Tuesday, July 13, 2010
33. Visit Egypt (and ride a camel to the Pyramids)
As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do. -- Zachary Scott
I think I've learned lots of things in my travels this summer, some profound, some not so much. In the non-profound category, here are a couple tips I can now pass on to fellow travellers.
1. The cheapest way to get from Amman, Jordan to Kampala, Uganda is via Egypt Air with an eight-hour layover in Cairo.
2. If you have an eight-hour layover in Cairo, Egypt Air will put you up in a fancy hotel during the layover.
3. There's a catch to #2 (which you won't learn till it's too late). Egypt Air will keep your boarding pass and passport so that the ONLY thing you can do in stay at the fancy hotel and eat way too much free fancy food. It's a very comfortable cage, but a cage nonetheless.
Armed with all these facts gained on my first layover, I took the advice of my friend Gary, a very experienced middle east traveller, the second time around. Rather than spending the day at a luxury hotel that's pretty much like any other luxury hotel on the planet, I bought an Egyptian visa at the airport and spent the day in the suburb of Giza exploring the Pyramids from the back of a camel. In case anyone assumes, as I did, that the Pyramids are way out in the middle of a desert, I can now offer you the same reality check that I got. They're actually maybe a mile at most from the town center of Giza, and the sphinx looks kind of smallish when juxtaposed against the nearby pyramids as backdrop (see the photo above).
On the way back I stopped at a papyrus paper making store where I committed the ultimate travel error of miscalculating currency exchange rates and wound up with a lot of papyrus presents that cost four times as much as I thought they did. (My somewhat weak defense is that in the preceding two weeks, I had dealt with Jordanian Dinars, Israeli Shekels, and Ugandan Shillings, and the Egyptian Pounds are what finally got me hopelessly lost).
Still, it's not every day that a person gets to check out one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and I feel pretty lucky. And in the category of information somewhat more profound than the travel tips I listed above, the day was a fabulous reminder that our lives are what we make of them. I will never think of an airport layover the same way again, and always remember the day that an eight-hour layover was not an inconvenience, but an opportunity to visit a timeless and amazing place.
52 Ways to Say I Love You...
in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana, with a very big thank you to Kate, a great student/friend/fellow AIDS activist who was there this last spring semester.
hello- Agoo (response- Amay)
I love you- misumo bo- midor wu
May I have 2 beers please?- mana daan lo- ofaane me nya nsa- mipou wu tsu
Wednesday, July 14. Go to Nectar's. This was suggested by my students Connor, with whom I just travelled through the middle east, and Alexsis, who spent last semester in Turkey. Both were appalled to discover that in all my years of living in Burlington I have never set foot in the local bar/music club/restaurant known as Nectar's where Phish got its start. Connor and Will both have bands playing there tonight, and I'm going to go see them. If there's anyone else who's always thought about going but never quite made it (or who goes all the time), this is your chance. Shoot me an email if you're interested in coming.
Saturday, July 17 or Sunday, July 18. Visit the Rokeby Museum. My friend Valerie suggested this one a long time ago, and especially if the weather is gray this weekend and I can find someone else who wants to go, I'll probably make my visit. Anyone in?
Friday, July 23 (rain date Saturday, July 24). Camel's Hump Summer Hike: Moonlight and Sunrise. I think this is one of the coolest hikes I've ever contemplated, and was suggested by friend and former student Dan. Right now Alexsis, Derek, Michelle, Leah and Siham are all on board and there are a couple of other maybe's. Any other takers?
July 25 - August 11. Last major trip of the summer. Giving a paper with my photojournalism colleague and friend Jerry at Cambridge University in England, sandwiched in between excursions to Scotland and the Isle of Skye and a foray into Denmark and possibly Sweden.