A Travellerspoint blog

Democracy and regimes…

A little insight into the political tsunami that ensued in the middle east

sunny 25 °C

Those of us who are watching the news today are aware of the recent turn of events in the Middle East. With the fall of the Tunisian government (protests caused the ruling president to flee the country), on Jan 25, 2011, scores of Egyptians unprecedentedly took to the streets demanding an end to President Mubarak’s ~30 year rule. Soon after this, Yemenis followed in the same direction demanding an end to oppressive leadership. In my mind, the question that begs to be asked is – what is happening in the Middle East today? Why is there such a huge uprising in so many countries in this region? It is not surprising to see that the underlying theme is essentially the same; a bulging population of unemployed youth, rampant poverty, illiteracy at large and a government has simply failed to provide for its people. A system where Democracy is abused is clearly worrisome, when a ruler decides to use his power to constantly re-elect himself we end up with a situation of autocracy and authoritarianism. The longer these protests and upheavals continue; the domino effect that will ensue across the region will clearly be of extreme importance to the world at large.

Egypt is a prime example of the struggle faced by most citizens of the Arab world today - The people want freedom, jobs and a better shot at life, something that the current regime is unable to provide. A quick stab at statistics show that 50% of Egypt is under poverty and a large percentage (over 70%) of this number is under 24 years of age. These statistics become crucial when we notice the abnormally large number of unemployed youth in the country. Employing the younger generation not only leads to less violence on the streets, it also ensures a successful future for the country. There is so much growth potential lost when a country’s youth is disillusioned and needs to resort to violence to get their basic needs met.

In a way, I consider myself lucky to be amidst the revolution that is happening today, this is history in the making and I’m glad to be a part of it. While the rest of the world watches the turn of events on TV, I am humbled to be a witness and watch the proceedings in person. As I have mentioned before, this is an important turn of events not just for Egypt but also for the rest of the Middle East. The stability of this region depends on what transpires in Egypt, a country of 80 million people which is more than half the Arab world. Egypt also has a large say in the peace process in the region because of it’s proximity to Israel. A lot is riding for the international community on the outcome of this revolution because of several reasons – a regime change might spark a domino effect across the Middle East, on the other hand if the government manages to suppress the crowd we might see the rise of another autocracy that rules with an iron fist and further represses its people.

A large number of countries in this region are ruled by authoritarian leaders who are drunk with power and have no concern for the growth and development of their nations. If Egypt succeeds in overthrowing its government, it will spawn an infectious momentum inspiring a wave of coups to follow suit in the region. I have had the opportunity to speak with a lot of people in Cairo and the impression I get is that most people are fed up with the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor, the lack of opportunities and the high prices of basic necessities. Ahmed, a local resident of the suburb of Maadi where I live spoke to me about the grievances faced by his people today. Ahmed tells me that in Egyptian culture men are required to have a reasonably well paid job and own a furnished apartment before they can get married. All these expenses including the marriage ceremony add up very quickly and hence, most unemployed youth are finding it extremely difficult to get married and settle down. Speaking to Taib, a driver who works for my company, I was taken aback when he mentioned that he was 31 years of age and had not experienced life outside of Mubarak’s regime yet. One can see how the local people’s frustrations have been silently building given that their lives are affected on so many levels.

In most developing countries the wealth is controlled by a small percent of the population, this is detrimental to the socioeconomic stability of that country at large. On a very basic level, in order to ensure the successful growth of a country, its middle class must be provided for; this section of society is the engine of economic growth - their appetites for goods and services ensure the fostering of positive capitalistic forces thus boosting overall growth of the economy. Unfortunately the government in Egypt failed to help nurture the growth of their middle class which accounts for a large section of its 87 million people. The general sense I get from talking to people here is that Egypt is a tightly run state with little or no freedom of expression. Any displeasure or distaste expressed for the ruling party is quickly quelled by the forces that be. This is why the events that we are seeing today are unprecedented in their nature, spurred on by the events in Tunisia, a significant number of people have finally lost their fear of the government, they are tired of lack of opportunities and they want change! What good is a democratic process of election and governance if elections are rigged, freedom of speech is not implemented and corruption runs rampant? Personally, I find the government blocking channels of communication most frustrating. This is dangerous and can cause more riots, confusion and increase the loss of lives. Take the government imposed curfew for example; what good is a curfew that is announced on TV when most people are out on the streets without working cell phones or internet connections? Is someone expected to personally inform the angry mob that a curfew has been imposed on them – Who might have the courage to bell this cat?

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The whole idea of stemming and controlling basic human rights is ridiculous. The people are merely seeking a chance to have a say in making decisions that will improve and influence their lives. It must also be said that while the protests have have taken a violent turn in places with poorer populations, they have been largely civil in most other parts of the city. Men of different ages are taking to the streets to protect their neighborhoods in the event of riots or robberies. There are people armed with sticks and wooden clubs patrolling the streets outside my apartment complex, this is because the police have shut down and disappeared for the most part. The army is the only force trying to maintain peace at the moment. It must be said that the army is very popular here in Egypt and holds an almost mythical presence in the country. As chants of “The army and the public are one” resonate through the streets, the protesters are doing their best to not clash with the army and directing their anger and hatred towards the government instead. This is a symbol of an educated, civil mob – one with direction and an overall sense of purpose. Most Egyptians I’ve talked to say they feel a sense of national pride today that they haven’t felt in ages. They are proud to be Egyptians and have come together to cleanse their country of the political evils that have beset it over the past few decades.

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I’d like to conclude by saying that these demonstrations have brought together people from all orientations in Egypt – the younger generation, the middle class, the older generation, rich people and poor people; even women are taking part in what is completely unprecedented. Whatever happens today, I do hope the country moves forward in the direction of positive reform and that its people’s needs are attended to. It is evident that the ruling party of Egypt does not know how to handle a situation as delicate as this and has stooped to levels of trying to bully its own citizens into submission. Resorting to violence and cutting off communication will not solve the problem and the issues of poverty, unequal distribution of wealth and poor governance will continue remain at large. I hope that the International community chooses to be on the right side of history today because what transpires from this revolution will either make or break the peace and stability of the Middle East in the years to come.

Thank you for reading. This is Sandeep – signing out.

Posted by 2011 02:25 Archived in Egypt Tagged politics cairo east middle Comments (2)

Cairo - Aswan

The ancient civilization in all it's glory!

sunny 25 °C

How's everyone doing? I took a quick tour down to Aswan this weekend - I still haven't figure out why Aswan is said to be located in "Upper Egypt" when it's actually down south. It was really interesting to visit this time of the year, the weather was pleasant and there weren't too many people.
I took the overnight train from Cairo along with a friend from Canada (it leaves from Ramses station at 10PM), there were no sleepers left so I had to sit throughout the journey. Even though we booked first class tickets ($30 one way) the chairs were really uncomfortable and the chairs didn't even recline. It took 14 long hours to reach Aswan, as soon as we walked out of the train station a few hostel owners walked up to us and tried to get us to room at their hostels which is quite the norm here. We ended up booking a room with 2 beds and a bath for 20 LE per person. Not a bad price I thought considering we were only going to be there for a few hours. We set off to the train station again to try and book our return tickets (back to Cairo) and met a few other foreigners there. We decided to hang out together for the rest of the day since we didn't really have any plans. Meanwhile I booked a sleeper train for my return journey ($60 one way) which was a bit expensive, it's run by a private company apparently but I really don't see how $60 for a one way journey in Egypt is justifiable.
After booking tickets, all of us decided to take a felucca ((Arabic: فلوكة‎) is a traditional wooden sailing boat used in protected waters of the Red Sea...) down the Nile and watch the sunset. This is a tricky thing to do because you have to haggle with the felucca men and decide on a price beforehand, otherwise you can get really ripped off (we decided on 30LE per hour for the whole boat). It was well worth it because riding down the river is a quiet and peaceful experience. I must mention that Aswan is a lot less crowded than Cairo, and this was a welcome change for me. Anyway back to the felucca, three hours in and after the sun had set we paid the driver 100LE (including baksheesh) and got off, a few of us went to the Nubian museum in town and checked it out (50LE entrance fee), it was far better than the disorganized mess that is the Cairo Museum. I actually learned something from here, and I usually never learn anything in museums because I'm always in a hurry to get out...

View of the Sunset from the felucca on the Nile - Aswan.
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Mummy at the Nubian Museum
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We had dinner at a local pizza place after this...interestingly enough in most of these places the menu is always in Arabic. Let me tell you why - this is because when foreigners don't know what they are ordering then you can charge them ridiculous prices for something that would otherwise be ridiculously cheap. I ended up ordering a pizza with ham, mushrooms and olives but there was no ham when it arrived, not bad regardless...the meal cost around 45LE.

The next morning we woke up at 3am to get ready for our 4 hour drive to Abu Simbel, all the hotels gather their tourists (the ones that book the tour ahead of time anyway) and drive out in a police convoy towards Abu Simbel. I'm not quite sure why you need a police convoy for this since it looked quite peaceful to me when we reached, but some people say this is done to prevent tourists/locals in the convoy from escaping into Sudan. Given the state of affairs in Sudan at the moment and the political turmoil with the impending north-south split, I really doubt people running away to Sudan is an issue to worry about. Coming back to the topic at hand, the Abu Simbel temples are breathtakingly beautiful...words cannot do justice to this marvel created by mankind. There are two temples there, let me shamelessly borrow from wikipedia to help do the honours again -

"Abu Simbel temples (أبو سمبل) are two massive rock temples in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 230 km southwest of Aswan (about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments,"[1] which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).
The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir."

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The temples have since been moved from where they once were but this is a great story in itself; when the govt decided that the high dam would be constructed in Aswan, it became evident that the rising waters of the Nile would quickly submerge these treasures of mankind underwater forever. This led to a call for action and several countries joined in a combined effort to save these temples, they dismantled them piece by piece with great precision and rebuilt them at a distance of over 600ft above their initial position. Why would they build a dam near such an amazing archaeological treasure you might ask? Well, it was because of several reasons, they wanted to control the Nile's annual flooding and also provide the region with a constant supply of water for irrigation. More importantly, the dam provides Egypt with over 85% of it's electricity, that is a HUGE bonus for a country of 85 million people!

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It's quite humbling to stand in front of the pharaoh's statues and watch the carefully engraved hieroglyphics and the manned precision with which the rocks were carved. A walk inside the temple reveals a spell bounding journey, one of faith, myth, hard work and untold volumes of talent. Every corner of the temple is decorated and painted, every wall tells a tale...how amazing it must have been to visit these temples when the Pharaohs themselves were around. I have been to the Vatican and seen the Sistine Chapel as well but I think this is a greater feat in my opinion - granted that the Sistine chapel was a one man feat vs the temple but I felt it moved me more deeply. While these are both great feats, what is sad to note is the condition that the temples of Abu Simbel are in, they have borne harsh witness to marauding attempts by invading kings, Christian and Islamic invasions. New kings who invaded the region after Ramses' reign defaced the sculptures to prove that they were better/more powerful - A stark reminder of the evils inept in human nature. Also, in the early 1800's, entry into these temples was not regulated so several British, French, Greek and Portuguese citizens carved their names on these temples in an attempt to show that they were there.

Anyway moving on, we went to the temple of Philae after Abu Simbel, this was quite marvelous as well. The detail was simply stunning, it bore the same brunt of invasion that the temples in Abu Simbel did. Also, lots of pillars and rocks were just thrown around in the temple, these might be worth over several hundred thousand dollars in the open market elsewhere but Egypt has so many of these that they don't really care about them anymore.

Finally after a quick visit to the Aswan Dam we came back to the train station, grabbed a quick meal (meat koshery but the meat was missing...haha) and I got on my train. It was far more comfortable than the train on the way here, they served a dinner consisting of chicken, rice, yoghurt and dessert and breakfast in the morning. It took about 14 hours to get here but it was not too bad since I managed to catch some sleep on the way back. A quick wash and off to work it was, goodbye Egypt of the yore...it was time to return to the real world. I can tell you this, I'm going back to Aswan again, I now realize why so many people throng to visit Egypt every year...the ancient civilization has cast it's spell on me as well :)

That's it for now. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed reading...
Take care, this is Sandeep...signing out!

Posted by 2011 08:21 Archived in Egypt Tagged simbel aswan abu philae Comments (0)

Cairo - Alexandria - Siwa

An arduous 1500km trip in two days that cost $70!

sunny 26 °C

How's everyone doing? I recently pulled off a 1500km journey in 72 hours. It was tiring as hell and painful at times but it was worth it, pushing yourself is what traveling on a budget is all about.

Nov 18th - I hadn't slept a wink the night before, mostly because I was goofing around on the internet. My train was due to leave Cairo at 8am, I knew this was going to be an interesting journey given that I didn't have any maps, no route charted out or even a basic plan as to where my final destination was going to be. I took the local metro (train) from 'Sakanat El Maadi' to 'Mubarak' - the central train station. When I reached the railway station my ticket from Cairo to Alexandria (which I bought a few days before) was printed in Arabic so I had to ask around to figure out what platform the train arrived at, the coach and seat number I was going to be sitting in. While the train station was pretty run down, the train itself was pretty decent with comfortable seats and ample sitting space (35LE one way, well spent).
When I reached Alexandria 2 hours later at 10am, I was swarmed by taxi drivers so I walked a few streets down and tried to figure out what I wanted to do from here on. I didn't know anyone in Alexandria, and a friend told me a few days earlier to go to Siwa instead because it was better. I was quite interested to check it out once I heard that Siwa was close to the border of Libya, this would be a good chance to get a good feel for any cultural potpourri that happened across the border. I figured I'd buy a bus/train or whatever ticket I could get to Siwa and travel overnight while checking out Alexandria during the day. I walked up to a couple locals (Ahmed Ali and Ahmed) and asked them where the bus station was to buy a ticket to Siwa. They didn't really speak much English and I don't speak any Arabic; however they were quite helpful and actually got into a taxi (10LE) and took me to Moharam Bay bus station. I didn't quite get what was going on because they were haggling with a bunch of taxi and bus drivers for a while. Ten minutes later they came up to me and asked me to get into a shared taxi and said it was taking me to Matsah Matruh! I thought about trying to explain to them that I wasn't ready to go yet...but was it worth it at that point? I decided to change plans and head to Matsah Matruh right then, there were 8 people in that taxi including the driver. Three of us sat up front and I was cramped in the middle...seat belts were thrown across the torso when we reached a checkpoint, I didn't quite understand why the driver didn't wear seatbelts but when I checked I realized that the belts were actually broken. Anyhow 5 hours and 16LE later we were at Matsah Matruh, now I didn't know how to get to Siwa from here since I didn't do any prior planning. Rasheem, a middle aged man in the shared cab spoke a bit of English and was kind enough to show me where to buy my next ticket. Most people seem to love Indians here which is quite nice...they all know about Amitabh Bachchan and sometimes Shah Rukh Khan (both being popular actors from Bollywood). Rasheem even offered to give me money in case I didn't have enough on me, this was very kind of him. He requested me to read about Islam if I got a chance, it takes a while to realize how important religion is people's lives here...I wish him well for he was very kind.
My next bus which was 4 hours long and cost 17LE reached Siwa at 9PM at night. Siwa is a village that is famous for its agriculture (dates mostly), handicrafts and tourism. It had a very vintage feel to it but I couldn't see much since it was dark outside. As soon as I stepped out of the bus, a bunch of donkey cart drivers approached me and asked me if I needed to find a hotel to stay - Donkey carts are a very popular form of transport here in Siwa. The cheapest place I could find at that point in time was 50LE which was a single room with two beds, big enough for two people. Mohammed (the driver) and Ali baba (his 15 year old donkey, yes... I asked) said they would come around at 10AM the next morning and show me around Siwa, we negotiated a price of 150LE for all the touristy stuff. I didn't really mind at that point so I took it and grabbed a quick hot meal which included rice, meat, veggies and salad (20LE) since I didn't get a chance to eat all day.

Nov 19th - Woke up quite late that morning, non stop travel had taken it's toll on me. I quickly walked out to the common bathrooms (cleanliness in the bathrooms was optional here) and took a quick shower. After a quick breakfast that consisted of a sausage omlette and some chocolate milk (11LE), we set off to visit Siwa. I won't describe this in detail since there is much to write, but mostly because you can google "Siwa, Egypt" and find reviews for sights to see online quite easily. The tour consisted of the following: Mountain of the dead, Oracle temple, Cleopatra hot springs, Sand dunes of the Sahara, Siwa's salt lake and finally the sunset at Fatnas Island. Between these, I ate lunch at a Bedouin restaurant (a desert dwelling arab ethnic group) which included rice, meat, veggies and salad (20LE).

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The best part of all the sight seeing was definitely the sunset at Fatnas Island, definitely a worthwhile experience. It's interesting how a beautiful scenery brings out deep conversations in people, three Americans who sat next to me were discussing their concept of God and love. I sat there and listened as I watched the sun set and disappear into the horizon.

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Anyway, at this point I'd had enough of Siwa and was ready to head back. I took the 8pm night bus out of Siwa (65LE) and headed to Cairo direct (I should've done this on the way there as well but I didn't really plan too well...). I reached Cairo at 5am and took a cab back to the apartment in Maadi (30LE). This was a long arduous trip that stretched over 1500km and cost just $70 - this could've been cheaper if I had planned better. Anyway, personally I thought Siwa was over rated except for the sunset but then again coming from India, I've already seen many villages there which I personally think are far more beautiful. Then again, Siwa is near a desert so it is endowed with it's own beauty in certain ways. I don't think I'll be going back though :)

As always, thanks again for reading.

This is Sandeep, signing out.

Posted by 2011 11:21 Archived in Egypt Tagged alexandria siwa matsah matruh Comments (0)

Visiting the Pyramids on Eid-Al-Adha

One of the greatest civilizations of the past comes to a halt in the present to celebrate a 'festival of sacrifice' this week...

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Eid Al Adha is a festival of sacrifice...I'll let wikipedia do the honours here

"Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى‎ ‘Īdu l-’Aḍḥā) or "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid" is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma'il) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead.[1] The meat is divided into three parts to be distributed to others. The family retains one third of the share, another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors, and the other third is given to the poor & needy."

I decided to take the train to the Mosque early in the AM to check things out for myself. Filled with chants of "Allah hu Akbar", from end to end the chorus resonated through every compartment of the train. Every time the train made a scheduled stop at the station, the crowd kept pouring in and the Mosque itself was quite packed. It was a mad rush towards the mosque, much like the mayhem you can expect to see at Hindu temples during festivals in a few parts of India. I stayed for less than an hour, clicked a few pictures and was on my way...figured I'd catch the train back before the crowd started leaving the mosque. On the way back, I was witness to the slaughter of a sheep and a buffalo. A group of people wrestled a struggling buffalo to the ground, tied up it's legs and with the words "Allah hu Akbar", a slit was made to the jugular vein...it was all over. Children ran from all directions while calling their friends so they could watch the slaughter together. I must mention that the thought of taking a video/picture with my camera crossed my mind but then I didn't want to subject anyone to the gore and violence, some things are better left unseen...I stood there silently dazed and confused, part of me wanted to leave but the other part was intrigued about the process. I realize that life and death is part of a cycle, but I cannot comprehend why there is a need to take another life in the name of religion. Before we point fingers at each other, we should realize this happens everywhere in the world...religiously or culturally. From rituals in Hinduism that promote slaughtering of animals as offerings to Gods/Goddesses to Thanksgiving in the US when turkeys are mass slaughtered for one day, the human race has slaughtered animals for food/sacrifice for eons now. Don't get me wrong, I'm no advocate of PETA...being a foodie myself, I do enjoy my meat. People who know me probably already know I'm not religious by any means and along those lines, I definitely don't approve of festivals that are organized around the slaughtering of animals - especially in the name of religion. I find it a bit ridiculous that animals have to suffer for stories written by men. Reaching back to the story from wikipedia above, I ask you this - if God created the Ram and also created Man. Why would he choose one of his own creations to be sacrificed over the other? God (if he/she/it even exists) should not see any difference between an animal or a human's life...it's obvious that this distinction is made only by the people that wrote these stories. If religion is pure and loving in every manner, then it's followers should learn to love - one another and people from other religions equally. We have divided ourselves a million times over with caste systems, cultural differences, skin colour, social status among many other things...religion does not need to be another reason for a divide. I hope we will someday learn to treat everyone as an equal - we are all human beings first, everything else follows later.

Anyway, enough of my rants...later that evening I went to the three pyramids and caught a glimpse of them before they closed. Getting there was fun, we caught the train to Giza and then took the mini bus (shared-cab style buses driven by private owners, they stop and pick you up and drop you off if youre route is along their way) Walking in, the huge pyramids were a majestic sight - the Sphinx was a bit smaller than I imagined it to be but a great sight to behold none the less. I was a bit sad to see that there was no organization though, once you bought a ticket you were on your own...it took me over 45 mins to try and find the Sphinx. There was a lot of activity in the site, people were constantly trying to offer you horse/camel rides or sell you things. I didn't get a chance to go inside the pyramids since they were closed but hopefully I'll go back another day.

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After returning home, I met up with a local friend here and we chatted for an hour about things to see in Egypt, the local government, religion (one of my favourite topics to debate) among a few other things...

I'll write again when I get a chance...Thank you for reading. This is Sandeep...signing out!

Posted by 2011 11:21 Archived in Egypt Tagged religion sphinx pyramids eid Comments (0)

Organized Chaos

A basic pattern in most developing countries

sunny 26 °C

I have a theory that says most developing countries run on the basic pattern of "Organized Chaos". This is quite simple really, in a developing country there are usually problems with regards to infrastructure, lack of resources and population. This makes people more competitive because they have to struggle a lot harder than people living in developed countries for basic needs. Often times, something so simple such as getting an internet connection, a sim card for your cell phone or electricty can be quite a challenge...having lived in the US for the last 10 years I've become a little spoiled with regards to taking these things for granted.
Being able to pay your bills online, calling taxis from a number found on a website, ordering food/electronics/magazines online etc make life so much easier, so why is it that these things aren't in place everywhere in the world? A lot of factors are to be blamed here, when a government is efficient in it's governance, it smooths out the basic processes in life - for example, having a good metro system with easy ways to buy or cancel tickets, make reservations will make things simpler for the people. When everyday living becomes a simple process, the people of that country can then focus their efforts on being more productive - improving their business, being more efficient at work, sending their kids to school etc. If it's a struggle to get to work everyday because of traffic jams/water logged streets/bad roads, it normally means your workforce is already mentally drained by the time they reach work. This is a serious long term problem that needs to be tackled now, this is not easy obviously given that corrupt and tangled procedures that have been established for generations will take much longer to untwine.

Anyway, today I tried to visit the Black and White desert at the El Bahariya Oasis. This is when Cairo's true colours came out, it was supposed to be an organized tour so I woke up at 5am and went to the place, after getting there the bus tickets weren't booked by the organizer so they asked if we would like to stand through the journey (6hrs one way). When our party refused there was some commotion, we were then taken to a mini bus terminus near the outskirts of the city. It was a double downgrade of koyambedu (a bus stand in Chennai, Tamil Nadu). It's amazing to see how similar Chennai is to Cairo in a lot of ways, then again most developing countries share similar problems which I've talked about earlier. Anyway I decided to pull out of the tour because that was more than enough excitement for a day for me, I took the metro (train) on the way back and that was not too bad really. It's a decent system, obviously not as advanced as NYC/London but way better than Houston :) Plus a one way ticket costs 1LE, on the other hand the taxi drivers charge 30-50 LE to go anywhere unless you can bargain quite well. Oh and I should probably mention that I was quite impressed by the way people buy train tickets here. There's an employee who sits behind a counter, everyone walks up to him and randomly shoves money into the slot...sometimes multiple people do this at once and the employee determines who gave what amount and how much change they should receive in return. All this happens in a matter of seconds, quite interesting that the system works - once again, organized chaos at it's very best. Much like driving on the streets in most developing countries, everyone just drives and finds their way home...there are no lane systems or speed limits.

Also, I'm still fighting to get a sim card here so I can have my own number. I bought a vodafone sim card and a recharge pack for it but for some convoluted reason no one knows why it doesn't work. I'm going back to the store again for the 3rd time tomorrow to get this fixed. There's no wifi in the apartment either, everyone here buys those usb sticks that you stick into your computer to access the internet. I finally got a vodafone usb stick that took about 2 hours of waiting at the shop to get everything set up. Finally, I'm trying to gather info on places to vist/see while I'm here and local people say Abu Simbel, Luxor, Alexandria and Aswan are good places to visit. To put things in perspective distance wise, it takes 10-12 hrs to travel by train from Cairo to Luxor (night train is obviously the better choice), Abu simbel is further south of Cairo so that will take longer. You can travel by plane as well which is faster, however ticket prices are quite different (Plane=$285, Train=$15, see this website for more info: http://www.ask-aladdin.com/luxor_travel__information.htm). Ok then, I guess that's it for now. I'll write more later when I get a chance.
Thanks for reading...this is sandeep signing out!

Posted by 2011 12:47 Archived in Egypt Tagged and oasis desert egypt white black el cairo chaos organized bahariya Comments (0)

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