Tuesday, June 19, 2012

View from a Camel: Cairo, Egypt

My view from a camel in Cairo, Egypt


View from a Camel:  

I just got back from Cairo four days ago.  What an experience.  It really was too much to absorb in the few days we spent there. 
Here are a few of my impressions and observations.
One of my favorite parts of the trip

Democratic elections in Egypt

The Egyptians are holding a democratic runoff election this weekend.  The Islamic Brotherhood may prevail and if it doesn't it seems that the military regime in place will enforce their agenda regardless as they reserve most of the governmental decision making through veto power.
Boy driving donkey cart in Cairo

Media Coverage

The media is full of coverage that is spotty and not always complete.  This must be in part because they do not have timely, reliable sources in Cairo to draw from.  Today MSNBC.com reported on an overnight shooting on the street between vendors that made it sound as if this was a result of political unrest or discord when in fact it was a turf squabble among street merchants.

Life in Cairo

Having just returned from my first trip to the third world, my eyes were opened to the life on the streets of Cairo.  It was dusty, dirty, hot and crowded at times.  Sidewalks filled with street vendors offering watermelons, bread, fruits and sheep and goats.  Children driving tuk tuks (small 3 wheeled trucks often seen in India) in dense urban aggressive traffic.  Donkeys with ribs showing pulling carts laden with bricks amidst eight lanes of choked up stop and weave traffic, blaring horns and unforgiving sun revealed the difficulty of life in this city of nineteen million.
Street scene at Tahrir Square

Street vendors at Tahrir square

Though we went to see the iconic pyramids and The Sphynx, my thoughts were on how these people live on the streets in the rubble of crumbling buildings amongst piles of garbage and scraggly dogs looking for food.  Children smaller than the height of the cars dart out and around traffic weaving their way to a median or the other side of the street.  And beasts of burden fared less well than the people.

Photos from Cairo

King Ramses II
Streets of Cairo
Here are a few of my favorite shots of Cairo.

These young girls were making hand knotted wool and silk rugs at a carpet school where they attend or work four hours a day for five days a week for anywhere from a hear to five years.  Their fingers moved like lightning.  The young lady on the left was about 12 years old and they each had their cell phones in their laps.
Young girls at a carpet school keep
 their cellphones in their laps

I really enjoyed seeing the goats and sheep in the streets.  I know they were being fattened for the kill.  But it was neat to see them eating out of troughs along the streets and sidewalks.  And the youngsters tending them smiled when I waved.
Goats and sheep fill the streets where they are sold
My uncle

Livestock being sold on the street

Pyramids at Giza showing the wives pyramids in foreground

Sphynx in foreground

Buffchic and Sphynx

Streets in Cairo

View from balcony in my hotel room

High rise apts. in Cairo

View from balcony in my hotel room

Two fellows on a bike

Step pyramids

Sunset in Giza

Friday, June 1, 2012

The fence isn't sausage even in Budapest

Raining in Budapest

Rain in Budapest.  Me and our tour guide Katalin protected by umbrellas.
Woman washing window in Budapest
Sunrise was at 4:50am today, but it was the rain that awoke me this morning in Budapest.   My hotel room windows were open to the courtyard and the rain was steady on the roof tiles outside my window.

Pink polka dotted suitcase arrives in Budapes
After a late arrival from Frankfurt last night, I got up this morning at 7:00 local time but it was midnight on my internal clock as it was back home in Louisiana.  As you can see below my pink polka dotted bag arrived safely and was easily "spotted" on the luggage carousel.  Never underestimate the power of a little duct tape and spray paint!

The fence isn't always sausage

Our tour guide, Katalin gave us historical insights as well as art, culture, architecture and the "state of Hungary" lessons this morning.

While she told us that native Hungarians often pay mortgages on their apartments in Budapest of only $3.00 or $4.00 per month, they do pay what amounts to maintenance fees of approximately $130.00 per month that then get pooled and saved for renovation on the aging historic buildings.  While these flats are often only 800 square feet, they seem more spacious with their high ceilings and large windows opening onto fabulous boulevards and vistas along cobblestone streets.

She says that foreigners can move here and rent "a little something" for about $200 or $250 a month and that for $500 a month one can get something quite nice and large.  But for $1000 per month, she reports that you can get a place with an 18 karat gold bathtub!  Now I don't need the gold tub, but I sure wouldn't mind a flat in Budapest.

Our guide, Kathy (Katalin), says that some young couples move outside the city so that they can build a new home but then they are committed to a one and a half hour commute into the city of Budapest each day for work as they have no large highways or freeways here and the narrow winding streets make for lengthy traffic jams.  Then she quickly added, "so you see the fence is not sausage."  The fence may not be sausage, but the gulyas and csirpetke noodles were excellent at lunch.

General who fought off the Turks 

Budapest farmer's market