The ship pulled into Port Said early, and we were docked when we awoke at 5:30 AM. We had been warned not to take pictures going into Egypt or Israel ports because gun boats escort the ship, and the countries do not want it publicized. There are also underwater charges in these ports and we were advised not to get alarmed if we heard boom-boom in the night. Being on the bottom deck, I was surprised we only felt one charge and it wasn’t too bad.
After breakfast in the dining room with our long day ahead, we boarded our bus at 8 AM. I was delighted to learn ours was the only bus with facilities, especially since I’d read a news article that said there was “no place to go” where we’d be touring. Our driver had so many rules about using the John, though, that our local guy suggested we just take him with us. At this point I think it is a good place to tell of the overdressed lady who always managed to get the front seat of our no smoking bus, no matter what. And she would save the seat behind her for someone she knew, but no one ever wanted to sit by her. Her husband got on later, he was confident she’d have saved him a seat. She was the brunt of many jokes. She even took her makeup off in the restroom on lunch breaks and reapplied it. As Scarlet would say “Thank goodness I’m not that vain.”
Enroute to Cairo we crossed the eastern Sahara desert. Military bases look like war zones, with huts or tents to house the men on barren ground. Foxholes along the highway with soldiers manning machine guns aimed at passersby. I was able to snap one quick forbidden picture from the bus of a military camp. It is a very poor and dirty country, dwellings with dirt floors and no roofs --- but some with TV antennas. I was surprised to see so much native dress, sheik style. Also camels are still very much used for transportation. Large baskets are still carried on the head without hands, women are washing clothes in the stream, laundry hangs out the windows and on sides of buildings. Donkey drawn carts are prevalent with merchants selling their wares, including produce. Wrecked automobiles are left along side of the road. We saw one that had run into a large tree and had rusted there.
We passed the Suez Canal but it was too low for us to see from the highway. Also passed the Siani peninsula where the six day war with Israel took place. We saw the bombed bridge which has been left as a reminder. The average annual income in Egypt is only $400. Ancient Egypt built their homes out of mudbrick and their tombs out of stone, because they believed life on earth was short and their second life for eternity. It appears their way of life still has these overtones. But the Egyptians are a very friendly people. Everyone waves from their homes, businesses, and their cars. Even the soldiers! And to those who are fortunate enough to have cars use their horns constantly. Someone commented that if they lost their lights they could keep on driving, but if they lost their horn they’d have to pull off the road.
After arriving in Cairo, we stopped at the reviewing stand where President Sadat was shot, and across the street at his grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Next we toured Cairo Museum and saw the treasures of King Tut's tomb, including the varied bones. We were told the mummy room was closed, but I broke away from the group and went in and got to view a few of them. I regret that we were too far away to go to Luxor, and go through the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. We were told that King Ramsey had 130 wives, plus concubines, along with marrying two of his own daughters.
We had lunch at the Nile Hilton where we were entertained by a band and a belly dancer. We were warned not to eat uncooked food in Egypt, and some of those who did got sick. We had eaten a big breakfast so we wouldn’t need much lunch. I was bitten by a black bug on my left forearm which stung for quite a while.
We boarded our bus and crossed the Nile River toward the west passing Sadat’s big white house, which had been given to his widow for as long as she lives. As we drove to Giza, and the pyramids and Sphinx, we were surprised to find it was very close to Cairo. Before leaving the comfort of our air-conditioned bus, our guide told us the temperature was 111°. My lightweight, white, cotton outfit served me well. Jim wore shorts and the camel ride chafed his legs. Those of us who wished were left off the bus to ride camels (two humps - dromedaries have one) up to the pyramids. “Fancy lady” rode up with her parasol! I wanted to stay close to Jim because I distrusted the camel driver more than the camel. I tried to get on first but they helped Jim up and off he went.
Every time I approached a camel to get on, I was yanked away and told to wait-wait. Finally, as I got on one I yelled, “Wait for what?” We’ve been warned not to tip midway or you’d be let off before you got there, not even before you were on the ground or they may not help you off. Also not to let them have your camera to take your picture, or they want money before you got your camera back. The only one that was pulled on me was the camera trick, and I didn’t give it to him. The ride itself was bouncy, but it was scariest getting off, as the camel started bending and going down. The ship's photographer deserved a medal for standing at the top of the hill in the heat and dust, amid all the camels, taking pictures of each Odyssey passenger as they approached. Jim, already being at the top of the hill, was able to take movies of the end of my ride.
I debated on going in one of the tombs under the pyramid as we were told it was very low in places and hard to get in and out of. After starting the descent, I could tell my back couldn’t take much of that bending over, and started out again.
Someone hollered from below and said you could stand up once down there, so I decided to stick with it. They also said to come down backwards, which did make it easier. I’m glad Jim didn’t try it, don’t know if he would’ve gotten stuck or not. Ascending the exit was easier, but the Arab down there wanted a tip halfway up while I was still all bent over. I told him I’d give it to him outside, but he said he wasn’t going out. I later saw him out there, so I did fall for that one --- or bend anyway!
Back on the bus to the sphinx, where an Arab tried to sell Jim a “used camel.” Having passed up buying my table cloth, I didn’t give the Arab very good odds. My one dollar Coke even got me in trouble.
After a short stop at a souvenir shop to spend our piastres and pounds, our 3 hour drive back to “our home” began. The purchases here were a Cleopatra plate for sister Joyce (closest thing I could find of Liz there) and an alabaster pyramid for my memory shelf. We passed the Cairo International Airport on the return trip and sat back and listened to the horns below. Our driver also put on a little Egyptian music. The Odyssey had equipped us with a cooler and soda pop for our bus ride, but it was done away with before the return trip, so it was a thirsty ride.
As soon as we arrived back on board ship about 8:30 PM, we freshened up then went on deck to relax and have cocktails. Milt was concerned that Carol might not make it back in time to sail. She and two others had rented a taxi for the Cairo trip instead of taking the tour. We had an open seating dinner but saw our table mates and joined them. No “dressing up” this night. We went back on deck to watch the ship pull out, then headed for our cabin. Another trip to the Steward’s office --- our air conditioner was supposed to be fixed while we were away for the day, and wasn’t.