You wouldn’t read about it

25 11 2005
I need to keep writing because so much is happening. Firstly Egypt is sooo different to the other coutries i have visitied on this tttrip. Its quite insane – but its really really good. I like the differences. I’ve learned alot of things in the short time i’ve been here. And i’m seeing very different ways to do things as well.

I like the age and history of the place. Just before i was smoking a sheisha and drinking mint shai in a ahwa which has been operated by the same family since before australia was even colonised.

Yesterday i went to the egyptian museum. it is the most interesting museum i have been to on my travels so far. When we got there i was disapointed when they would not let me take a camera in and no amount of baksheesh would change this. I thought ok its probably so we don’t damage the architectural treasures they have in here. Well… not exactly. The exhibits are cramed in everywhere and everyone is touching and rubbing them. The art in there is very poorly displayed just crammed in with very little annotation and what annotation there is just states the obvious. But the pieces are incredible! So many ancient coffins and sarcophagi and statues and amazing pieces. I walked around for 3 hours and was overwhelmed with the place. I went back out and hired a personal guide to take me throough the museum. There is so much oworthy of mention from the brilliantly intricate coffins and sarcophagi  covered in hieroglyphics to the statues, to the jewlery. The mummies were a highlight -The freaky black bodies of pharoes who ruled egypt 3500 years ago(they still have their hair! presevred — useless fact: egyptian pharoes had receding hairlines). Also they didn’t just embalm the pharoes but animals for them to take into the afterlife as well. So i saw mummified dogs, cats, monkies – 2 Massive mummified crocodiles which were 7 meters long! Also the treasures from the crypt of tutenkhamen – gold coffins and head pieces etc. Amazing.

 
That night i went out with some people from my hostel and ate traditional egyptian food (the name of which i can’t remember) and then went to an ahwa to smoke some sheisha. We met this really friendly egyptian guy who shouted us sheisha and strange egyptian drinks and he was really interesting. Turns out he was actually an officer in the egyptian special forces!, and was telling us about the current politics of egypt and the espionage that went on around the war of 1973 with israel.

One cool thing about egypt is the totally different way they approach things here. Take driving.
 In egypt rather than driving with your lheadlights on, egyptions keep them off and reserve them for hhighbeaming people who are crossing the street of to warn other cars that they are goingt o overtake. So ytou have tons of cars whizzing around in the dark high-beaming each other. Also ALL the road rules are optional. Eveyone drives through red lights, the lanes do not exist.

Cabs over here are interesting , nI was in a cab when he sped up and caught up with his friend in another car honking and flashing like crazy, they started talking whilst driving down the highway. then he leant out the window still driving and shook hands with the guy still going 80km an hour. Okay…. Not to mention that the cabs aint exactly the schmickest cars you’ve ever seen – the first one i hoped into the back doors actually didn’t close properly and oif you get a seatbelt you are doing well. On the up side these cabs are dirt cheap.

Another thing which is different is que’s – its kind of the same as on the road – no rules. everyone ppresses forwards in a heaving mass of people atowards whatever it is they want – similar to when last drinks are called at a packed bar – but more ferocious. In my case the fiesty free for all was for felafel. People are pushing and shoving and packed in like they are at a rock concert trying to get the chef’s attention, we had already paid and everyone was holding out their reciepts outstretched waving them frantically at the chef. Whe i was watching world news and ther had been some disaster and the army had to deliver food – i used to watch the crowds pile up against the truck as officers threw out food. I would think ‘those poor people, climibing all over one another to get food – look how desperate they are’.
Well actually thats just par for the course over here – whether getting food aid or a felafel its a fiesty mish mash of arms legs and turbans.
I don’t mind it – it makes queing a sport – much more interesting than just standing in line. And i have a natural advantage because i am bigger than everyone else and  can stretch my go-go gadget arms to wave my reciept right under the chefs nose.

I went down to the islamic part of town (a misanomer realy seeing as 98% of the population is islamic) and checked out the markets and mosques. The egyptians are such warm and friendly people. I was just walking to muhamoud ali mosque and some muslim girls asked if i could be in a photo with them. Now i thought that it was really hard to interact with muslim women and was frowned upon for them to be seen talking to a strange man in public, so i jumped at the chance to interact with these girls. Then all hell broke loose – i was suddenly swamped by kids and teenagers. They just started running over to me shouting ‘hello! hello! whats your name?’ and bombarding me with questions and wanting to shake my hand and be in photo’s with me. And they just kept coming.

It was like i was a celebrity! They were all pulling out their camera’s and wanting to pose in pictures with me and shake my hand and take photo’s of me just on my own and wanting to know everything about me.  I was constantly surrounded by kids and teenagers vying for my attention! At first it was really cool, but then it was getting tedious answering the same questions over and over and over. But they were so friendly!
 
I think there must have been a few school excursions going on because no sooner had one teacher herded his charges away then another group would appear. They would wave and as soon as i waved back i would be swarmed (see the photo’s). And they just kept coming, after about half an hour i was trying to escape by going into a military museum but they were there more kids there and again they would swarm up and want to shake my hand and talk to me.
 
Also i’d heard that it was really hard to get a chance to speak to muslim woman but they were all coming up and asking me all kinds of questions. And the conversations with quite a few of the older ones really explode the stereotypes.
<pack of muslim girls (about 16-17)> You are very beautiful.
<me> errr…. thankyou
<Pack of muslim girls> Do you have a wife?
<me> um no… I’m single
<pack of muslim girls> Me too! Do you have email?
 
What the hell? Getting chatted up by muslim girls at a mosque in egypt?
 
 
Anyway i eventually fled the spotlight and hid inside mohamoud ali mosque were i spoke to a muslim guy about islam for a while. After that i went down to khan al-khalili market to do some shopping. I don’t know whats wrong with me.. I didn’t bat an eyelid paying 20 english pounds (50 aussie dollars) on a cover charge to a club – but when it came to buying things which were probably a bargain and even after bargiaining for 10 minutes on the price of something i couldn’t bring myself to hand over any money because i thought i was always getting ripped off. So i didnt end up buying anything. I’m the worst shopper ever.  I also wanted to check out some suffi dancing and spent time trying to find where it was but to no avail. Went and saw a few other mosques as well.
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EGYPT!

22 11 2005
Wow….
What a night!
Ok where do i begin…
Well yes coming to you from Cario, Egypt! I am writing this from a smoky, dirty little internet cafe, in the heart of downtown cairo, its dark and dingy and there are 3 middle aged arabic men crowding around the computer next to me looking at porn… They are getting ‘visibly excited’ by it if you get my drift and one of the mens groins is disturbingly close to my face..
Egypt is going to be one helluva experience i can tell already.
 
Just a quick recap of my adventures in egypt so far. Pleasant flight to egypt (i don’t know where the dispparaging stereotype about aeroplane food comes from the stuff i get is always quite good). As usual i’d done my signature due dilligence for this trip – which meant that i didn’t know what i was doing, where i was going and was planning these on the plane.
**
The dirty old men have left now. Much better…
**
Egypt has this funny semi communist system where anyone who finishes university is guaranteed a job in the public service. As theres tons of people finishing degrees there need to be more jobs. The egyptian solution to this – rather than create new initiatives and enteprises is to create more needless beurocracy. So cmoing through immigration i had my passport checked over – at three seperate points. And this job was done by two people at a time. One to look at the passport and then tell the other one to enter the info on a computer. Yup now i’m not a corporate ‘jack nasser’ bastard who likes to slash jobs. But i am trained to be one(‘Integrating I.T to increase efficiency and effectiveness’ what Business systems prports to do is more often than not a euphamism for replacing people with computers) – and this monolithic neanderthal beurocracy was riciulous! I would have gladly taken a meat-axe to it. In fact i’d relish it.
 
Get through immigrtion and there are tons of men offering accomadation – just touts. I go out to call up a hostel and make a booking. While i am trying to do that men keep on coming up and hassling me for a taxi. Like i’m making calls and they are tapping me on the shoulder and asking me for a taxi. A friendly guard – ended up ‘guarding’ me whilst i made the calls. He then turned around and says "baksheesh". This means "pay me money for doing what i’m supposed to do/give me a bribe". This was fine as i appreciated what he’d done so  i gave him a tip and then went to find the bus to get into cairo.
 
I don’t know how many of you have been standing at an airport at 11.30 at night with surrounded by a group of men all getting up close and yelling at you in broken english trying to get you into a cab – but its an interesting experience – to put it mildly. I ran away from them and jumped on a bus, which  i thought would take me to another bus which would take me to the city. A legitimately friendly guy tried to help me but i don’t think he understood where i wanted to go and so i got off the bus in the middle of nowhere  – still at the airport. If that makes sense. There were no other non-arabic tourists aroud, just groups of men.. all staring at me… okay…. A group of 6 men approached me and one of them tried to communicate with me, they were wearing  uniforms so i thuoght they’d be the best people to ask for help – i tried to communicate that i wantd to catch the bus into cairo. I just kept repeating "Bus, Bus, Cairo..downtown" He told me i was at the right place and to take a seat. He made a phone call. i went and sat down and waited for the big white shiny bus the lonely planet promised would whisk me away to cairo. A family of arabs came on another shuttle bus and i was entertaining the kids with a few magic tricks (ok just one over and over), when the arab ran over and told me "hurry! hurry! bus!" I jumped up grabbed my bag and ran from behind the bus and ran out to wear i expceted the nice big white bus.
There was a bus alright one of the big 32 seaters, totally delapidated, totally empty. ‘Oh crap’ i thought ‘Iv accidently rented my own personal bus to cairo’.. I didn’t want to get on the bus but the driver seemed to get annoyed and yelled "baksheesh".
 
***
Side note – a cat just came into the internet cafe and did a shit and it is stinks..
No – wait the owner is prepared for this and sprays it with toilet spray..Problem solved…Okay…
***
I gave him a pound and when no more money was forthcoming he took me to the bus terminal. There i hopped off because this guy spoke no english and had no idea where i wanted to go.
Man i don’t have time to finish this story as it’s really late and its a long story.. So in point form other highlights of the return journey include.
 
 – Getting harrased at the bus terminal and thinking the bus didn’t go there – walking to another airport terminal.
Saying ”srew  it" (words to that effect) – and relenting to a tout who offered me a good price on a taxi to my hotel (cheaper than my bible – aka the lonely planet said it would cost. I found out when i saw his taxi/death-trap on wheels. Shouldn’t have gone with him but was too tired to go through the hassle again. So went with this guy. I knew driving in egypt was purportedly ‘an experience’ – thats an understatement. Driving in this cab was insane. This guy didn’t believe in road rules, traffic lanes. He didn’t use his ligts except to flash cars to warn them he was overtaking. However he compensated by using his horn constantly. Didn’t believe in red lights either and sailed straight through them. I got scared when we nearly got t-boned, but the cabbie just laughed..
 
Got to destination – after cabbie who assuered me at airport he knew where my hotel was had stopped to ask for directions twice. Gave him the money and he wouldn’t give me the right change only giving me back half of what i was owed. It was not much money and although if i was less tired i would have argued longer on the principle i just gave him a withering look and took my bags.
 
Lurking at the front of the hostel were 3 men. I’d been warned by the receptionist over the phone not to let anyone else come up with me as they would then try to charge a higher price – because then they get a commision on that higher price. So when they hassled me to try and come up with me i ignored them. I walked passed them to the elevator and hopped in. Before i could press the button one of the men one of the men lept over and opened the door and tried to squeeze in. It was a very small lift only big enough for one person to get in at a time and i was standing close to the door – he literally roughly pushed me back into the lift saying he was a security guard and had to come up. I didn’t buy his bullshit for a secound. I asked him a few times nicely to get out of the lift as i was going up alone and wasn’t going up with anyone no matter what he said. He reiterated he was the security guard and tried to start the lift. I’d had enough of this shit. I opened the door stopping him from using the lift and shoved him out. Quickly closnig the door and hitting the button to make my escape. – The lift jammed halfway between the ground and the first floor.
 
The men standing there started to laugh.. The guy who’d i’d pushed out of the lift looked pissed off. I looked around for the problem and after about a minute saw there was a loose wire on the safety door. Mind you that was a very very long minute – with the arabs laughing at the hapless tourist who’d given them the cold shoulder trapped in the lift. I jiggled the wire pressed the button again and up i went.
Finally reached my hostel. Its a dive. But i don’t mind any bed will do. As the receptionist is trying to sell me on some tour i don’t want to do – up the stairs comes the prick who i’dhad to push out of the elevator. He is breathing hard from having to climb up all the steps and doesn’t look happy.
I indignantly tell the receptionist about this tout’s uncouth pushing and jumping into the lift. The receptionist looks over at me and says "this man is the security guard – he operates the lift because it is hard to use". Well why the hell did that guy say -‘no matter what don’t let anyone come up with you’?
 
Anyway apologised and came out bought some food and hit this dive of an internet cafe.
Although it sounds horrible – its actually been quite fun.  I like this dive of an internet cafe, once – because of it’s got charecter. Same with egypt. Throughout tonight i’ve been laughing at myself for the ridiculousness of the situations i’ve found myself in. Who else but me find themself renting  their own bus from the airport for god sakes? One things for sure egypt will definetly be an experience.




What happened in scotland

19 11 2005

Well a quick update on what i’ve been up to in the last few days!  The details are already getting sketchy days blur together.. Apologies for the hasty writing style. This is following on from the previous entry on scotland… 

Went the next day through edinburgh castle which was bloody windy – had a tour which was good (although the tour guide kept making me the but of all his jokes). Saw the crown jewels of scotland and the stone of destiny. Wont go through the history of these objects but they’ve got a long and interesting history. Although the stone of destiny is just a hunk of sandstone with two rusty metal rings attached. It looks suspiciously like a medieval toilet cover.(conspiracy theorists say it IS a toilet seat cover and the real stone of destiny is hidden somewhere) But this is what the kings and queens of england and scotland are coronated on.  Then went for a tour of the edinburgh underground. Some streets in edinbugh were literally built over the top with new streets! So you can acces the subteranian streets which run in a different direction to the streets above. It’s very cooltour with guides dressed and speaking like scots from the era of these underground buildings.

Next day I went p to loch ness to go hunting for nessie and took a number of detours along the way – checking out the highest mountain in scotland (ben nevis), the hill where william wallace defeated the english (the inspiration for the braveheart movie) , glencoe – the valley of woe, and also where rob roy lived (story appropriated in another hollywood movie). Also went up through gorgeous highland scenery on the way and got aqquainted with the sexiest animal in scotland (as voted by scots) the hairy coo. No not cow, – coo Checked out a few castles including castle anthrax (monty python fans). Ended up having dinner with an intelligent american girl called dana (she’s a graphic artist and here is her website – which has some of her illustrations). Next day went out and researched my scottish ancestry which actually goes backto the MacKenzie clan. Which we didn’t actually know so thats interesting geneology for my mums side of the family. Also checked out the parliament, and a few museums in edinburgh before heading to glasgow the next day and wondering through the streets there. Very different to edinburgh, checked out some modern art there which i acrtually didn’t mind and also the architecture of charles mackintosh – who was ahead of his time and pioneered architectural styles but i don’t like his stuff. Cruised through glasgow at night and then back to edinburgh which was my base.

 

 Next day went out to Rossalyn chapel. All davinci code readers should be familiar with rossalyn chapel. Its the place where the remains of christ or acording to the book proof that he had a child and family tree. It’s also reputedly linked to the secret order of the knights templar as well as the reputed hiding place of the real ‘stone of destiny’, and the head of christ. Although beautiful inside – they’ve put a tin roof over the top whilst doing repairs – rossalyn currently appears to me as an aluuring and mysterious lady – who has been fitted with a medieval jaw brace.Well i’ll tell you it was interesting going there and seeing templar graves and symbolism all through the place. Things that really made me wonder. Some of the masonary contains pictures of plants that only existed in America at that time – but it was completed 50 years before columbus discovered america! This has led to very plausible theories that it was actually the knights templar who discovered america. Actually there are heaps of conspiracy theories concerning Rossalyn and the knights templar – not all implausible. Rossalyn is also known as a ‘thin place’ where the supernatural world and are world are suppsedly close and strange things are known to happen. I gotta say it did feel just a little weird in there, and the crypt in Rossalyn i felt strange. But the biggest trip out was seeing a kangaroo in the stain glass windows! But only for a secound becuase it was a modern stain glass window. But still – what the heck is a kangaroo doing in a stain glass window in one of the most holy and sensational chapels in scotland? That night had a friendly local called rebecca show me around a number of very cool bars around central edinburgh, and sampled a number of the local brews.

 

Then up in the morning and flew back to london for a follow up on the drug trial. I’m now staying with alex which is very kind of him especially considering i zipped his jumper over his head up and posted the photo’s on this blog. 🙂 But great news is that yesterday i managed to scam a flight to egypt and it didn’t cost me a dime. Convinced the airline that because i don’t want to fly into new orleans because of the hurricane to give me a flight to egypt. Also returned my scotland guide to the bookshop and exchanged it for the egypt one. So i’ll be there in just a few days which will be really interesting. I haven’t really been to a islamic country before and so it should be quite different from what i’ve been experiencing so far. I’ve bought a book on islam to read up as i really don’t know enough about this prevalent and topical religion. Also a chance to see the wonders of ancient egypt. Also hopefully i’ll be doing some scuba diving at one one of the best sites in the world – the Red Sea down at Sharm el-Sheik. So looking forward to that. Also went out today and did a few touristy things in london, Oxford Street, Picadilly circus, leicester square but main thing was getting my cheque for the drug trial. 1700 pounds in the bank. So now i’m all cashed up and ready to go on the next leg of my trip!





a few more photo’s

18 11 2005
Here are a few more photo’s. I’ll try and update what i’ve been up to soon but i’m too tired tonight. When looking at the photo’s remember i’m taking them with a camera which was broken in spain and which i had to fix with a swiss army knife.. and is still kinda broken – and they rarely manage to fully capture the true beauty of the scene, which is a little dissapointing. But without a nice, ridiculously priced digital SLR, these will have to suffice. Also some of the photo’s appear to be of quite mundane things and i’ve captioned why they’re up there. Eg. the metal shed in these latest photo’s was taken outside a shopping centre and it’s actually a porridge bar!!




Scotish ‘Picts’

11 11 2005
Ok posted up some photo’s from scotland and the day after big night out in england. Gotcha alex – should’ve known better than to buy a top with a zip down the arm and turning your back on me whilst wearing it? Thats just silly. muhahah. Edingburgh is beautiful and as usual my photo’s don’t do it justice. Just a quick one as i’m not at an internet cafe i can hack and the price of  internet (and everything else here) is daylight robbery. Actually daylight robbery was litteraly invented here. The king used to charge a tax for every window in your home  – they made you pay for sunlight, so many people couldnt afford it and had to brick up their windows! So yeah they charge you for everything here!
Will update where its cheaper..




did i say that?

9 11 2005
 
Erm… yes… that last entry got heavy quickly… probably has something to do with the lack of sleep for two days… looks a bit embarrasing now but i’ll keep it up there just for the record.. The latest Travel stuff is down there below the latest  navel gazing indulgance of my ego. So if it is too heavy/boring please just skip it. If you do read it – it’s ideas’s are a bit like a rubics cube –  whilst fun for some to play with, to many  others its just a colourful yet pointless and frustrating mish mash which doesn’t come together the way its supposed to and is best thrown at something. Althuogh its not as fun as a rubics cube – i like rubics cubes… there so bright and colourful and shiny. ‘Ooooh shiny things….’
<runs off in search of a new shiny toy to distract himself from the flaws in his charecter and society –  an iPod nano will do…>




Flirtation with Misanthropy (an insomniacs rant)

9 11 2005
I havent been able to sleep at all the last two nights and i figure i may as well write something to pass the time.
I love the internet cafe’s in the united kingdom – alot of them use the same software which is so easy to hack and hence so free :). I think i’ve paid about a pound for internet access the whole time i’ve been in the uk.
 
Although i enjoy writing in this blog, i do not enjoy the pleasures of anonymity like many some other bloggers. I am hamstrung by the fact that most people who read this will know me. This means that i get judged on what i write and i pull alot of punches on what i write.
 
Its a shame that I cannot complete me rid myself of the tyranny of what ‘they’ (the great mass of unnamed people) think. However it is probably one of the untalked about and pervasive forces in society today. But why even bother with status in the first place? Why care what others think of us?  I  have been asking myself – why do i care what other people think? Who are they to judge me? 
 

I agree with Chamfort who says ‘public opinion is the worst of all opinions’. Because it will not subject itself to rational riguer is polarized,emotional, simplisitic. Complexities and subtelties must be obliterated and it must be simple enough to appeal to ‘the people’ and that is generally a euphamism for ‘the lowest common denominator’. Yet media holds public opinion as soverieghn. Daily there are articles about public opnion on issues. And whats worse – people are influenced not by the merits of an argument but by what most other people think. The reason is that most people couldn’t be bothered putting the effort into weighing up and making up their own mind it’s easier to simply let someone else make the decision or to ‘go with the flow’. And really who cares? As long as the pokies-pub is still open and Big Brother is still on it doesn’t really matter what happens.
Why is this kind of opinion important?
 
The greeks were the first to realise this.
Aristotle was unperterbed when criticised by someone and when questioned on this he says
‘Should i be angry if an ass had kicked me?’. Instead any criticism was reviewed by ones own mind and only if true was it taken to heart.
 
Much later Schoppenhaur similarly says
"Each reproach can hurt only to the extent that it hits the mark. Whoever actually knows that he does not deserve a reporach can and confidently will treat it with contempt’.
 
 Regardless of the accuracy of the opinion of society – where do they get the moral right to judge?

 
 ‘In every country the principal entertainment has become card playing. It is a measure of the worth of society and the declared bankrupcy of all ideas and thoughts’
 
George Orwells big brother may not have eventuated in modern society, but we have a much more nauseating and depraved version which is just as ubiquitous. Media is a two way mirror and reflects what people want to see – hence it is a measure of mainstream society. Media’s rapid descent downwards in an effort to reach as large an audience as possible by waring with other stations to reach the lowest common denominator. Its not just an intellectual descent – the dumbing down of media, but also a moral descent. In england there are topless women on the front page of the most widely read papers (Daily Mirror and Daily Sun), full of stories about so and so’s ‘fantastic affair on the kitchen sink’. Australian media is not too far behind with the success of shows like ‘who wants to marry a millionaire’, ‘temptation island’ a testament to the voyeristic carnal appetites of ‘they’. If Schoppenhauers word are true for a nation of card players, what do they mean for a society who’s principal entertainment is passively viewing the sexual indiscretions of others?
 
 ‘We shall gradually become indifferent to what goes on in the minds of other people when we acquire an adequate knowledge of the superficial and futile nature or their thoughts, of the narrowness of their views, of the paltriness of their sentiments, of the perversity of their opinions and of the number of their errors… we shall then see that whoever attaches alot of value to the opinions of others pays them too much honour.’
– Schoppenhauer
 
How i wish this was true…
 
Whilst I agree with the logic behind this statement i cannot bring this academic understanding into action. To do so although emancipating, would require amputating a prized section of my identity. To alienate myself and walk alone along the road less traveled as an aloof misanthrope. The sacrifices are great and i do not have the emotional strength required. Even now i am imagining being judged for these words. I am conscious of how sanctimoniously condescending this writing sounds. I am conscious of the naturally verbose language my mates will ridicule (take the piss out of?) me for –  let alone the content. I am conscious of the apparent hypocracy of this view given my own often enthusiastic participation in the more hedonistic aspects of society.
  
For example far too often after one too many drinks, my ethics, social mores and inhibitions are drowned in alcohol and I act in ways I never would whilst sober. All those close to me can recall seeing this  numerous times, often in comical ways. A few drinks too many out on the town and as if by magic morph into a person who i do not like at all.  It’s analguos to   R.L Stevensons respectable Dr. Jekyl drinking the potion which unleashes the amoral and devious Mr Hyde.  I’v played with the idea of giving up the grog. It wouldn’t be the first time i’d resolve to. But it would be the first time not straight after doing something really embarassing. Those  other times were just  futile and empty promise as penance for whatever dumb thing i’ve just done (though i sincerely mean it at the time).
 
But ultimatly i know i wont. To do so would remove me from ‘having a beer down the pub with the boys’, ‘coming over for a drink’, and especially ‘coming upstairs for a "coffee’" – (my Mr. Hyde may be unseemingly lascivious at times but is far more Casanova than my Dr. Jekkyl). Alcohol is the social lubricant of society. To rid myself of it is to rid myself of a cornerstone of social activity. Not to mention the source of all my funniest stories (which are also the ones i can’t post here :P). And so i go out on the piss. And i have a good time. I do not enjoy the pleasures of anonymity but despite myself, indulge in the pleasures of conformity.