel in downtown Cairo and took us to Giza. We were met there by the head archeologist of the Giza site. (She has some serious connections) We were given a private tour of the area but unfortunately, due to our timing we were unable to go inside the Great Pyramid. Giza was amazing. The pyramids and Sphinx were even larger than I had imagined but it was a little hard to appreciate them due to the multitude of irreverent tourists. Ahmet, our guide, arranged for us to meet his close friend, another head archeologist, at Saqqara, the site of the first pyramid in Egypt. After a 30 minute drive we were in Saqqara. The first thing we saw was a newly discovered tomb that is not open to the public. We were taken inside of the tomb, which belonged to two brothers (or perhaps homosexuals as our guide some what excitedly hypothesized) They served as manicurists to King Djoser, the first Egyptian to build a pyramid to mark his tomb. The tomb was filled with hieroglyphics and we were secretly allowed a few minutes to take photos inside. The actual step pyramid of King Djoser was amazing and much less crowded with tourists. Our guide explained the incredible ingenuity it took to build such a structure and all of the symbolism that went along with it. After taking some more photos, Annalee and I decided it was time to fall into a tourist trap and ride horses around the Sahara Desert (at least it wasn’t a camel). It was pretty damn cool and we’ll have bragging rights for the rest of our lives. After we were finished with all the pyramids we were driven to ISE to meet Lila in person. The school is in New Cairo, a sort of dystopia full of half finished structures and over the top elaborate houses alike. It is the beginning of a sprawling suburb for the rich, with a physical geographic barrier separating it from one of the poorest areas in Cairo. The school itself was beautiful and Lila proceeded to pitch future teaching opportunities to each of us as we explained our individual areas of study. She gave us a tour and explained the school’s philosophy but it was hard to avoid contemplating the serious advantages these kids had over so many throughout Cairo. She then took us to her home, which is across the street from the school. It was a typical Grandmother house and after a short rest we were shuffled off to one of her favorite restaurants for a traditional Egyptian meal. It was sooooo good. I was ashamed that I was unable to finish all the food set before me. It was a serious contrast to the street food we had been forcing down the past couple days in downtown Cairo. Lila is great and her hospitality is seemingly endless. Today we are heading to Agami to stay in her private villa. We will have our own chef there and access to a private beach on the Mediterranean. Agami should be quite a vacation compared to the hustle and bustle of downtown Cairo but its only about a half hour drive from Alexandria so we will still be able to make daily trips to explore the city. Time to pack and catch a train!