Live and Well
and Back in the USA
by Jimmy Dunn
Arrived today after flying for two days. I think I am in Texas, as there is no chamber-maid service and it is a bit too quiet. Although I did not tell anyone that I am back, the guys from interoz are on the cell-phone and MK tracked me down from NY...
Actually, Adel Murad wrote that for me on the BBS, anticipating my return. For those who are just now visiting Tour Egypt, I have been in Egypt for the last three weeks gathering new research and working on other business, and have just now returned home. I had intended to hit the office running this morning with a regular story, but I am tired after the trip and Adel is making it easy on me, allowing me to write a sort of wrap up. My last report was filed halfway through my trip home, while I was staying in New York. I had already made the EgyptAir leg of the trip home from Egypt, and all that was left was making it the rest of the way to Lubbock, Texas, which is no small trip in itself, particularly since I was using frequent flyer miles. This involved getting up at 3:15 in the morning in New York and taking an hour and a half car ride to the Long Island airport to catch a 7:40 Southwest Air flight with a short layover in Baltimore and then a longer layover in Austin Texas. In Austin, the smell of barbeque in an airport restaurant was welcome. I finally arrived back in Lubbock at about 5:45 PM. I was carrying about 60 pounds worth of graphic laptop all the way, though I checked in the new bag with the 150 pounds of books and research material I took with me. Hence, this was actually a much harder leg of the trip home than the EgyptAir leg.
Upon arrival, my wife met me and whisked me away to a favorite restaurant before heading home. After saying hello to old George, my English Springer Spaniel, I collapsed into bed. No, that is not exactly right, I became as one with my bed. It was almost a spiritual experience. I slept in until 6:00 am (I usually get up around 5:00), and now I'm back in the office. And while there is no chamber-maid service, there is very high speed internet access and my multi-screen computer system. While in Egypt, I simply had to abandon some of my email accounts, which completely overwhelmed the dial up access, so now the thousands of emails are downloading.
And yes, it is perhaps a bit too quiet, but I have lots of work to do and so I have not hardly had time to consider the difference.
I do have many apologies to make, such as not being able to answer all of the email, not meeting with as many people as I should have and missing some altogether while in Cairo. Of course, I always enjoy Egypt, but in some ways it was a difficult trip. I caught a cold soon after arrival in Egypt, which didn't stop me but certainly slowed me down. And typically, the stories that I filed in Egypt took about five hours work by the time photos were edited and everything was uploaded, and this was usually accomplished after a full day of business or exploration.
I must thank Hebba and the Hotel Longchamps, because much of this would not have been possible without their open hospitality and endless assistance, which as always, made me feel like I had a home, and was at home in Cairo. Their service is one of the prime differences I see between the US and Egypt, which is a bit difficult to explain to those who have not worked there. Because of the high labor rates in the US, one must largely serve oneself, but in Egypt, there are doormen, servants and others to do much of ones biddings, and at a minimal cost. So while I am at the Longchamps, while I might have to work hard, much of the daily burden was removed. It seems like I need only be hungry, and food appeared. If my laundry was soiled, it miraculously became clean. If I required something from outside the hotel, someone would get it. Whatever I needed, there was always someone ready to accommodate my needs. This is simply a way of life in Egypt and coming home requires some adjustment.
Now I am back in Lubbock, but as an observation, Lubbock, Texas seems culturally more removed from New York than New York (and perhaps other large US cities) is from Cairo. It would seem to me that Cairo would not seem as alien to a New Yorker as would Lubbock. Of course, Cairo is probably far safer than New York, but otherwise, the cultural mix, the way people appear to live and the speed and variety of life seem very similar to me. Though I noticed a marked increase in the number of American Tourists in Egypt, I wish more would experience this great country. Those who do soon find out that they had many misconceptions and their misgivings about visiting Egypt were unwarranted. In fact, statements to this effect are the most common message I receive from American tourists returning from Egypt. Their concept of Egypt and Egyptians is always changed forever and they always end up wondering why they were ever concerned about safety.
Another observation about Egypt would be how very inexpensive it is. Of course, Egypt can be as expensive or inexpensive as anyone likes, though I would have to say that Egypt works to be inexpensive these days. The exchange rate is very good. The most expensive way to visit Egypt is, of course, to stay in and use all of the facilities of a five star hotel. But otherwise, fine restaurants are very reasonable. I cannot think of a time when I spent over thirty or so dollars buying dinner for myself and someone else at one of the finest restaurants. Transportation in black and white taxis is downright cheap. One can get just about anywhere in Cairo for not more than three or so dollars. I had my whole bag of clothes cleaned, and they did a very good job at Canada Cleaners just behind the Hotel Longchamps for less than $10, including some dry cleaning. And I purchased a pair of khaki pants, several pairs of socks and several designer T-shirts for about $50, all made of fine, soft Egyptian cotton. Price wise, with the rate of over six Egyptian pounds to the dollar, there have been few times that Egypt has been less expensive. Even gold jewelry is very reasonable.
In fact, outside of Egypt and in some specific locations, even five star hotels can be very reasonable. At Stella di Mari on the Egyptian Red Sea Coast, considered a very fine resort, the five star hotel was only $50 per night, while the very nice four star hotel was $30.
Otherwise, Cairo seems not to have changed much from my many previous visits. The people remain warm and friendly and the streets lively and crowded. Zahi Hawass I believe has made some nice changes at many of the important monuments, effectively making it more difficult for vendors to pester the tourists by, for example, building a wall around the Great Pyramids at Giza. Some tourists I spoke to didn't much like this wall, but they would appreciate it much more had they experienced the problems of visiting Giza a few years ago. Of course, there are also a number of new hotels. There seems always to be new hotels in Egypt.
Now, on day one back in Lubbock, I am already missing Egypt and all of the friends left behind. I am missing the way of life in Egypt and even the noise of Cairo. Of course, I have considerable work to do, catching up in the office but also writing new stories using the research from my trip, and I have considerable information to share with our readers. So this will be the last of my "travel journal" for this trip, and tomorrow we will be back to more serious articles about travel and antiquities in Egypt, beginning with our interview of Stephen Harvey with Chicago University's Oriental Institute, who conducts excavations at Abydos.
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Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011