When we found out we were going on this four month contract, Steve and I both assumed we were spending half of our time in the Caribbean and the other half in the Mediterranean. Not a bad gig. However, when Steve was home over Christmas, he was showing off our itinerary to a couple of friends at www.ncl.com, when he stumbled upon a nice treat – our itinerary included a stop in Egypt, or, as we began calling it out of pure disbelief and excitement, F@cking Egypt.
As it turns out we have three stops in Egypt over this contract.
The ship itself docks in Alexandria, Egypt, a huge port city. Cairo itself is 3 hours away by bus. Hence, the Shore Excursion Desk is quite busy as pretty much every single person on board, including a lot of the crew, wants to head out to Cairo.
Each stop in Egypt is an overnight, meaning the ship stays docked in Alexandria until the next day. That means no curfews for getting back on board! And it means you get to stay overnight in Cairo if you wish.
The Shore Excursion team offers a fantastic package for crewmembers to travel to Cairo. It is almost half-off the price of the passenger package and it is the exact same trip, complete with a stay in a five-star hotel. The trip includes visits to all the major museums and attractions and your meals. It was a ton of stuff packed in just two short days, so I am breaking up the trip into a couple of blog entries, so you don't get overwhelmed by the fantasticness of it all.
In fact, the worst part about the trip was having to use the bathroom on the bus. Which reeked. And literally emptied out onto the road. Yep, when you flushed it just went onto whatever was below.
Our first stop in F@cking Egypt was the Citadel built by Muhammad Ali – the leader, not the boxer, and a trip to the mosque he commissioned, called the Alabaster Mosque. It is an exact copy of the Blue Mosque in Turkey, and it is breathtaking. It is lit only by three hundred and sixty five lanterns that hang from the ceiling, representing every day of the year.
I think we were still overwhelmed that we were in Egypt, and I know I personally didn’t listen to a word our tour guide said about the Citadel and the mosque. I was too busy adjusting the fact that I was in another place.
And I think I really wanted it to feel foreign. I wanted to feel extremely out of my element, but I didn’t. Once I got over the Arabic signs and the camels and the armed guards, I realized it is really hard to feel out of place anywhere when you are American and with a tour group and a lot of the money made that day will be directly from your visit. You are being catered to. And I wonder how much was suppressed, how much resentment or curiosity the merchants and tour guides silenced so that it didn’t interfere with our spending.
We were sort of hurried out of the mosque because it was going to close its doors to non-Muslims. The call to prayer was bellowing all over Cairo, reminding us that this attraction is still used for what it was built for. And that there is still a whole world beneath the surface and the pictures and the tour guide’s words that we will never get to experience.