5th month thoughts- 9/11/12 Cairo to Mumbai. Middle East Culture & history
On this 5th month we traveled through only 3 new countries, 11 cities 4,793 miles of travel to bring our trip total to 22,976 miles. We have officially past our 1/2 way point from where we started on the other side of the world in San Diego, CA. The spot was slightly before arriving in Mumbai, India on day 154 of our trip. This month could only be described as the cultural ‘experience’ of my life. This was our month in the Middle East and the people, culture and dynamic history was unlike anywhere we been before.
We were in awe at the enormous temples and statues through out Egypt but Luxor and Karnak blew us away. How they were able to engineer these temples thousands of years before modern tools and carve the intricate art works all over the surfaces is astounding. We had a small taste of luxury on our 7 night cruise of the Nile with Wendy’s Cousin along for the ride. We holed up for 10 days in Cairo on the way back while we planned the next few months of travel and waited for our India visa to process. Next we flew to Jordan and explored the carved cliff palaces of Petra before making our way to the beach retreat of Tel Aviv, Israel. The water was warmer than anything if felt with the exception of Fiji. The holy land of Jerusalem surprised us with its mix of old and new. Walking in Jesus footsteps, touching his birthplace in Bethlehem, retracing his walk to be crucified, and touching the spot where he died (whether these spots are authentic or not), I know I’ll never forget. We walked through the 4 quarters of the old city Jerusalem where 3 of the worlds largest religions all coexist in seemingly relative peace… The streets filled with college aged soldiers all carrying rifles and backpacks, Orthodox Jews with their top hats, curly sideburns and tassels, robe wearing arabs, nuns, priests, monks, and tourists all going about their business is something I never would have imagined I’d see together.
As if we hadn’t had enough culture before exiting this region, luck would have it we booked our ticket to India on the least expensive airline at the time Saudi Arabian Airlines. It took us to Saudi Arabia with a 9hr layover at the international airport closest to Mecca. We spent the hours people watching pilgrims wearing nothing but towels, men with red and white headdresses and robes or Indian sheiks with colorful head wrapped turbans, every women escorted with a man (it’s the law) their heads covered or their entire bodies covered with just 2 slits for their eyes to peer out. Some men had multiple wives (they are legally allowed up to 4) others wore business suits. Upon stepping off the plane in Mumbai, the first sight just beyond the runway was what is described only as the slums. Blue tarps, wooden shacks, mud, trash, and animals packed in wall to wall.
5th month highlights- Walking around the enormous columns and statues of Luxor and Karnak while our Egyptologist guide deciphered the hieroglyphs for us, sunrise hot air balloon ride over the valley of the kings, lounging upon the top deck of our nile cruise with drink in hand (thanks to our favorite under the table bartender) and watching the people along the banks at work, seeing the night sound and light show at Karnak, braving the crazy horse carriage ride despite the warnings from our boat guide in order to explore the impressive temple of Edfu, taking in the amazing views from the cliffs above Petra, Jordan, the amazing breakfast in Tel Aviv, Israel, visiting many of the biblical sites all over Jerusalem, floating and smearing mud all over ourselves in the lowest place on earth, the dead sea.
5th month ‘other’ moments- Dealing with all the Egyptian touts and catching a pickpocket with his hand in my empty pocket, overpaying for a long bus tour with military convoy out to see Abu Simbil, trying to get a train ticket back to Luxor ordeal and shady black market dealing, VERY uncomfortable 9hr train ride to Cairo with people sleeping in the overhead bins, in the isles, blasting the Koran on their cell phones, the Shiite guy chanting and praying Very loudly next to me, while being the only foreigners on the entire train, learning we were staying only a few blocks from the heart of the Egyptian ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in Tahir Square where a 2nd foreign women was raped by the hundreds of mob protesters their, the lawless anything goes as long as you honk driving in Cairo, the 9hr 72mile 6 transfer border crossing and travel between Amman Jordan and Tel Aviv Israel (including the 1hr waiting for my bag to be searched for no apparent reason and without explanation), sitting in the Jerusalem mall/ bus depot food court surrounded by at least 30 college age kids in uniform all eating with their rifles dangling from their heads, crossing into Palestine’s west bank check point fenced border on the way to Bethlehem, walking the streets of Mumbai and seeing all the slums.