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March 2, 2011   

Egypt: Day 1

1. My hotel room. 2. Tahrir Square, the site of all the demonstrations, looked like a war zone. 3. King Tut stuff. I snuck this one with my iPhone. 4. The Egyptian Museum. 5. Many streets are heavily fortified. This is nothing compared to what’s around the American Embassy. A little intimidating. And to think that I helped pay for all those Egyptian tanks and guns. 6. Nile riverfront near Tahrir Square, looking toward Cairo tower. I walked over there as well.

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Walked about aimlessly for about six hours and got my bearings. Some difficulties, but I chalk them up to the learning curve. Very, very friendly people, once you get past the tourist charm assault of so many hustlers and sales people. I grew more and more disillusioned throughout the day, and a little better at picking up on the jive talking. Still, I like the people.

Went to the museum for an hour or two today… AMAZING that all those antiquities are just sitting out for you to see and touch. Walked around Tahrir Square, despite some tourist advice against it. Had tea with a nice shop owner who used to live in the states. And his brother will be taking me on the “insiders” tour of the Giza pyramids tomorrow. Lots of kids and even older folks seemed to want to have their picture taken with me, as I would often offer to take their photo with their camera so they can all get in the shot. Good way to meet people.

When I entered the museum I was told I couldn’t bring any cameras in and that I would need to check them at an adjacent service counter, which naturally I didn’t want to do given their value. I pleaded with the police men to allow me to bring them in, promising not to use them, and suggesting that even if I wanted to they wouldn’t work indoors as they are just cheap sentimental old film cameras. Before I left the States I blacked out the Leica logos. The head security guy came over and finally relented very discreetly and asked that I not tell anyone that he let me in. I hope he didn’t lose his job. Or get shot.

I may have a gig with an Egyptian newspaper to photograph some of the demonstrations on Friday. People are coming out to protest the Emergency law which has been in affect for 30 years, which basically allows the police to just arrest people without cause. I hear turn out could be up to 3 million people across Egypt, or was that just Cairo? I will be meeting with the fellow from the paper and small journalist team tomorrow evening to plan. Obviously this could be very risky, but I will do some research and see how I feel about it tomorrow.

Bed is hard as nails. Seems to be a toilet paper shortage too, FYI. No accidents today or anything like that. I just noticed that people tend to treat it like it’s precious. Hotel is quite stingy—just one small roll of your own to take to the shared bathroom. And when I actually did need to use it at the museum today, the bathroom attendant tore off about 5 squares and handed them to me. I smiled and politely motioned for some more. He peeled off another 5. I laughed, grabbed the whole roll and went about my business.

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