We first flew to New York, and since New York isn't in the subject of this post, I'm going to pretty much skip that stuff and get right to flying to Egypt:
The flight was full, but it never felt crowded, mostly because we were on a gigantic 767:
Because this trip is for our 10th wedding anniversary, one of the flight attendants hooked us up with a few empty seats in an exit row. Before he helped us out, he quizzed me quite a lot, asking if I was British, to which I answered, "I'm American." He wanted to know my lineage -- is anyone in my family British? "No," I answered, "Irish and Native American as far as I know." Is my wife British? "Nope, originally German and Swedish." He saw the tattoo of Akira in his schoolboy outfit on my elbow and asked why I have a British boy on my arm. "He's Japanese... His name is Akira." A fellow passenger confirmed the character was Japanese, but said it in Arabic.
He then said "My Irish friend, I will help you, for we both hate the British." He explained that in the 1952 revolution for their freedom, many of his Egyptian family members were killed by the British and he hates them.
That's when I realized, with absolute certainty, that I was going to a completely different place than I've ever been before.
We could see the Great Pyramid from practically every part of the hotel. Here it is from the main dining hall:
And here it is from the balcony, along with some pretty girl and the monstrous tattooed gentleman she was with:
Mena House was where Jimmy Carter stayed during his visits to Egypt during the the Camp David accords. They are very proud of this fact. They showed us the bench that Jimmy Carter sat on:
And the bed that Jimmy Carter slept in:
The ornamentation around the hotel was amazing. All of the celings were inlaid with this pattern:
And there were quite a few chandlers around the stairwells, this being one of the more festive ones:
And this is the front lobby:
We then headed out of the hotel for a bite of dinner. The first thing you notice when you drive through Cairo (aside from the fact that absolutely NO ONE follows any driving rules, lanes, lights or signs anywhere whatsoever, and this is not hyperbole) is the grafitti. It's everywhere. Our guide explained that some of it is just random stuff, but a lot of it is anti-Mubarak and pro-revolution graf:
There are people lined up in the most random places to sell things. You will see new residental construction, an auto shop, and then kids toys, all on the same block, almost randomly:
After visiting one or two shops, we came out to see this:
And this was a pretty quiet street, comparatively. As I said, shops selling almost anything and everything are everywhere. This clothing vendor was next door to this American Girl baby doll ripoff store:
The vendors were fairly tenacious as you walk down the street. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- has something to sell, and "no thank you" isn't enough to discourage them. They simply want a dialog. But more on that tomorrow, as there's a LOT to discuss with that entire topic.
We returned home to our hotel, and this was the view of the Pyramid that greeted us: