Greetings from Cairo (and Alexandria)

As a child, I used to daydream about the Pyramids. I honestly thought I would never see them, and that if I ever did, it would have meant that I had really truly made it in the world. But it didn’t feel that way once I was there — it was sorta underwhelming — there was no mystery or awe to me. That said, the Pyramids are huge. When I was there, it was a little hard to see them from afar because it was foggy. Then I realized that Egypt doesn’t get fog — or clouds, ever! — and that the fog was actually pollution. Yuck.

Other than the Pyramids, Cairo is kind of a dull place. If it weren’t for the enormous revolutionary demonstrations (which were very peaceful from what I saw, despite what I read in the news), I would be hella bored. The tanks on the street corners, however, are very eerie. As far as I can tell, nearly everyone in Egypt supports the military and opposes the Muslim Brotherhood — I don’t understand how they won the election in the first place. Everyone I’ve talked to insists that there was no military coup, no matter how I phrase it, and that the military is representing the democratic will of the people. And every time a military helicopter flies over, the streets erupt in loud cheers — which is much different than the G20 in Toronto.

Also, revolutions inspire the best graffiti, which I will show you soon, despite my earlier promises.

Sad to say, but I am very glad to be leaving Egypt. It’s a place where you can’t trust anybody (even your hotel concierge!) unless you have friends here, have to be constantly mindful of your surroundings, and there is rampant corruption at all levels, everywhere (I have never refused a request for a tip from a man with a gun, police officer or otherwise, and I don’t think I ever will). Societies that operate like this will never prosper. And the food sucks. Except for the ancient sites, and the beautiful Nile in Aswan, and the revolutionary celebrations, it is not a great place to visit.

Greetings from Aswan and Luxor

Egypt is pretty nuts right now. The economy is depressed since the revolution and there seems to be no order, although I can’t be sure it wasn’t always like this. In Aswan, I stayed in Elephantine, a friendly Nubian island in the Nile where everyone was very muslim.

There’s nothing like seeing your first ancient Egyptian monument.

In Luxor, merchants, taxis and scammers are unbelievably aggressive, more than anywhere else I’ve ever been — it’s actually pretty ridiculous. At the Valley of the Kings, you’re not allowed to take any photos (even outside in the desert), so just believe me that the well-preserved, original, colourfully painted tombs are something else.

Also, there are never any clouds and it never rains. Ever.

At Edfu Temple, a young little girl named Zamza was following me around trying to sell bracelets to me. I don’t like to transact money with kids as a matter of policy, so instead I gave her my rubik’s cube and showed her the idea. She was very excited. I explained to her that most people find the rubik’s cube difficult because they see only the square pieces (54 of them), but that there are actually only a few side pieces (12) and corner pieces (8) that act independently — in simpler words, of course. She was lovely. Hopefully she will get the hang of it.

And it turns out that ancient Egyptians worshipped wifi just like the rest of us.

Greetings from Istanbul

Don’t have much I want to say… I’m still livid following an event involving two exploited child beggars, their ruthless pimp, and an ensuing confrontation with said pimp and yours truly.

But if I had to choose one picture to best describe Istanbul, this would be my pick.

 
UPDATED (21 July 2013):

· Walking through Istanbul, you can just tell that this place was once the centre of the world.

· Turkish ice cream is very good (basically chewy hard ice cream). I don’t know why I never heard of it before.

· Every night, Turkish families would break their Ramadan fasts on picnics around the mosques — it was wonderful to watch.

· And the great thing about the mosques is that they provide a nice little spot to nap inbetween exploring in the middle of the day (well, if you’re male).

· Before coming, everyone would say to me “Turkey is amazing”, but what I think they really meant to say was “Turkey is very nice, and Istanbul is amazing“.

Greetings from Bodrum, Selcuk, Pamukkale and Goreme

Don’t go to Bodrum.

Selcuk is a lovely town with even lovelier people. By my count I have seen 7 ancient Greek/Roman theatres, and I was still taken aback at how large the theatre in Ephesus was.

Pamukkale is actually kinda surreal. I don’t have any nice, proper photos, but luckily the internet is full them. It really does look like that.

pamukkale11.small

Cappadocia is another surreal place that looks like another planet. To understand, you will have to google it, because one picture won’t suffice. It just makes you a little sad when you see the underground cities, knowing people lived like that.

And just an aside: One of my favourite things in Turkey is that fruits and berries grow everywhere. Fresh mulberries and blackberries straight from the tree! Walking home and feel a little a hungry? Just grab some apricots from the apricot trees lining the street! No big deal.