Thu January 03 2013  —  e-mail Manfred

Giza, Saqqara, Abusir, Dashur, Meidum, Islamic Cairo.

Flag Egypt Meidum step pyramid, Egypt.

Monday, February 08 2010

5 years, 6 months, 17 days

Cairo, Egypt

About Travel Photography,
Colors of the World.

Manfred is creator of ThisFabTrek.com, travel photography, a travel blog and a photography blog (a journey from 2004 to 2013). 'I set out to see the colors of the world, always I try to capture the colors'.

Seeing, is understanding, so I report and photograph, but formost enjoy and live those different conceptions of life (all that TV [and the web] cannot give). I reject jealousy, animosity, bigotry. Be free!

Manfred in the desert of the Western Sahara

The mind, when pondering at night and always asked those questions. What am I doing in corporate wonderland of bank, university, office or church? Who is the other animal asleep deep inside, the thinker, punk, creative, or Indian, vagabond and healer, maybe artist, writer, photographer, traveler, globetrotter? Oh God, dare you to think. When I saw the lies, gambles and manipulations I follow the old dream and set out for the journey of life lived, the journey to see the colors of the world.

During years on the road I have taken the turns as they came along, and realized one thing: Only such a small part of the planet can be explored and such a vast land and sea mass will always remain unknown, to me; many swamps, jungles, deserts and oceans will never be traveled. But then I am father of twin boys, Daniel and David, my most important, and I show them some of the wonders and colors out there.

ThisFabTrek, Photography and Journey, the Stories from the Road and Life around the World, stopped in August 2013 after more than 9 years, Love and Peace.

Last vehicle.

G20, Chevy Gladiator.

Chevrolet Gladiator G20, The boys in Cordillera Blanca, Peru.
The boys and Chevy van, Peru.

The G20, the vehicle that came to me for the Americas adventures.

6 wheeled Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 6x6
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The vehicle of the Africa adventures, a Foley 6-Wheeled Land Rover Defender.

Before, the MB307.

Manfred and MB307
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The vehicle of the Middle-East and North-Cape Journeys. See all vehicles.

Daniel and David with nanny Aisha, the best we ever had, black African Woman carrying white twin babies, in Bamako, Mali.

Current MB307 24,847km

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"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo.

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it, to tell the tale." Living to Tell the Tale - Gabriel García Márquez.

"They never taught wandering in any school I attended. ... they never taught the art of writing a book, either. It's all so mysterious."
"Wandering is an art in itself. Wandering and writing don't mix"
"Writing demands commitment and if one thing your wanderer is allergic to is that very quality of commitment, for once one is committed he runs that very risk of failure ..." Wanderer - Sterling Hayden.

"Photography enables you to grasp a place first time round. ... Photography is a means of exploration, it's a vital part of travel, almost as essential as a car or a plane. " - Wim Wenders.

"The worst prejudice we acquire during our youth is the idea that life is serious. Children have the right instincts: they know that life is not serious, and treat it as a game..." , Egon Friedell.

"How far you gonna go. Before you lose your way back home" - Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Achtung Baby, U2.

"If you want to be a hero well just follow me." - Working Class Hero, John Lennon.

"When I think of all the things I have done, I know that it's only just begun." - I love you, Lou Reed.

"One does not escape the Sahara - the Sahara let's you go or not" - Touareg.

"Planet earth is blue and there`s nothing I can do" - This is Ground Control to Major Tom, David Bowie.

"Glory for the crazy people/in this stupid world" - Ahmed Fouad Negm.

www.thisfabtrek.com > journey > africa > egypt > 20100208-egyptian-pyramids

The Egyptian museum.

Map, Egypt.

Download GPS (KML) track/waypoints.

At Beanos, Cairo.
At Beanos, Cairo.

So what is left to report on Egypt? Egypt is unique, so much here to do, my time is limited, my car papers now definitely run out and I need to leave the country.

Seeing my time shrink I've given up on the idea of learning Arabic here to any substantial degree, well I force myself through all the letters and I mean I can read it, or better decipher it, even write it, paint the letters. But the meaning behind words remains a mystery, the grammar a hidden secret. I am just too busy, have a backlog of untold stories, pictures not shown, so much to work off, yeah call it work! Someone on facebook pointed me to Sterling Hayden, special agent, actor, communist, writer and wanderer and he seriously lamented the dilemma that "Wandering and writing don't mix". There is no hanging loose while committed to keeping a website/blog updated. But what can we do? So it is. Also I do it for myself, so I don't forget.

Egyptian museum Cairo.
Egyptian museum Cairo.

An afternoon in the Egyptian museum and Tutankhamun for free (nice surprise as was sure I would have to pay extra to see the treasures) and nicely presented. Actually there is scientific news out, the child of incest Tutankhamun died of malaria, how shocking (NYT). Most of the rest of the thousands of sculptures, sarcophagus, reliefs and paintings stashed on top of each other, gather the dust of decades, typewriter descriptions from 40 years ago, or longer or a lot longer. When was the museum built, by the French? 1900? Some stuff seems it was put in place then and not moved since then. Treasures are certainly in abundance in Egypt. But also the museum receives thousands of paying visitors every day, some stuff should be moved to different locations, like the hundreds of sarcophagi they have, you might line them up in one row, oldest to youngest, the longest museum in the world, maybe along the Nile River, one sarcophagi every 5 meters, a walk of several kilometres, with good descriptions accompanying them, open till midnight. Dream on Cairo. Zahi Hawass, can you hear me?

Still I walk out dizzy, the beauty is unique, I would want to spend another afternoon there.

Well then we leave on to an extended Egyptian pyramids tour.

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Great Pyramids of Giza.

"Everything fears time, only the pyramids laugh at it". - Arab proverb.

Portrait of the Giza Pyramids.
Portrait of the Giza Pyramids.

... where have I stolen this quote?

Giza Pyramids.
Giza, the great Pyramids.

Giza and the Greatest Pyramids (wiki), Necropolis of Pharaos Cheops or Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure; Christina and I saw them actually a few weeks earlier, before when we thought we would have to leave the country, in a hurry, kind of. They are certainly the biggest world wonder, actually the only one of the seven of the ancient world you can still see today. Built in the 26th c. B.C., a wonder of civilisation! Who knows for sure whether anyone was ever buried here? What the huge struggle was really for? How they went about building them? How many workers, 20,000 or 60,000? How? How was it done? You have read what you could find but eventually it doesn't matter to you because you are taken by the shear enormity. Just try get away from the buses action, as far as you can, walk away, out in the desert, where is peace. Lie down and just look. Imagine and ponder. Certainly someone will come and bother you; this guy was actually nice he brought cold Coke with him at a reasonable price. Just make sure he does not take your place near the lady.

Egyptian greets, Pyramids.
Egyptian greets, Pyramids.
Donkey rider in front of Giza Pyramids.
Donkey rider in front of Giza.
Tourist, guy and donkey, in front of Pyramids out in the desert.
Tourist, guy, donkey, out in the desert.

Desert donkey rider Pyramids, Egypt.
Desert donkey rider leaves again, Pyramids, Egypt.
Giza Pyramids, Cairo to the left.
Cairo is to the left, East.

Oh yes there is also the Great Sphinx, …

Sphynx and cleaner.
Cleaner.
Sphynx and Pyramid.
Sphynx and Pyramid.
Giza borders the desert.
Giza borders the desert.

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Abusir is slightly north of Saqqara.

My friends in Saqqara. Tourists wearing facemasks, Egypt.
My friends in Saqqara.
Two Egyptian guards, Saqqara temple entrance.
Two guards, entrance.

On the 3rd of Feb we go back to Giza but only for the greatest falafel there, it is on way to the Sphinx. From Giza we travel south to Saqqara, Abusir, Dashur and Meidum. All of these sites predate the Great Pyramids of Giza by a few decades. Saqqara (wiki) exceeds Giza in archaeological importance; it is here the step was made from tombs and mastabas (mortuary temples) to pyramid construction, step-pyramids were first.

As always I prefer the walk in the desert to all explanation babble given by guides, who behave as if they themselves built the monuments, all guides touch the frescoes, tip on them with a pen to explain particularities. I prefer escape the crowds, the French and German olds that behave like boy scouts on a weekend trip, the Asians always all protected with silk gloves and mouth masks and the Americans always in shorts and bad trainers even though even Egypt has a winter season. Is windy, cloudy; these are the cold days, morning temps are down to 5°C so that I can see my breath.

Abusir, Giza in back.
Between Abusir, (Giza in back)
Saqqara, Dashur right far in back.
and Saqqara, (Dashur right far in back).
Donkey and camel, Saqqara steppyramid.
Donkey and camel, Saqqara step pyramid.
Saqqara step-pyramid under reconstruction.
Saqqara step-pyramid under reconstruction.
Saqqara, tomb of nobel, painting, engraving.
Saqqara, tomb of nobel.
Abusir necropolis, Egyptian guides and guards.
Abusir necropolis, guides, guards.
Desert and Christina, Saqqara.
Desert and Christina, Saqqara.
Light on Saqqara.
Light on Saqqara.
Djoser step pyramid Saqqara, Egypt.
Djoser step pyramid Saqqara, Egypt.

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Dashur, means red and bent Pyramid.

Nile valley plantations, near Dashur. Palm trees.
Nile valley plantations, Camp Dashur.

And then there, out in the desert, away, walk on sand, halfway between Saqqara and Abusir, between the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid of Dashur, out here away I can appreciate these wonders of civilisation.

Red and Bent Pyramids (wiki) are as well in walking distance from one another, it is cold and windy, some rain, after a night in rural Dashur amidst palm groves and rice plantations in the proximity of the Nile and friendly people, the Fellahin (wiki) who live and work in the same old way since times. Darkness has fallen the chief comes, knocks on the door, looks at us, smiles, and goes. We are certainly safe here. We have bought 7 delicious falafel sandwiches (babganoush [eggplant paste], fried eggplant, gebna [local cheese] mixes) for 4 E£ (all), a bag of fries and pickles goes with it and 1 litre or coke for 3.50 E£ to go with the local blended scotch we carry, Auld Stack (is Egyptian, is on facebook), the complete meal we want for less than a Euro.

Red Pyramid Dashur, Egypt.
Red Pyramid Dashur, Egypt.
Looking up one side of Dashur's red Pyramid.
Looking up one side of the red Pyramid.
Snofru's Red Pyramid, Dashur.
Snofru's Red Pyramid, Dashur.
Bent Pyramid, Dashur.
Bent Pyramid, Dashur.
Bent Pyramid, side, eroded.
Bent Pyramid, side, eroded.

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Meidum, is again another story.

Half of Meidum Pyramid.
Half of Meidum Pyramid.

We carry on south, search for the Lisht Pyramid but cannot find it. Then Meidum (wiki) suddenly appears on the horizon, a strangely shaped structure. Meidum is impressive, from the outside and we just go from overcast all day to a bit of light. And the inside though when a whole school class of below 10 year olds enters the heart of the pyramid this pressurises a bit in the claustrophobic sense. Back outside at 4 p.m. I have a little argument with the guards, who leave a point 4 and want to escort us outside a 5 km circle around the step pyramid and that just as the sun makes its first appearance under the clouds. It takes a lot of convincing. Obviously if I was Arab I could spend night here. Racial one might think but they have orders concerning tourists' security. Egypt lacks a sensible concept regarding visiting hours (sunrise and sunset viewing), here all is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Luxor was better, 6 to 5.

Meidum Pyramid Egypt.
Meidum Pyramid Egypt.
Meidum Pyramid.
Meidum Pyramid.
Meidum Pyramid inside with 30 school children.
Inside with 30 school children.
Burial chamber Meidum Pyramid.
Burial chamber.
Boys on street, Egypt.
Boys on street, Egypt.

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Al-Rayan and El-Hitan.

Al-Hitan-cliffs.
Al-Hitan cliffs.

Down south from Cairo so much, a detour into the desert to the oasis of Al-Rayan, and further to the world heritage site of El-Hitan seem imposing. The evening 5th of February after viewing Dashur and Meidum, we arrive after dark, somewhere near Al-Rayan and park up in the desert. I paint the last letters of faa and qaf, saad and daad, Taa and Dhaa (as opposed to the simpler taa, thaa and daa and Daad and dhaal, oh yeah there are so many d variants) and associated words in my diary, hmmm! Yes I can read this العَرَبِيَّة means transliterated al-arabiyyah, Arabic. But I would need a lot more time to understand and speak a bit more than the basic basics, knowing to read is a mere first step.

Well I learnt other things instead, to pee in a bottle at night and stuff in complete darkness.... you're impressed? These are the cold days; I can see my breath in the morning.

El-Hitan is famous for the whale fossils found here; the beauty of ancient cliffs that once bordered the prehistoric ocean in the middle of the desert against the brisk blue winter skies is what fascinates us.

Fossiled shells.
Fossiled shells.
Snail fossil El-Hitan, Egypt.
Snail fossil El-Hitan, Egypt.
Christina cliffs, El-Hitan.
Christina cliffs, El-Hitan.
Christina, El-Hitan.
Christina, El-Hitan.
Cliffs and Sand.
Cliffs and Sand.
wind-shaped-rock-el-hitan
wind-shaped-rock-el-hitan
Christina on edge of Cliff, El-Hitan-Egypt.
Christina on edge of Cliff.
El-Hitan.
El-Hitan.
Rock structures, shaped by the wind, El-Hitan, Egypt.
Rock structures, shaped by the wind.

Later we return to Al-Rayan, lake and oasis, but water and swimming is simply not for us at the time of the year.

Later we tour around the southern shores of salt Lake Al-Qarum, the lake is serene, calm, cold blue against cold blue skies. A bratty young guy manages to sell me a necklace for 1 E£. Many nice spots seem the waterfront, loved by locals, the speakers bleat out a bizarre mix of oriental techno, nobody even sips a coke or a tea, but all have a good time, all seem to have been here since lunch. I thought about a terrace that sells a beer. But ... not here. So this was it, means back to Giza!

Christina and me, Egypt.
Christina and me, Egypt.
Me on the ground.
Me on the ground.
Pebbles, desert, Egypt.
Pebbles, desert, Egypt.
Al-Rayan lake, reed, Egypt, islet.
Al-Rayan lake, reed, Egypt, islet.
Qarum lake, kid selling shell necklace, Egypt.
Qarum lake, kid selling shell necklace.
Boats, Qarum lake Egypt.
Boats, Qarum lake Egypt.

Then Sunday morning, 7th of February glistering in bright yellow light I see the Great Pyramids for the last time as we make our way back to central Cairo. Will I see them ever again?

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Islamic Cairo. My time's up in Cairo and Egypt.

Yes this is intended as an over kill; Cairo has too many sides and too many sides even you just round Islamic Cairo. There are no pictures from Coptic Cairo, no pictures from high life in Cairo. Islamic Cairo is the Cairo I started to like the most, from treasures and mosques, where the Sufi invites to join in the meditation, to the so often mentioned street food. Cairo is where the faithful of the faithful men wear a mal on their forehead, the size of a large coin; hard skin from the 5 fold daily prayer exercise. I have never seen this anywhere else in the Muslim world. Here it is so common. These men are not Islamists, just take their religion seriously.

Cairo is chaotic, traffic, donkeys, shit. Cats in packs of ten chase each other through the garbage; dust and flies go up in clouds. The dirty coffee/tea houses disseminate the sweet odours of the shisha (water pipe, nargile) smokers, the domino players look up, the constant welcome, the constant hassle for a 1 E£ tea, which I can laugh at. It is 5, all is a bit misty, dusty; I clean my glasses, the view remains misty, the dust is in the air. The dust remains on the ground, sweeping means sweeping paper, plastic, food remains, larger bits like cans but never dust, the dust is best spread out. Seen this many times!

Everyone smokes cigarettes, outside, inside, the falafel man while preparing the sandwich. Donkey carts bring still the essentials and fight for space with busses and minibuses, private and commercial mopeds and cars; everyone pushes and honks and pounds his way through the chaos. Constant honking for no reason and reasons! Chaos! But after a while one does not feel it as such anymore, way too chaotic for many and many come and flee. I loved it. Time is nearly up in Cairo.

"I arrived ... at the city of Cairo, mother of cities ... mistress of broad provinces and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendor, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the stopping-place of feeble and strong. ... She [Cairo] surges as the waves of the sea with her throngs of ... folk and can scarce contain them ..." - Ibn Battuta 1304-1369 (wiki).

Prezel/Brezel, sold on bridge over Nile in Cairo.
Prezel/Brezel, sold on bridge over Nile.
People entering overcrowded bus, Cairo.
People entering overcrowded bus, Cairo.
Booze shop Cairo.
Booze shop Cairo.
Clothes on street, Cairo.
Clothes on street, Cairo.
Small street business, Cairo.
Small street business, Cairo.
Shisha smoker, cafe, Al-Rifai mosque, Cairo
Shisha smoker, cafe, Al-Rifai mosque.
Cafe Cairo, rearranging chairs.
Cafe Cairo, rearranging chairs.
Street tea house, people watch domino players, Cairo.
Street tea house, watch/play domino.
Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo.
Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo.
Sultan Hassan, mosque. Cairo.
Sultan Hassan, mosque. Cairo.
Sultan Hassan Muslim. Cairo.
Sultan Hassan Muslim. Cairo.
Boy on back of pick-up truck-Cairo.
Boy on back of pick-up truck-Cairo.
Christina Ibn Tulun Cairo.
Christina Ibn Tulun Cairo.
Sultan Hassan lights hanging from roof. Cairo.
Sultan Hassan lights hanging from roof.
Me in Cairo.
Me in Cairo.
Kushari, couch a riz, Cairo, is delicious.
Kushari is delicious.
Veiled Muslim girls, eating kushari, Cairo.
Veiled Muslim girls, eating kushari.
View from Ibn Tulun to Sultan Hassan and Citadel in Cairo.
View from Ibn Tulun to Sultan Hassan.
Sultan Hassan complex, Cairo.
Sultan Hassan complex, Cairo.
Father and kids, Rifai mosque, Cairo.
Father and kids, Rifai mosque, Cairo.
Donkey cart transport, Cairo, street.
Donkey cart transport, Cairo, street.
Old weak donkey, trash cart, Cairo. Egypt.
Old weak donkey, trash cart, Cairo. Egypt.
Ibn Tulun mosque Cairo, group of men and women.
Ibn Tulun mosque, group of men and women.

Used clothes being sold in Cairo.
Used clothes being sold.
Muslim women, old house, Cairo.
Muslim women, old house.
Christina in skirt and boots.
Christina in skirt, boots.
Cairo, Sultan Hassan mosque.
Cairo, Sultan Hassan mosque.
Rifia Cairo.
Rifia Cairo.
Rifai mosque. Cairo.
Rifai mosque. Cairo.
Kushari, master in restaurant, Cairo.
Kushari master.
Minarets, street, Cairo.
Minarets, street, Cairo.
Street food Cairo, falafel, foul.
Street food Cairo, falafel.
Collonade, Ibn Tulun, Cairo, light.
Collonade, Ibn Tulun, light.
Ibn Tulun mosque, fountain, minaret, Cairo.
fountain, minaret.
Tea on a tray in Egypt.
Tea on a tray in Egypt.

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Egyptian presidential elections 2011

We discussed the difference between Egypt and Morocco. This came up in one discussion with two German academics Florian, higher education expert and Holger, political scientist at AUC, expert in authoritarianism. It's the successor question that was positively resolved in Morocco 10 years ago and is and will be an ongoing issue in Egypt with no immediate solution in the short term. Hosni Mubarak (wiki) over 80, has ruled for nearly 30 years with iron hand, supported by more than 2 billion USD/year from the US (Egypt is 3rd after Iraq and Israel as a recipient of USAID), is authoritarian, undemocratic, repressive, but considered a pole of stability in the region. Mubarak is labelled "the pharaoh", he has changed a presidential system into a royal system that serves his families' interests. His son Gamal is currently being prepared to step into the father's footsteps. But "we don't want his son, we are not a monarchy!" is widely heard.

"20, 30 years ago who ever needed to be in the region went for Cairo; all the monies of corporations, NGOs, media, culture. Today everything is a bit on hold, waits, whether universities, corporate investments, media, we want the Mubarak issue out of the way". There are also other places these days you can go. Amman, Qatar, Dubai.

"Morocco is where Egypt was 20 years ago," another friend, an Egyptian said to me at a different occasion, "but Morocco has caught up and we are falling behind."

Egypt till date deals with its high population growth 83 Million 2009, adds 1 million every 8 months, staggering corruption, decimal education of the masses in the cities, a class struggle that fuels Islamism, radicalization seems the only solution for many when all political activity is controlled and repressed, an elite that does not need to work and wants to take responsibility in its hand and above all is more and more disconnected with the majority of Egyptians.

Admittedly Egypt may come out much better this time around, presidential elections are in September 2011 (wiki).

P.S.20110212: Well who would have thought this all would come about so quickly, what a difference a year makes. Egyptian revolution on wiki.

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