Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Egyptian Journey

Happenings in Cairo have brought back memories
of our trip there.  I found my slide reels, scanned the following photos,
enhanced them all I could, & want to share my story.
At the time, Bob was our camera man & our camera wasn't the greatest.
I have reels & reels of slides from three trips to the Holy Land.
Over the next few weeks, perhaps months (it takes a lot of scanning)
I hope to share highlights.
Hopefully I won't put you to sleep like we did the Toalson's many long years ago!

It doesn't seem like it's been that long.
The memories are still vivid,
but our trip to Egypt happened over 31 years ago.
It was 1979 & I was 30 years old,
Bob was 31 &  our two very small children
stayed home with their grandmother.
It was my first time ever to be out of our country...
other than Canada--but that felt more like home!

Bob's father is a minister & over the years he has hosted
many trips to the Holy Land.
He wanted his family to experience
walking in the footsteps of history
and first took Bob on one of his tours in 1977.
That is a story in itself!

Wanda & Bob Greathouse, Brayton &  Imogene Thompson,
Grandmother Thompson, me (Sheila)
Leon Hollin, Rev. Robert Thompson, & my husband, Bob

Our group getting ready to leave for the airport.
That's me in the white sweater--& Bob with the black hair!

 From Indianapolis to New York City,
our flight journeyed on to Amman, Jordan.
Our final destination would be Israel,
but since we were going to visit Arab nations,
we had to visit them first as we couldn't enter their countries
if we carried a passport with a stamp from Israel.
It was a long flight.
If I remember right it was about 10 hours
and Bob's Aunt Imogene never got out of her seat!

We landed in Amman, only to connect hours later with another flight to Egypt.  There in Amman, I remember seeing very
young boys in military uniform, carrying guns,
guarding the airport.

When we landed in Cairo, I remember
the uncomfortable feeling of being in a foreign land,
waiting for our tour guide to meet up with us
in an unfamiliar airport,
to be taken on a small bus into the largest city
I had ever been in...
Cairo, Egypt.

And even though we arrived in the wee hours of the night,
people were out on the streets, traffic was zooming in all directions,
& we experienced the most harrowing ride I have ever taken.
At that time, Egyptians paid no attention to traffic laws...
if there were any,
went roaring through traffic lights
whatever color they happened to be,
honked crazily on their horns,
weaved in & out of traffic,
drove with only their parking lights on,
and amazingly got us to our hotel safely in one piece!
I think our bus driver's name must have been Jehu!
(look him up in the Bible)

Our home in Cairo was the Shepherd Hotel.
From the front door it looked lovely. 
Even the lobby was elaborate
& I was excited to get to our room.
Kicking my shoes off first thing, as I always do,
my feet squished in a very soggy rug...
which immediately gave off
the aroma of soured water.
The front desk was called & a bell boy came up,
rolled up the wet rug
& dragged it out in the hallway.  Yuck!
We later learned the reason for the wet carpet.

It seems the jellabiya clad cleaning men
mopped the floors by slinging buckets of water on the floor
& then slopped a mop around...leaving a smelly mess.
My first impression of Cairo...not a very nice one.

And then the next morning we took a peak out our window...

to discover our view...
a rubbled mess!
Thankfully we were only here for a few hours of sleep
for two nights & I don't remember much about that.
I'm sure jet-lag had kicked in.

Our first day was actually spent in Luxor...
but I will save that for another time.

The Nile River was just across the street from us
& was much larger than
I had ever imagined.
I remember there being soldiers in uniform around on the streets,
& in the early hours, the streets were very busy.

As modern as it was, you could see the people were still living
as they did many years ago. 
All modes of travel went down the streets
& miraculously merged together.

We were in another world...
another culture with codes of their own.
They instinctively knew when to jump out of harms way.

Bob still remembers this bus.
It was so loaded down with people,
there was standing room only.
The back windows were broken out
& the bus swayed from side to side
as it hurried down the street.

Young boys drove their donkey carts
along the streets with the cars & buses.
Cigarette stands seemed to be everywhere.
I think all the adults smoked.
And probably most of the teenagers too!

And Anwar Sadat was still president.
It would be two years later when he was assassinated.

We saw his picture displayed in several places around the city.

And then we drove a ways out of Cairo,
away from the hustle & bustle of the noisy crowds,
to a quieter place...

It was amazing to see them rising from the sands
 of the Sahara Desert...
the three pyramids of Giza.

You cannot imagine how larger they are
unless you have been there.
And to think that each stone was hand carved,
many of them from miles away,
carried to this deserted sight to be stacked
one by one upon each other.

Nearby is the great Sphinx of Giza,
watching protectively over the pyramids.

And then it was time for a treat...a new experience.
Especially new for me as I hardly knew how to straddle a horse,
much less a hump backed camel!

That's me--straggling back at the bus...probably about ready to change my mind! 

Our tour guide gave us strict instructions to only tip these guys $5.00
no matter how much they pleaded & begged. guy grabbed the reigns on Clyde
 & headed off with Bob in one direction,
while my guy grabbed the reigns on Cleo
& off we went another way!
I well remember he was leading me away
& I knew he was wanting money.
I sternly...& I think rather loudly!...
told him that I didn't have any money
on me & to take me back to my husband RIGHT NOW!

Off we went to meet up with Bob
who had given our camera to his guy to take his picture.

And what a pretty view he got!
(There was one other one but he cut Bob's head off.)

We made them head back to the bus, but first they wanted their tip.
Bob gave it to them & then we found out
that they did know English!
They burned our delicate ears
with some choice swear words (in perfectly spoken English!)
and we were thankful that we weren't within ear shot
of our fellow travelers.

From there it was on to the Cairo Museum.

We have no pictures of the interior
as I'm sure photography wasn't allowed.
I have no postcards, no brochures...
so I don't remember what all we saw.
I do remember the mummies.
Rooms full of mummies.
And believe me,
once you have seen one mummy, 
they all look alike!

We all know that Cairo is in turmoil today.
I saw that part of the museum was on fire today,
set by some of the protesters.
And I felt sad.
Why would they want to damage their own treasures?
For they do have treasures that we don't have.
Their history goes back into the sands of time...
the times of the Pharaohs, the times of the ruling Queens,
the time of Moses,
the times of the Israelites being slaves in this land,
the time when Joseph & Mary fled with young Jesus...

Why would they want to destroy something that is their own?

We drove by the Presidential Palace,
 heavily guarded even back then.

The two trips that I have made to this part of the world
makes the news come alive to me.
Egypt has been our friend
and  hope it can remain that way.

An interesting footnote...
Two men from our town have been evacuated
from Cairo.
One is our neighbor's son who has been
attending the University of Cairo.
They were safely evacuated to Istanbul.


Linda S said...

I always enjoy your blogs!!

Cheryl @ The Farmer's Daughter said...

This is such an interesting post, Sheila, complete with wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing, I've enjoyed this so much. It's sad to see what is happening there today. I don't understand their destructive ways, either. And I wonder what the outcome will be and how it will affect the rest of the world? These are some scary times we're living in now.

Karen Walden said...

Hilarious camel picture of Dad! I laughed out loud!

My goodness you two looked young back then! :)

Can't believe you are now scanning your slides!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about this.. It is a sad time what all is happening now in Egypt. But, I believe it is all Bible and Jesus is coming soon!!! Lisa Roberts. I have been thinking about Blogging. My daughter does it.. She says I should too:)