[ The thing about travelling in Egypt is that, no matter how far away you are from home, you just don’t miss your mom …………….’cos there are too many ‘Mummies’ around ! 🙂 ]
Now that I had just seen the Great Pyramids of Giza, my next destination had to be the world re-knowned Egyptian Museum at the city centre, that among other things, housed the ‘Mummies’ and some of Tutankhamun’s treasures !
Outside the Pyramids complex, I was appalled that the cabs there, now demanded double the amount to go to the Metro station, compared to what I had paid in the morning to get here ! Disgusted, I walked down the road, hoping to catch a bus to the station.
At the bus-stop, I noticed a Western guy along with an Arab youth, waiting together. I went up to them and asked, “Hi ..can you tell me which bus I can take to the Giza Metro station ?”
“Yeah…….I can tell you”, replied the Western guy, “…….but that’ll cost you 5 pounds!”
[ What in heaven’s name is with all these guys here at Giza ??? Am I the only honest/generous person left in this world ? ]
“Just kidding, dude….”, he added, “……..we’re heading that direction too …..so why don’t you come along with us ? “, he offered.
I agreed, and since there were 3 of us, we decided that it might work out better to take a cab. We stopped the first one that came by and got in………..
The Western guy – an American, named Quinn was doing a 4 month internship here at the American University of Cairo, and his friend was an Egyptian who called himself Ramy, and studied at the Cairo University. These guys had just gone on a horse ride into the desert around the Pyramids, and were equally frustrated with the number of touts, who apparently kept pushing them around, telling them what to do, where to go and finally extorting money !!!
Quinn was from New York, and strangely was wearing a heavy stubble ….which he explained was in an effort to try and merge with the crowd ! [ But obviously, that didn’t help, ‘cos the skin was different !]
We got along very fast, and over the taxi ride, as Quinn and I chatted, Ramy seemed to be involved in a major verbal argument with the cab driver …….. in Arabic ! Quinn and I were wondering what on earth was the whole fuss about ….we could barely make out though, that it had something to do with the taxi fare !
As we reached the Metro station, I paid the 8 pounds for the Taxi, where as the other two guys paid for the metro tickets. As we waited for the train, Ramy explained that the whole argument with the Taxi driver had been because he wanted to charge extra money since 2 of us were foreigners ! [ Crazy logic, I say !!! ]
As we chatted, each of us were describing our backgrounds……..Interestingly, Quinn had heard about Bangalore ….about it being the Silicon Valley of India !
I asked Quinn, about how badly the folks back at New York hated us Bangaloreans ….for stealing away their jobs [ ……..or getting them ‘Bangalored’ ! ] …….but he was of the opinion these were just heavily bloated speculations created by the media, and in fact, not too many people bothered about it. Atleast, not about the Call Centres being transferred to India……. because Call Centre jobs are not considered very fashionable in the West anyway !
According to him, if someone called-up an American Call-Centre, he/she most probably would be greeted by something like …… “Yeah ….what do you want ?” ………obviously, some sad guy, without any job-satisfaction and lacking the education to find a better job would have answered the call !!! On the other hand, whenever he called up the Customer Services of his bank, and experienced very polite and pleasant service, he used to ask them where they were sitting , and it had always turned out to be Kolkata or Mumbai or Bangalore ! ! !
I was impressed ! I explained to him how the Software/ BPO boom was helping transform the economic demographics of India ….about how people from poor families, today, are able to find a good livelihood as soon as they pass out from college ……..all thanks to the industry !
Soon, our metro reached its destination ………we got down at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. We shot some pictures in front of the huge Government building ……..
Quinn and Ramy wanted me to join them for some “Koushari” – a traditional Egyptian dish. But since I had to get to the Egyptian Museum before it closed, I declined.
We exchanged e-mail Ids and split up. I crossed over the Square and entered the Egyptian Museum ! Tickets cost me 40 Egyptian Pounds and I had to leave my cameras at the desk outside, ‘cos photography was strictly prohibited inside the museum.
The place was thronged with Western tourists, who seemed to come in huge flocks of 1000’s of people !
[ With all these guys holidaying here in Egypt, I wondered if there would be anybody left to walk the streets, back in Europe ! ]
Also, finally, after being here in Egypt for about a week, I was able to spot an Indian ! …..a Sardar ! [ …who I sincerely hoped hadn’t mistakenly come here looking for his ‘mummyji’ ! ]
The museum was huge !!! …and contained collections from all phases of Egyptian history – right from the early Pharoahs through Alexander, Julius Caesar to the later Arab rulers………Stopping at every single artefact present and reading about it would take a solid 3 days , and obviously I didn’t have so much time ! Hence I just walked around, giving not more than a perfunctory glance to most of the exhibits, but concentrating on the stuff that interested me.
And one of those, was the section attributed to Tutankhamun ! This was the most frequented section of the museum, and included all sorts of paraphernalia discovered in his tomb by Howard Carter and Co, back in 1922, and also a glitterring display of jewellery – which were specially housed in a fortified room ! The jewels were fabulous ……….my eyes were bedazzled seeing such a rich collection of gold, silver ,rubies etc………….and it is said that these were just 25% of the total treasures present at the tomb !
I got the creeps thinking about the billions and billions of dollars that these might be worth !
More importantly the room also housed the Golden mask of King Tut, which possessed resemblance to the boy Pharoah’s face, and also a set of coffins in which his mummy had been found. The only thing missing though, was the ‘Mummy’ itself …..which apparently was kept somewhere in ‘The valley of the Kings’.
The other important section of the museum was the ‘Mummies Gallery’, for which I had to shell out another 100 pounds to enter ! [ The highest I’d ever paid to see a bunch of carcasses ! ]………It consisted of two rooms on either flanks of the building, and housed some 30 ‘mummies’ of various Pharoahs, queens and high priests ! Each of these ‘mummies’ were about 4500 years old, and were kept in temperature controlled glass caskets.
Amazingly, the facial features of the mummies were remarkably intact……..but the skins were darkened and the bodies emaciated [ ….as part of the mummyfication process, the internal organs of the bodies were usually removed and preserved separately in smaller vessels ! ] …….however, most of the mummies had their hair and teeth intact ! But one peculiar about them was that most of them had yellow teeth ! [ Clearly ‘Colgate Dantmanjan’ wouldn’t have been available those days ! ]
I approached the casket of the most famous inhabitant of the Egyptian Museum – the pharoah Ramses-II [ ……..who, in a highly disputed claim, is believed by many to be the Pharoah of the Exodus – meaning the Pharoah from whom Moses had demanded his people be released from slavery !!! ]. I came close to the casket, and was now face to face with Ramses II………he had long flowing white hair, but was bald in the front !
As I moved from one mummy to another, I was particularly struck by one belonging to a queen…….what was wierd was that her face resembled somebody I knew, or had seen in flesh and blood !!! …….but I just couldn’t get who………I stood there for a few moments thinking in vain !
Also exhibited at the museum, were a huge collection of ‘mummies’ of animals …….like rabbits, boars, cows, and even a huge 15-feet long crocodile !!!
Finally, by about 5 PM, I decided that I had seen enough carcasses for a day, and exited the museum . I walked back to my hotel, and relaxed for a few hours in the pool, wiping away the exhaustion of all the travelling I had done during the day !