The first 12 hours could have happened atany point of time in Egypt. The next 48 hours could only ever happen during oneof the most historic moments in modern Middle Eastern History; the Egyptian Revolutionbegins! (If you haven't read the first twelve hours it's the previous post, which will help make this post make more sense, Cheers)
Morning comes and we wake up cold,having slept outside for two hours across from the Nile River, waiting forKarnak Temple to open. As we wake thesecurity guard comes over to us. I didn’t realize at the time when he wasasking if I had change for ten Egyptian pounds that he meant he wanted us togive him ten Egyptian pounds for letting us stay there. Confused by his requestwe said no and walked across the road to vist Karnak Temple for a few hours.The rest of the day was spent touring all over Luxor, visiting all the museumsand historic sites.
As our day was coming to an end we werevisiting the last archeological site and my friends sister started texting usfrom Kuwait. They were planning on coming to Egypt the next day, but wereworried about what was going in the country. We were pretty confused what theywere talking about. We had not seen oneinstance of public disorder since we been there. I just kept saying this part ofthe world there is always some sort of political “turmoil”. Eventually theydecided they would not come to Egypt and instead went to Thailand.
Our plan from the start of theday was to catch the night train and head to Cairo, which is about a ten hour ride.From Cairo we would take a two hour train to the Pyramids in Giza. When we arrived at the train station thatevening we had no idea how to buy a ticket or which train to catch, it wasterribly organized. Eventually we were able to find a very kind man who workedthere and helped us understand everything. I forget exactly how the nextsituation happened but he told us three men couldn’t catch the next train, andthey needed to sell their tickets, which was good because that train to Cairowas apparently full. We decided it wouldbe a good idea to buy the tickets or else we would have to wait another threehours for the next train, and the tickets were first class too!
However, the tickets were a smallpiece of cardboard with Arabic written with pen on them, which I still have. Wethought we were being hustled because they were charging us 90 Egyptian Pounds.It might not be a lot of money but it adds up if you’re not careful. Thankfullythe man helping us assured us these were legitimate tickets, so we able tocatch the very next train.
Finally after running on only twohours of sleep because the night we had flown out we were up since five am thatday to teach a full day of school; then having survived our first five hours inEgypt from crazy cabbies to wild dogs and touring all day we were definitelyready to take a calm and relaxing night train to Cairo. With a ten hour train ride ahead of us you wouldthink that would be enough time to catch up on sleep and decompress from aninteresting experience so far. But this would also be our second night stayingwithout lodgings or a bed, but hey trains are comfortable right?!
As we boarded the train and mindyou it was supposed to be first class, it looked like a complete wreck. All wehad to sleep on were large reclining chairs that were easily thirty years oldand have never seen a day of maintenance. As the train departed we did our best to get cozy and sleep for the nextten hours. Unfortunately there was not much luck in that.
I kept waking up for threereasons, which felt like every thirty seconds. The first and most significantreason was simply that I thought I was going to die from the train derailing.It was the bumpiest train I had ever been on. When the train hit a bump or wasturning it felt like it was about to jump off the track and just roll. Once I came to realize there was nothing Icould do I tried to shut out that idea.
Where we were sitting was nobetter either. Sitting at the very front of our train car where the doors thatare used to go between the cars did not close, it just waved back and forth. Asyou can imagine every time we hit a bump the door would slam open and shut likea sonic boom. If the feeling of constantdeath and the sound of a sonic boom wasn’t bad enough, the smell of putridhuman waste would crawl up my noise. The door that kept slamming open andclosed was also where the washrooms were located between the cars. Here’s thecatch though the washrooms if they had a door we a hole in the floor of trainwhere everything just went onto the tracks. As the door open and slammed alongit brought a smell that made you want to vomit a bit in your mouth. In the endbeing low on rest, food, and sanity, my body caves in and I finally get somesleep.
We arrived In Cairo, around 9 or10 am. Everything appeared to be okay at the train station no crazy cab driversor wild dogs chasing us, we must be in the clear! We exit the station and beginto walk. We find a hotel recommended in the lonely planet. We go inside to renta room, we are told there is no room there and that we shouldn’t stay in Cairobecause Tahrir Square is full of tanks and all the tourist attractions havebeen shut down including Gaza, where the Pyramids are, two hours outside ofCairo. As typical tourists we decide heylet’s check out the tanks. It appears we have learned nothing from our trip sofar and this time we go and seek out danger.
As we navigate through the Cairo,a sense of chaos and anarchy begins to develop within us. No less than tenminutes as we begin to walk towards the heart of Cairo, a group of five youngguys begin to follow us. Their pursuit of us quickly ended, however, the factthat they were more than willing to intimidate us in broad daylight in front ofhundreds of people was a true reflection of the state of Cairo and perhaps therest of Egypt.
As we continued our walk towardsTahrir square our eyes and nose began to burn sensation and the air wasbecoming more difficult to breathe. We briefly ran into a young cluelessBritish couple who told us that there was a 6pm curfew in the city. After thatwe “acquired” a local who decided he would follow and try to “help” us. Hewalked with us for at least twenty minutes. As we ignored him he lost interestin us; but at the same time we were making sure that he was not trying to pickpocket us. We watched carefully over oneanother and made sure our passports were literally on our body.
Finally we find the sourcecausing the burning in our eyes and throats, cars were scorched all over thestreet; they had been burning while we were headed to Egypt on the night trainfrom Luxor. As we continued to walk up the street and see more cars smoulderingon the street, a lady just looks at me in the eyes and said, “What are youdoing here? You shouldn’t be here,” it’s a voice I’ll never forget as I canstill feel the despair in her voice to this day.
What we thought initially to be afantastic idea going to see the tanks in Tahrir Square quickly became a badidea, as the realization of what was actually happening in Egypt startedsinking into our heads. We came to the decision to leave Cairo and head toAlexandria. Everything will be better if we just keep heading north away fromthe chaos in Cairo. After only two hours in Cairo, we head back to the trainstation. What we thought was finally the end of our chaotic start to our tripwas truly only just the beginning.