06.03.2010 - 08.03.2010 15 °C
First day back in Cairo, I saw a woman in the middle of downtown eating icecream. Not worthy of a mention in a blog one might say, but she was wearing a full burkha at the time - just try to imagine that!
View of 26th of July Street, Downtown, Cairo
Anyway, I returned to Cairo, mainly because it was an easy stop-off point before my next destination in Egypt, but also because I wanted to revisit the Cairo Museum. Although the first time around the museum was great, I rushed the best parts and missed quite a lot, including the Royal Mummy room which I ended up really regreting. On my second visit, I was alone and I had all day to explore.
Once again, I was really frustrated by the "no cameras" rule and the same goes for all the tourist sights I visited in Egypt. I payed perfectly good money on admission fees and I wasn't allowed to take a few snaps!? Ok, I can understand that they might not want camera flashes (a flash going off every 10 seconds would be annoying for everybody, not to mention the dubious claims that it damages artwork), but to ban cameras all together - bollocks!
Anyway, I digress. Now that I'd visited several monuments, temples, tombs and other smaller museums around Egypt, I could put a lot more of the Cairo Museum's exhibits into perspective. The Royal Mummy room was truly incredible; There are actually two mummy rooms, each one housing about 12 mummies, the main room contains just pharaohs and the second one has a mixture of pharaohs, queens and a couple of nobles. It was absolutely incredible to be able to come face to face with some of the great Pharaohs that I'd read so much about and whose faces I'd seen depicted in countless statues and wall reliefs. These weren't just museum exhibits, they were the bodies of royalty and that fact wasn't lost on me as I walked around the temperature controlled display cases in complete awe. Without a doubt, my favourite mummy belongs to Ramses II who ruled for an incredible 67 years. The top of his head was bald but he still had golden hair locks around the back and sides of his head. A style which seemed extremely fitting for a pharoah of his stature. Other impressive mummies were that of Seti I which was really well preserved and the mummy of Seqenenre II whose twisted arms, cracked skull and smashed face bones show that he died a truly violent death.
It's a shame not having my own photos to show here so once again I have to be a shameless cheat by borrowing some from the internet just so I can show you a glimpse of what I got to see (copyright of all photos in public domain)
Mummy of Ramses II in Cairo Museum, one of the greatest pharaohs of ancient Egypt
The well preserved mummy of Seti I, son of Ramses I and father of Ramses II
The beaten and twisted mummy of Seqenenre II
I know I've already gone on and on about how I could blend in like an Egyptian in previous blog posts, but I have to mention a really funny thing that happened to me in the museum. I was staring at some exhibit near the entrance to the Tutankhamun galleries (I forget what it was I was looking at now) and I noticed a small woman standing next to me who I thought was also looking at the same display. Then as I glanced at her, I realised she had been standing there staring at me the whole time. I saw that her mouth was moving so she was trying to tell me something but I hadn't noticed because I was listening to my ipod (best way to experience the museum in my opinion). I pulled my earphones out and realised she was saying something in Japanese. She must have been in her late 50's to early 60's. I couldn't understand a word she was saying so I said, "Wakarimasen" ("Don't understand"). Then she gestured with her fingers over the length of her eyes and then pointed to my eyes and then pointed behind me at one of the two life-size statues Tutankhamun flanking the door way. I guessed what she was trying to tell me so I pointed at my chest and said, "I look like ...Tutankhamun?". She nodded, I blushed and said, "Arigatou gozaimasu!". She then nodded again with a satisfied look on her face and walked over to rejoin her friends who all looked back at me as they smiled and nodded at eachother. So there you have it, Pharoah Josh!
Anyway, enough self flattery for one blog.
Warning: The following blog portion contains graphic content that may not be suitable for younger readers, discretion is advised.
The tragic events which ocurred on the night of the 6th of March at the hostel I stayed at are a little difficult to report. The "Hostel Massacre" as it has now been dubbed, unfolded over a three hour period in the early hours of the morning. The African House Hostel, which is supposedly very popular with backpackers, is housed inside a large and grand old building in the middle of Downtown Cairo.
Unconfirmed reports had the body count at 72, but there were several mutilated body parts found scattered throughout the area which suggest a much, much higher death toll. None of the victims have been identified though most of the bodies have now been removed from the scene and were lined up ready for identification.
The victims of the hostel masacre
What is now believed to be the murder weapon was found nearby, next to several of the victims severed limbs and covered with blood, most of it thought to belong to the suspect.
The suspected murder weapon
No witnesses have been found, but an anonymous tip stated that the suspect, a male in his early thirties (though he still looks much, much younger) had supposedly been harassed and attacked by the victims over several hours leading up to the massacre. The suspect is still at large and is believed to still be bearing the marks from these attacks...
Well, I can look back and laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn't very funny. While I was sleeping and even during my killing rampage, I suffered a relentent and vicious attack from a vast army of mosquitos. The word infestation doesn't come close to describing it. I only got the idea to collect the corpses after I'd already killed dozens of them and I realised how ridiculous the situation had become. By the time my industrial strength DEET (80%) came out, it was already too late. I should have got out of there when I had the chance, but on the second night I moved rooms and got one of the staff to spray my room an hour before I went to sleep, but this had little effect and the incredibly high ceilings (4 meters) only served to give the little blood suckers refuge.
Typical skyline in Cairo - taken hostel's balcony in the Downtown area
It was with huge relief when I left the hostel the next evening and boarded a bus headed towards the Sinai Peninsula.
Thus my second excursion to Cairo had ended, off I went again!