Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dos and Donts of Ancient Egypt

Do bring a student ID card - you get discounts at almost every site.  It doesn't matter that neither Josh nor I are students any longer, and in fact I don't even have a student ID.  I used my Washington DC public library card and they gave me the discount.

Don't use large denomination bills.  Taxi drivers and such won't give you correct change, and will keep the remainder as "baksheesh."  You'll also need small coins to tip the guards and stray kids at museums who will otherwise not let you through or may pester you relentlessly.

Do let the little kids that are asking for money have some fun with you.  They have good senses of humor when you ask them their name.  Josh and I ask them for help (where is the closest ATM?  Can you sing a song for us?) before giving them any sort of tip.  They like having a job.

Don't go it alone.  When you are visiting these places with a local, the hasslers will approach them first and far less frequently.  But if you go alone, you will be targeted.  They will tell you the pyramids are closed, or that they can let you in for a fee, or find a way to climb, or that it is too far to walk, until you don't know what to believe and end up buying whatever it is they are selling.

Do visit the temples that you have never heard of.  The pyramids at Giza and temple of Luxor were far less interesting than Medinat Habu, the latter being a funerary temple for Ramses III.  So many of the bigger ones are in bad shape or riddled with tourists and obnoxiousness, and their contents are in Museums anyway (which may be better to visit).  But we went to Medinat Habu on the West Bank of Luxor, which was basically empty, had tons and tons of detailed hieroglyphics and statues, and felt hallowed.  It is not far from the Valley of the Kings which we skipped.

Don't ride the horses at the pyramids.  That is the best way to be captive to your horse owner, and to have a sore butt while not being able to concentrate on the pyramids at all, since you are spending all your effort just to steer and avoid minibus traffic.

Do take time to wander the streets and see stuff that is not really historic, but living and local.  We ran across an alley with a canopy of festive LED garlands and rope tassles and flowers, where children were playing and horses were having lunch.  We also went shopping for pants and found the Facebook store, which sells nothing you'd expect.

Don't eat the Luxor street cheese.  'Nuff said.

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