Egyptians love ketchup….

…almost and much as me. But I digress…. there is so much to talk about before I get to talk about their love for "zee’ beloved sauce"…. Its a match made it heaven, we are. :)

Monday– August 13th… Well, I have learned that when arriving a party island you shouldn’t already be hungover… not a good plan. But then maybe the 2 Euro 1 beer + shot deal wasn’t the best idea on your birthday…. All signs point to "no"– NOT "go." Oh wellz– today is another day! We have made it to the very small island of Ios yesterday– Just a short 2 1/2 hour ferry ride (well, it didn’t seem that short yesterday as the rocking made me feel like death) brought us to the every growing and adored destination for the young Italians, Greeks and Spanish. Basically its a big fat party island… there I said it. Although not in our game plan– I KNOW what you all must be thinking!! We had our sight set on the Island of Chios… Where my Grand father is originally from. We found out that it would have been 6 transfers from the island we just came from Santorini. Dissapointingly unfeasible– and financially impossible with our short time here in Greece. So close yet so far away as the saying goes. So we decided to spend our last few days in Ios and then take an overnight 14 HR ferry ride back to Athens.
I am quite ashamed to admit that we are staying basically at a resort…. 3 pools, 3 bars, 2 restaurants… I can see the ocean from our lawn chairs as we soak up the sun. BUT we are still camping in a little shanty town BEHIND the resort…. Its hysterical.
Hey– if this is backpacking, sign me up for a lifetime pass… this girls found her calling! HA!

*** I just quickly want to say thank you so much for all your birthday wishes and emails. It meant the world and then some!! There was a girl from Vancouver, 2 Canadians, a couple from New Zealand and a girl from Solvakia that helped me celebrate– all that we had met at our hostal in Santorini. It was a wonderful birthday but NEVER EVER the same without your friends and family. I was missing you all something crazy….

We spent Monday night taking in the sites of the "village" which has amazing charm and a labyrinth of white walled streets– very easy to get lost, even if you haven’t had too many! Although we frantically came across the ferry listings for the next day– We had precisely planned our ferry to arrive in Athens just a few hours beofre our flight– but alas, they cancelled our ferry and the next one wouldn’t put us in until AFTER our flight departed! OH ZOINKS! We first called airtreks (the company that we did all our tix through) to see if there would possibly be a later flight– no go, it would have cost us $300 to leave a day later. DOUBLE ZOINKS! We ended up eating the 60 Euro and buying tix through a different ferry company for an addtional 60 Euro. And don’t think we didn’t try to fight it! But in Greece, well- the wind just blows differently…. Lets just put it that way. :)

Tuesday we took ourselves a little treck in the morning to get some great shots and packed up. (of course not after our last "lay" by the pool) Had our final Greek meal (so very sad to let my Greek food go) and were off to the port to catch our now 120 Euro ferry.
And this ain’t no cruise line folks! Although with a beer in one hand a granola bar in the other- crunched in with HUNDREDS of other steamy stinky Greeks- cigarette smoke billowing all around you from other passengers- Rays asks, "So this is your one of your famous cruises, aye? Wheres that all night buffet you keep telling me about?"
Ahhhh… European ferries…. its always an adventure.
Well, after 7 hours and 3 stops later on the big ol’ deep blue we ported at Piraeus–Greeces main port at roughly 1:15am the 15th. It was between figuring out the metro or just hopping in a cab– we couldn’t figure out our heads from our buttocks at that point so cab it was!
And then there we were back again… The Athens airport, home sweet home! HA! Problem was, we were almost 9 hours early for our 10am flight. Super DEE dooper.
I decided to muster up my last bit of strength and spunkiness and use the last of our awesome phone card that had like 3 hours to the states for only 10 Euros– well, that killed an hour… what next…. Finally found a spot to pul out our mats and about 3:30 am only to be rudly awoken by the airport guarda at 4:45am saying "Goodmorning— Move!"Niiiiiice…..
Not quite sure how we got through the next 5 hours (please refer to pictures for further proof of out of body experience) but before we knew it, we were high tailing to Cairo Egypt. Now, if that isn’t something to be marvelled, I don’t know what is.

So let me start off with a "backstory" to our Egyptian fortune…..
Ray & I work with the most fabulous this fabulous gal Jane at the Rivertown Inn. She is a teacher @ Nativity and does the wine dinners on the side. She just so happens to have a best friend Anne that is a principal here in Cairo AND she ALSO just happens to be the most extraordinary person EVER. We first had the pleasure of meeting Anne when Jane brought her to our going away party– "Here’s my card," she says… "C’mon over and stay with me- my door is open!" We were of course stunned– AND overwhelmed to say the least… and it was hard to register at that point how reallllly and phenominal opportunity it would be.
WELLLL…. 6 weeks later to the date we were on our way to Cairo– and we couldn’t have been more relieve and grateful to have somewhere to just "be." And little did we know that out of ANYWHERE we have experienced, this would be that one place that it was almost essential to have somewhere to stay.
We got off ourplane after a very "wide eyed" flight in as we saw the very sandy lands and even a few pyramids from our window. No idea what to expect we were as curious as EVER. Culure shock set in almost immediately…. We were greeted with our first officaly "name sign" (if you can believe it!) and whisked off with our cabby towards Anne’s flat. We spiratically drove through a city that was unlike anything we have every known…. Entraced by the sheer intensity of it all. Ciaro is home to around 20 million– one of the worlds greatest densities of people– not necicaially picturesque, but beautiful– in a completely different way.
After on of my most FRIGHTENING driving experiences (every man for himself and the horn is used as a sight of "warning" which happens VERY frequently) we arrive at Anne’s flat to be welcomed by her good friend Debbie. And what a warm welcome it was…. It instanly alieved the creeping concern that "dis’ was no place like home, tot" feeling that was growing in the pits of our stomachs. :)
Debbie showed us around Anne’s beautiful flat and we felt like home immediately. After a quick nap and a shower Anne arrived home and we couldn’t wait to give her a big fat hug to show her our appreciation for how much she had ALREADY DONE. Debbie and Anne took us to the Grand Cafe that evening right on the Nile– it was nearly impossible to register that we were ON the nile smack dab in EGYPT! The girls planned our itinerary for the week (gawd bless them for we couldn’t be more tinkled pink for someone else to take control) and literally took us under their wings DETERMINED to make our experience an unforgettable one. We had no doubt that these 2 strong, enthusiastic, fantastic women would show us the way.
We had our first tahina (sesamee dip) Tabbloeh (parsley tomatoe bulgar) flat bread and samoosas (filled triangular pastry) along with a few other Egyptian pleasures……as well as our first sheesha pipe. Basically a pipe with molasis and fruit scented tabacco. And then thats when it happened….
A tray of KETCHUP passed by….. of course, I could smell it coming from meters away…. how could this be? In a country so unlike our own… and KETCHUP was their most BELOVED choice for sauce? Oh…. I was shaking with delight! They literally POUR it on their pizzas and dishes… HA! We were laughing hysterically…. This was tooooo much! We even passed by a restuarant the next day that was called … uh huh, you guessed it… "Ketchup."
And then we took in a early night where I don’t think we could have slept better even if it were our own beds.

Thursday the 16th we were picked up by our cabbie Mousa– hired out for the day for 30 pounds an hour….
$1 US dollar is 5.6 pounds
So 30 Pounds= about $5.35 US dollars… Not bad, especially when you can trust them AND take you to their house for a feast….. But I will get into that later….. :)
So off to the mystical pyramids in Giza we went– wide eyed the ENTIRE journey through. Oh if only I could pick you all up and plop you into Egypt so you could understand. Its so very hard to describe– Dusty roads, old cars that are sharing lane space with a donkey on a cart, people crossing the strees at the most bizzare busiest intersections, all transfixed in sort of a foggy like auora– partly to do with the toxic pollution in the air. But still, like I said before– all oddly beautiful. A culture unlike we have ever seen.
Giza is where the most famous of the pyramids lie– Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren, Mycerinus and of course– the Sphinx. (which, as it seems- not quite as large as expected) We only had a glance before we were whisked away to a camel/horse paddock where Ray bargained fiercly for a deal to cover all the pyramids for 120 pounds each– plus another 60 pounds for a guide. Thankfully our previous night with the girls was also a crash course in money, tipping, dressing and batering… so we were already one up on the other tourists.
Before I knew it I was riding a camel– in Egypt– with pyramids all around me. I don’t know if it was the "Santorini bug" of a cold I picked up- or just the whole overwhelming aspect of it all, but the entire sensation of it left me dizzy. It was mind boggling and absoloutly an unforgettable experience.
After helping the Camel/horse pimp understand the dazzling lyrics of Eminem and Convict from his phone- hysterical to say the least- Mousa our cabbie drove us off to the next set of Pyramids in Saqqara where we were able to visit a museum of artifacts and tombs with hyrogliphics uncovered. It was most likely something along the lines of 105 degrees as we walked back to the cab– Mousa smiled and said "its very hot Ms Alyssa?" He then told us he wanted to bring us to his house for lunch- which may seem bizarre, but in Egypt its very typical to be so very generous. Although the way to his house became dauntingly long– and as we came accross more and more dodgy streets I think Mousa saw the concern in my eyes in the rearview window (women are not allowed to sit in the front seat) and told me that the other bridge was closed as there was a oil spill. Phew… at least I knew he wasn’t "stealing us!"
We finally got to his home where we were welcomed with one of the most fabulous experiences yet– Mousa’s wife prepared us a feast- one that I could barely finish, if you can believe it… and Mousa just kept saying "again! again Ms. Alyssa!" Afterwards we played with their 6 month year old little girl and their other 7 year old. It was surreal… Who IS this gracious? What an amazing day… we couldn’t have been any more apart of the culutre then right there in Mousa’s home– just like we had known them for years.
How very surprising Egypt is proving to be….

Friday, August 17th…. We explored the Citadel of Salah al Din and the Khan with the "girls." The Citadel was home to Egypts rulers for some 700 years… Friday is also the day of prayer (work weeks are Sunday-Thursday) so as we entered you could hear the call of prayer being chanted throughout the city. The view of the city was memerizing as it truly showed the sheer intensity of what it means to cram 20 million people into ONE city– incredible.
Then we were off to the amazing Khan (thanks to the amazing driving feat of MS. ANNE!)– its a massive bizaar stretching miles creating a labyrinth of squeezed shops where we found everything to glassware, brasswork, jewlery… well, you name it– they have it. And if one shop doesn’t…you bet your bottom dollar they will find someone for you who does! This very Khan that we when to has been open 24 hours a day for the last 200 years…. Um, WOW.
Anne and Debbie showed us the way as we would have definitely been lost in the sea of insanity… oh how the merchants beg for you attention! Its mind blowing…. From, "hey lady– I like your hair– its funky" to Anne… to "How many camels" to Ray. Meaning how many camels for you wife… ER? And even if I told them when they asked what I was looking and I said "nothing"– they then told me they did in fact of nothing! Wow– what an absolute marvel to walk through those streets.
Then off to the market where Ray picked up all the goodies for our 4 course dinner that he made for us girls at Debbies flat. It was phenominal! (as always, of course) He literally put it all together (mind you without even knowing what he was going to make) in just about 2 hours. Master chef indeed! It was a fabulous evening with the girls…. They are an absolute RIOT. Wow, I think even Anne may have out dranken the likes of me on a few certain occasions! But we absolutely adore them and can’t imagine our time here with out their boisterous and dynamic personalities. We are so impressed with all that they have accomplished and experienced here in Egypt. Absolutely phenominal!

Saturday the 18th….. Was a catch up on life day….
Also Alison’s WEDDING DAY!! Oh its so hard not to be apart of this AMAZING day….. I am thinking about you girl and so very glad that I had the opportunity to speak with you on your wedding day morn’– Wow, what luck! I hope it was the most incredible day everrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Simply cannot wait to hear all about it…. Oooooh I hope our "life sized tastic selves" withstood the evening! (and behaved ourselves, at that)

Hope everything is FANTASTIC with everyone…. We are trying to get all our picts uploaded although proving to be a tough feat on Anne’sDIAL UP computer… Zoinks. :) But we will continue our 5 picture upload per hour and hope to have Egypt up in the next couple of days.

And on just a quick note…. My Maggie Miggins– I hope you move to San Fran goes smoothly! I am so excited for you– give our love to Matt and take care! We miss you!

Until next time….
Your ketchup loving fool and Ray Ray

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