Egypt..Where it all begins

Mahatmi and I arrived in Cairo at 10 PM with last direct flight from Amman. With visa approved in our passport, we thought everything will be just fine. But it was not. The immigration officers hold our passports for at least 1 hour without any explanation. Everything gets worse since no one speaks English. After 1 hour waiting, an officer (with better English than others) came to us and asked why we want to visit Egypt. They did not trust us as tourists. They thought we’re Indonesian student who plan to take a degree in Al Azhar University. Since the answer is no, they assumed we have a plan to find a job in Cairo. We tried to explain that we already have a job and we just want to see Giza. Return ticket, hotel booking confirmation, tour booking, and company badge are the supporting document. And after 1 hour, they released us to enter Egypt. We spent 5 nights in Wisma Nusantara during our stay in Cairo. Wisma Nusantara is a boarding house for Indonesian student. Formerly, this house belongs to BJ Habibie, Indonesia’s former president, before handed over to PPMI (Indonesia Muslim Student Chapter). Later on, PPMI transformed this 5 storey house into PPMI headquarter, library, and lodge. All benefits from renting the rooms will be used to buy the books for library. Thumbs up! We plan to visit Giza pyramids in the next morning. Mahmoud, our tour guide, picked us up at 8 AM. To have better understanding about Egypt ancient history, Mahmoud suggests us to go to Memphis first, then Sakkara, and ended in Giza. Ancient Egypt has 30 dynasties and divided into three kingdoms: old, middle, and new kingdom. Memphis, as the oldest capital in the world, established in Dynasty 1 while Sakkara in Dynasty 3. Both are in Old Kingdom. We saw a giant statue of King Ramses in Memphis. Lying down in the same place where he was found. Giza is not the only place in Egypt with the pyramid. In Sakkara, you will see a pyramid complex which built by an architect named Imhotep. Inside the complex, there is a monument where the king will fight with lion. If he win that battle, he will remain as the king. Mahmoud told us that archeologists are still working to reveal mystery of Ancient Egypt up to these days. The excavation funded by Egypt government and Unesco. It’s possible the story that we hear now will completely different based on latest finding. For example, there is a site believed as queen’s tomb for so many years until the archeologist revised it into queen’s maid tomb after they found new evidence. IMG_7777 I always think that Giza in the middle of the desert, but it’s not. It’s Saturday when we went to Giza. A lot of crowd and Mahmoud warned us about tourist trap. There will be a man whom insist you to take a picture with his camel. Or suddenly, two men will come to you, shake your hand, take a picture, and then ask you for money. Pyramid is a king tomb. The king believes pyramid will help him to reach life after death. People believe, king is God’s child. In Giza, there are 3 pyramids built within one dynasty. Three kings believed buried here. You will find nothing (maybe not yet) inside the pyramid, only empty chamber. At least 3 millions stones needed to build a pyramid. Those pyramids guarded by Sphinx, a statue with body of lion and head of man. At night, you may see the sound&light show in this pyramid. It’s basically a laser show combined with history telling show. Nice but not that nice. IMG_7816 Citadel is one of the must visit places while you are in Cairo. There is a Muhammad Ali’s mosque. No, not Muhammad Ali the living legend of boxing world. Muhammad Ali is the founder of modern Egypt. The architect who design this mosque is the same person who design the blue mosque in Istanbul. From citadel, we went to old Cairo, where we can find the hanging church and sigagog. I never had chance to go inside the Sinagog while we were in Jerusalem. And in Cairo, I sat down, inside the Sinagog, listening to Mahmoud explain about the modern Egypt history. Once upon a time, Egypt has 2 prime ministers, a Moslem and a jewish. After Egypt – Israel war, almost 2 million Jewish in Egypt moved out of the country. It’s because people always see Jewish people as a spy. That 6 days war forced Israel to offer a peace agreement. One of the agreement is Egypt must also have every military equipment which owned by Israel. Egypt army is one of the strongest in the world. Every man in Egypt will be randomly pick to join Army after graduated from high school. Doctor and Engineer also listed in top priority. After 1 year in Army, the selected one may choose whether they want to stay in Army or not. Mahmoud always called him as a lucky man. He was not selected to join the army. Tahrir square is our next pit stop. The famous square located in downtown of Cairo. It’s a center of everything. From the crowd of people until donkey. Yes, you will find donkey in main street of Cairo. Old buildings with spider web and dull paint are common to see. Tips: You may not put your expectation high when imagine about this Cairo’s city centre. We met a lot of military tanks in front of Egyptian Museum. It remains me of Egypt first revolution which apparently (according to Mahmoud) started in Facebook. Once upon a time, there was internet program across the country. Almost all Egypt people can get cheap computer and internet. Young people start to get know social media, such as Facebook. They start to show their expression thru FB, especially about politics. At that time, Hosni Mubarak has been Egypt’s leader for more than 3 decades. One day, there’s a young man died while arrested by police in Alexandria. His family is one the powerful family in Alexandria, so they want to drop charge to the police. This story spread out all over the country. The video of this young man being uploaded in the Facebook. The first plan is to ask police minister to step down during police anniversary. Thanks to Facebook, almost 5 million people stand together in Tahrir Square for this action. To dismiss this crowd, Mubarak’s government release all convicted criminals from prison. The intention is to make the crowd leaving the square for guarding their homes from the criminals. However, the crowd were getting bigger. And the police started to use tear gas and bullet to dismiss the crowd. Every action being uploaded into Facebook. Then the government starts to cut down the electricity, water and finally the internet. The situation became chaos for the next couple days. Until one day, Mubarak was step down from his chair as President, after more than 30 years.  The second Egypt revolution happened because people of Egypt see the new government (by Moslem brotherhood) is not fulfil their promises. At the early of first revolution, IM promised to bring Egypt into new era using Qur’an as guidance. Theypromised to close bars and banned alcohol selling. But, they are not. And it’s also believed that military still have power and influence in this country. I always imagine Alexandria is one of the most beautiful city in the world. Founded and built by the Great Alexander. It must have French influence in every inch. Well…the buildings are having French influence, but the terms of “beautiful city” seems not right. It took 4 hours from Cairo to reach Alexandria. Before heading to the city centre, Mahmoud took us to Catacomb, Pompey Pillar, and Roman Theater. Catacomb is an underground family tomb complex. You will see a lot of chambers which also the place to buried the body. The famous tourist spot in Alexandra is Citabay with a fortress in sea front. It’s so smelly in Citabay. I think people take a pee everywhere in this place. However, Alexandria has the second biggest library, named Bibliotheca Alexandria. There are six million books in the library which opened since 2001. Inside the complex, there are also museum and art gallery. The other good things in Alexandria is the food. Home made ice cream is delicious, the koshary is yummy! IMG_7940 We’re so lucky to get know with Indonesia’s student while staying in Cairo. In the next day, Mas Agus, Mas Mukni, and Mas Muslih, took us explore the other side of Cairo. Live like locals, that’s the idea. We went to Ibn Tulun Mosque, Imam Syafii graveyard, Mosque and University of Al Azhar. It is not easy to graduate from this university. If you failed in one subject, you must take all subjects you have taken in next year. No exception. There is no tuition fee in Al Azhar, you only have to pay for the living cost, which is so cheap. No wonder, you will find a lot of Indonesian student in here. If you are that brilliant, you will get bachelor degree in 4 years. But it will take more times to complete master degree. The university even put 8 years as maximum time to finish your thesis. If you interested in becoming lecturer in this university, you should be a phD in age 30. It took 1 hour to fly from Cairo to Luxor in the next day. Funny story during our flight, somebody even pick up the phone while we’re in the airplane, 5 minutes before landing. Yes, still inside the plane, I still can see the cloud! We went to Karnak and Luxor temple in the afternoon. Those temples located in huge complex and it’s so beautiful especially at night. Karnak and Luxor temples in east bank, while Valley of the Kings is in West Bank. There is a Nile river in between. Valley of the kings is a graveyard complex of the kings during ancient era. This area selected as one of the top hill is like a pyramid. We choose to see 3 tombs in this valley. The only tomb with the mummy is Tutakhamun’s. The biggest tomb belongs to Ramses II. There is also the tomb of Ramses’ son who has 40 wives and 190 children. The west bank also has The Hatshepsut Temple, built by an architect who fall in love with Hatshepsut. IMG_8235Hatshepsut was the first queen in ancient Egypt. She always declare herself as the child of Amun-Ra, the God of Sun. To be a queen, she sent his half-brother to a war. After 20 years ruled the empire without any war, she passed away. Her half-brother replaced her as the next king. He hate Hatshepsut that much so he destroyed anything related to her. On our way back home, we see the new temple just built. Archeologist just found the statue of Ramses II in a farmer back yard. A lot of tombs just found in Luxor recently with the treasures inside. People in ancient Egypt believe there is a life after death, so they always bring their fortune buried with them. People said, Egypt always proud for its ancient…up to now. More stories are illustrated in my web album “An Illustrated Journey”

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