Friday, January 19, 2007

Egyptian Trip (part 2)

I dont want to bore any one with history lessons which I got on my travels to Egypt, and thus if you want to see all the pictures you can see them here .

What was something unique was interacting with Kiwis, South Africans and Aussies.
Apart from their accent, (Aye, mayte, and the brash arrogance of the aussies) even the South Africans and Kiwis did have some distinct characteristics.
During the campfire a Kiwi guy did the Haka (the Maori tribal dance) and every one sang their most popular campfire songs. I tried my best with the Indian song (Darling Open the door ... why are you angry so??) which is a popular number at any boy scouts camp, but hten finally I plugged my Ipod and played the evergreat Mehbooba oh Mehbooba from Sholay and suddenly all the people started swaying their bellys just like an Egyptian Belly dancer would.

And talking about this, throughout my stay in Egypt, the locals thought I was one of them (brown skin and knowing a couple of Arab words helped), but as soon as I said I was from India (or Hindoostan as some of them still call it) every one would simply shout out Amitabh Bachchan since hindi movies are extremely popular there. This was a proud moment for me, since I saw that Egypt was a country with slightly higher per capita income than India, but all their income was simply from tourism, toll on the Suez Canal, and electricity exports from the Aswan dam to Sudan and Somalia.
They didnt have any industries, and no cars of their own. The roads of Cairo were all crowded with the air smelling of Unleaded petrol. Thus India even though equally poor had made many advances, not the least in the entertainment industry.
The tour guide himself said that his favourite movie was Amar Akbar Anthony.

Another thing that I observed was that the Egyptians didnt have a concept of Vegetarianism. I went in to a Kebab house and all i asked was a Nan sandwich without kebabs, (as i have done before in Europe, doner kebab with no kebabs). Here the guy tried convincing me that the meat wasn't bad, offered me chicken, mutton, tender lambs meat but I relented. When he realised I was from India he said the meat was all Halaal (though i am not a muslim) and also said that they didnt serve any beef. after convincing them that I was perfectly fine with their establishment and didnt think that it was dirty but i was a person who was averse to eating meat.
After the whole comical episode got over, they didnt know how much to charge me for the salad and nan sandwich. All this is when those guys dont know English and I dont know Arabic. Some knowledge of Hindi and Urdu helps since many words are similar, but I am sure a lot was lost in translation.

And for people having raised this issue about racism, (especially after the Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother controversy) I did feel a bit isolated at times, but I am sure that was more due to coming from a different cultural background rather than discrimination. (dont we indians segregate according to our languages)

Another good thing i observed was their desire to travel and care free nature.
Though these are descendants of sailors, travellers and adventure seekers (the white residents of SA, Australia and NZ) and with social security and even blue collar jobs paying well, you could be a carpentar and take vacations all over the world. There was a Kiwi woman, who was a police officer in Aukland and was earlier an English teacher in Tokyo. She had currently taken a year off and was travelling all over the world. (you dont see that too often amongst Indians)

Well in india due to lack of social security and people sticking close to their roots, there isnt so much desire to travel or explore the world. But also the same thing makes people work harder and be more ambitious.
Dont know, I hope i get to travel and experience different cultures, and hopefully pick up the best from them.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Egypt On the Go (Part 1)

Finally, all my dear esteemed readers (yes both of you)
Time has come to write about the greatest vacation i have had (since something called pgp2 in IIM Ahmedabad)
Thankfully i was sincerely working in my job since 2nd May 2006, without ever taking a single day off (not to hunt for flats, not for falling sick, not to show my girlfriend(s) around the city of London, diligently working hard (or hardly working as some of you skeptics might say). Thankfully the Compliance division did not like me not taking any holidays in the calendar year, and forced me to take some days off.
At the same time I had already booked my trip to India (home) sometime in January (not knowing or ever bothering about leave entitlement, being the diligent chap that I am)
Thus grudgingly my manager sanctioned another holiday in December 06.
Now left with a sanctioned leave, but no where to go (being stuck with my 2 flat mates who are slightly less boring than me on weekends wasn't bad enough for all 3 of us) finally after talking about all the vacation options with my peers Piotr suggested Egypt, and Amir gave me contact of a really great travel agent, and I could book my trip to Egypt.
Wary as I was about conducted tours, I booked myself on the King Rameses Tour with On the Go tours , but as opposed to other people scaring me that the conducted tours are fool of Oldies this was full of young people, with most of the people being from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and one each from Brazil, France and obviously India (yours truly) and a couple of English people were there as well.
As you can figure it out from the web link, the trip was surely a great deal and well we sure had a whale of a time.
The tour covered most of the touristy places in Egypt,
The City of Cairo, The Great Pyramids of Giza, The Aswan Dam, the Temple of Abu Simbel (which I surely think should be in the 7 wonders of the World, though i guess it is the 22nd Wonder), Temples of Luxor, Kanark, EdFu and Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Also a 2 day 2 might trip on the Nile on Board the Feluccas (Single Sail Boat) without any toilets or spare rooms. It was 2 days of relaxation, drinking beer (the Great Egyptian Beers, Stella, and Sakkarra) and playing cards ( I learnt the great Aussie card game, called Arsehole)
This was followed by the second leg of the journey to Dahab which is a beach resort near the Israel, Jordan and the Saudi borders.
Its a quite place, with great Coral Reefs, Red Sea (which is quite astonishingly blue) nice sandy private beaches, and lots of Sunshine, with the back drop of the mountains (Mt Sinai)
I also climbed up Mt Sinai, which was the place where Moses gave his 10 commandments after spending 40 days and 40 nights hiding up there with his followers.
I have said enough, and now since each picture is worth a 1000 words (and Ancient and a very popular saying) here are the snaps

The Great Pyramid of Chiops

As you can see, this is the 2nd of the great pyramids of Giza. These pyramids were tombs and built in a manner thus they could last for thousands of years (since the Ancient Egyptians believed that the soul would re-enter the body in the after life)
Thus the pyramidical shape, which not only gives stability, and the weight would fall on the sides and be equally distributed rather than the central foundation (where the tomb of the Pharoah was placed) Also being pyramidical not conical let the air pass through around it without creating wakes, being on top of a hill and in the desert allowed it to be not affected by ground water and rain. Thus these mighty Structures still stand on defying time.
There is an Egyptian (Arabic) saying
Every man fears time, but time fears the Pyramids

The Sphinx

This is a statue of the Pharoah with a lions body. We can see that the face has been defaced, and that has apparently been done by the invaders army's (such as the Turkish Ottomans, the Greeks, the Romans, Napolean Bonaparte) or the religious converters who defaced these monuments and asked that if there is GOd then he would protect himsself (and succeeded in converting the Ancient Egyptians to Islam and Christianity) (Not because of Obelix climbing up the nose as shown in Asterix Comics by Goscinny and Uderzo) Nevertheless this statue is massive, and is along with the great pyramids one of the 7 Wonders of the World

sunset At Sakkara

The On the Go Group
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel (of King Rameses II)
This Temple of Abu Simbel was built by King Rameses II (arguably the most powerful Pharoah of Egypt in the Ancient times)
This was carved out of a hill, and if you notice the door in the center, has been so carved that on every 21st of February (his coronation date) and 21st of October (his birthdate) the sun's rays go right inside the 60m passage and shine on the face of the statue of King Rameses himself.
Though since then after the Aswan dam is built and Lake Nasser would have flooded the temple, the whole hill has been moved behind, and thus now the Suns rays shine on 22nd of Febraury and 22nd of October (shifted by a day)
That kind of knowledge, and architecture in those days is quite remarkable. Considering this is 3300 years old
The Blue Nile (the real one, not the Strip Club in Colaba you pervs), Life line of Egypt as seen from the High Dam in Aswan
The River Nile is the life line of the country of Egypt.
Egypt has a population of 77 million, which only inhabits 4% of the land mass of the country, and that is along the banks of this river, the rest of it is Desert.
A little more on the trip (the fun parts, the people on the tour, the egyptian people and the country and a little more history lessons in subsequent posts)