Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 6: Tahrir to Maadi...WALKING!

Last day, Cairo has been explored to the most, all important (and even not important) places visited...This day has been mostly spent walking!

I met up with Erik somewhere between 1 and 2p.m. parked the car and we went walking along the Nile, walked from Ramsis Hilton in Tahrir square, passed Garden city...Manyal...Other old parts of Cairo...till we reached Maadi and kept walking to street 9. As usual, having a cup of tea (or coffee for ErikImage) was a really good idea after this long walk...caffeinaholics Image. Nice outdoor cafe with nice weather around, chatting and laughing...actually i don't remember when was the last time i laughed that much! About the "simple country guy", i still do every time i remember about it and just can't stop ImageImageImage.

Then some Cairo exotics: Our most respectful subway! We surely weren't planning to go back to Tahrir walking again especially with me starting to shiver from the cold at night and we took the subway, it was ok when we got in but of course, it started getting more and more crowded along the line, looking at the distance we were standing from the door, Erik doubted that we'll be able to go out, he didn't know that we actually ask each other about going out at a certain station Image.

By then guess what? of course we were really hungry and it was time for a decent meal, more coffee/tea and again loads of talking and laughing.

Then the time came...yes, to drive Erik to the airport, after such an enjoyable week, it was quite hard to let him go, he flew back to Norway, i drove back home, both really happy about the enjoyable vacation looking forward to meeting each other again soon (although next time, it's going to be for work) in Doha, Qatar.

Erik in Cairo part 5: The new Cairo - Heliopolis

Monday was the day Erik decided to walk around Heliopolis, the (realtively) new Cairo, didn't do much that day apart from walking all around, having Shawerma for lunch...i mean dinner Image, and having just good time together.

He also gave me a really beautiful gift Image, but i'm not telling you what it is Image.

Later i took him to City Stars for a cup of coffee (and a cheese cake with strawberry syrup), and had a long nice chat.

It was one of these days that you just happen to relax in and enjoy your time, then go home in the best mood ever Image

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 4: Old Cairo and a very nice dinner

Saturday started with Egypt's most famous Azhar mosque , we went in, walked around and a nice man there told us the history of the mosque through the years which was quite a lot of new info for me as well, the mosque is really impressive and just hearing how active it was through the years teaching seroiusly all the students from around the world different arts and studies of language and Islam makes you feel the hugeness of this place.

Next we went around the Hussein mosque and into Khan el Khalili, Cairo's most energetic bazaar, with all the souvenirs, jewellery, spices and much more all around it and of course crowds of people, then we went into a place that had loads of old mosques and building, and from that moment i was exploring new places in Cairo as well, although i've been living in Cairo for 7 years now, i've never been there, we found a mosque (of Sultan Barqouq) dating back to the 1300s, that was really impressive too, the decorations of it dome and ceilings are still as new and going inside, you can see how old the place is and the contrast between that and the decorations is really dazzling!

After that i decided to go see the Gayer Anderson museum, a lot of people recommend that and i wanted to give it a try, by the time we arrived there it was already closed, but at least now i know where it is and now i saw Ahmad Ibn Toloun mosque famous for his outside spiral stairs on the minaret.

I also drove around Amr Ibn El-As mosque (for the first time in my life as well), this day was probably more interesting to me than to Erik, i'm really happy that i saw these places, but Erik likes it too, he appreciates the idea of seeing all different faces of the city, and when i tell him that some places he would have never seen with a normal tour guide, he smiles at me and says "well...isn't that what the Hayek travel agency is all about? Image Taking you where no one else will?".

After driving for a long time, we both needed a caffeine dose Image, and i needed some rest from Cairo traffic. I made a small call and within a couple of hours we were enjoying our dinner cruising the Nile on the Nile Peking, great food, great atmosphere, great view and great company, what else can a person wish for? Image And the fact that the Nile Peking actually cruises was a surprise for Erik...a pleasant one i believe.

Erik in Cairo part 3: The Citadel, Azhar park and more

Friday was just a normal weekend for me, while it was a busy day for my dear Norwegian friend.

He started his day going to the citadel, told me that he's quite impressed by the number of weapons he saw in the military museum up there, he saw that mosque with columns from different places (of which one came from an old church and still has a cross on its top).

Erik was also very impressed by Mohammad Ali's mosque, he went inside and he really liked it there, i personally like the big amount of lamps ad lanterns there...just beautiful.

Then he walked to the Azhar park, went around inside and somewhere there got with some kids who played around, asked where he was from and so on. He enjoyed it a lot there and looked very happy when i saw him later that evening...we also think that his T-shirt had something that attracted the kids Image.

At last i took him for the long promised Cinnabon, i probably needn't tell you that he enjoyed it just as much as i promised Image.

I also took Erik for a walk in our biggest, poshest mall, City Stars and then for a view from top of Mokattam platform, which was quite a view actually (although it would have been greater with less smog...Cairo the clean, no comment!).

My point of view, that was quite a rich day with quite a variety of places to see, did Erik enjoy it? hmmm...Ask him Image

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 2: The Egyptian museum and Koshary :D

Another pharaonic day we had today Image, met up at the Egyptian museum, remember me describing it as really huge? (check topic "Out and about in Cairo"), today we managed to go all around it: both floors, all extra rooms and also the two rooms of the royal mummies.

A lot of the things you see there are really impressive! All small pieces and stuff, different tiny vessels, jewellery, statuettes etc...Some of the stone sarcophaguses were quite amazing! they looked just like new, Erik was fooled by some of them, thought they were models not originals, until he started reading the notes on them Image, the symbols curved on them look so clear and sharp like they were made yesterday! All the colours they used are quite interesting too and quite well saved, and i needn't talk about almost everything in Tut Ankh Amon's room, especially the world famous mask of him.

The mummified (i love that word, it sounds so funny Image) kings and queens are something to see, just thinking of dead bodies surviving for thousands of years in the shape you see, well...that's quite impressive! Almost all of them still have their teeth! (one of the queens had her pet baboon mummified next to her too). But the mummies that impressed me the most were those of animals, you just must see the two crocodiles and that huge fish in the animal mummy room on your right hand side, that's a real sight!

Another interesting thing about mummification was the four vases that were used by pharoes to store the internal organ of the mummified person, just imagine all the people sitting around the dead, getting all that from inside him and storing it into vases, and they had four vases, which make you think that for examlpe, one was for the heart and lungs, one for liver and kidneys, one for the brain and the eyes, and the fourth for whatever they decided to keep from the rest of the organs Image . I also think the vases were actually designated for certain organs because in most cases they had as covers the heads of four pharaonic gods that repeated for each set, e.g. the head of Isis contained the liver and kidney, the head of horus had the head and eyes, and so on Image.

After finishing with the museum, i took Erik for a walk around, first along the Nile to the Qasr el Nile bridge, for two reasons: 1-It's probably the most famous bridge on the Nile. 2-The feeling you get standing in the middle of actually feel it vibrating under you with the passing cars, the bigger the car the sounder the vibration, freeky? Image but cool!

Crossing the bridge to the other side, we went into the Cairo Opera House, went around it, made some photos of course (although i'm quite disappointed with myself these days, i make so little photos, maybe coz i'm so used to what i see) and went back, walked into down town looking for Koshary El-Tahrir that i thought i saw there somewhere, but i couldn't find it, i think i'm starting to imagine things that don't exist or exist in another place Image . So i just deicded to go to the one i guaranteed to find, the one in Nasr city.

Koshary time! i actually missed that dish, really missed it...For me, i always consider taking a foreigner (including Arabs) for Koshary is a risky move, it's quite a specific dish and quite a lot of people don't like it, so i was quite happy with Erik's reaction to it, he quite liked it and started wondering why they don't have something similar to it in Norway as fast food Image. I'm starting to think we can get him to live in Egypt without much trouble Image, especially considering his impressive pronounciation of Arabic words!

So another sightseeing day over, regardless of the crowded Thursday night streets, my mood is boosted up to its maximum, and even those same street didn't succeed to ruin it Image.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 1: The Pyramids of Giza & Egyptian food

Erik arrived in Cairo early on Monday and i met him that same evening...

He spent his first hours in Cairo walking around and he also managed to watch the sunrise on the Nile.

On Monday, i met him at around 7p.m. after looping around Zamalek for a while till i found the spot i was looking for, especially with the way the streets are organized (!!) there, the same street can have one direction at the start, the opposite direction in the middle that switches again in the end!

We drove around for a while but it was so crowded (as usual) so we didn't get to far, it was from Zamalek to Tahrir and back.

Then it was time for dinner, for a real Egyptian dinner...Of course Abou el Seed in Zamalek, and a Norwegian man tasted Egyptian Hamam Mahshy (stuffed pigeons), Molokheyya (this has no translationsImage) and Tagen of shrimps, not mentioning the salads, the place has a special atmosphere that's really old Egyptian style, arabic music is playing and the dinner was really nice, Erik enjoyed his experience with the food (but so did i Image), although the place was really loud, we had good time.

Tuesday was time for some history, one of the seven wonders of the world...probably the greatest of them all...the pyramids, we arrived there and of course the first thing we found was loads of people attacking us with offers to go around the area on horses or camels and promising all the discounts and calculating how much we'll pay if we took their offer and how much if we don't and so on and so forth.

We managed to get rid of them at last and started walking around the giants, we walked all around the pyramids, took some photos, went up and down and around, of course decsended to the sphinx, took some more photos Image.

Two things that really impressed Erik were the desert, it was the first time he sees it right in front of him, and how the pyramids where so closely surrounded by buildings and people living there (and i think i can totally understand him).

Then it was time for a nice meal, a cup of tea and lots of chatting. Then we started feeling quite exhausted and decided to call it a day...a really nice day Image.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Scandinavia part 7: Leaving it home!

I arrived in Oslo from Kristiansund on 1st of November just to find my flight to Amsterdam is cancelled, and by the time i got to the KLM service desk, the Lufthansa flight that left 20 minutes after my original one was fully booked which left me with no option but switching to a later flight, the only option i found was to fly on Autrian airlines next morning 7:00 through Vienna (of course!), so first of all i have more than 12 hours free with nothing to do, and second, i have to get my luggage out of SAS, this was done quite without problems, i just went down, waited for a while and they got them out on the belt again, i took them, put them into storage and decided to go to Oslo.

I got out at the central station and headed for Karl Johans gate to do some shopping and ended up buying a sweater for my sister, one for my father and makeup for me and my mother Image, i kept walking around, bought myself a chocolate then started walking through the streets heading nowhere till i got to National Theatre so i decided to head for Aker Brygge, i walked along it, turned around, found a nice pizza place and decided to stop for dinner, i had a nice meal, then i decided to see if i can catch any internet there, and here we go, they had a free wireless netwrok, i checked my mails, wrote a mail to a friend, had a cup of tea then started walking back to the central station to catch the last train back to the airport.

I arrived at the airport at about 1a.m, found me a nice bench, ate my chocolate, read a little, then slept till 5a.m., got up, washed my face, got my luggage, and checked in, my journey back home started, all went ok in the middle, and i finally reached my dear Cairo at 3p.m. My dear warm Cairo, my home, my family...

Scandinavia part 6: Kristiansund, Norway

My last few days in Norway, 4 really interesting days, i spent on this island city, Kristiansund.

This is where i had my small boat training, yes, i've been driving small boats for 3 days and that was cool! especially the FRC (fast rescue craft), this babe is hot! and really fast if it needs to. And by the way i came first on class Image

Kristiansund is a little city located on three small islands on the north west part of central Norway, it's a nice quiet place, and i think quite famous for fishing, Kristiansund's most famous though is still Klipfisk (which is salted, dried cod) and don't ask me what it tastes like, i didn't try it. It's a really nice place to walk around, and the view of the icy mountains behind its green places looks just beautiful (although probably at this same moment Kristiansund is all white with ice as well) . There's quite a big shopping mall there, although not as rich as the one's in Oslo or even Asker. There are also a number of small restaurants that you may try, a must in Kristiansund is a walk to the banks of the island and along the coast, and one of the best spots for that is Klubba, west of Kirkelandet, there's a very nice path leading to the fjord, you'll really enjoy the walk there, and you end up looking from a high place at other islands, at the fjord and at the icy mountains in the horizon, just pure pleasure to the eye!

I arrived in Kristiansund on the 28th of October, in the afternoon, the weather was incredibly beautiful, it wasn't really warm but the sun was shining all around, and not a single cloud in the sky (which is quite wierd for Norway), that day we put our luggage in or rooms an went out walking, we kept walking till we reached the fiskebasen on Gomalandet where you end up looking at the open sea hitting its waves on the rocks under your feet, the sight of the water running back to the sea through the cracks in the rocks is really cool, we stayed there for a couple of minutes that really boosted life into us again, then it started getting colder and colder and we started walking back in direction of the hotel, stopped for dinner at a pasta place then returned to the hotel.

Next day was the first day of the course, the course itslef was cool, we just got familiarization with the boats and got the chance to drive each of them, we finished quite late so all we did that night was having dinner together and back for a good night sleep Image.

Next day with the work rotations on the boats was loads of fun, we finished early enough to go shopping with Aurelia in the mall that was right next to the hotel although we bought nothing that day, that day we had free dinner in the hotel because we agreed to give away our rooms for the new people coming as hotel had no free rooms for them and move into one double room (for which we got two free dinners Image).

Last day the weather turned mad, it started snowing and the wind was quite strong which was quite annoying, our training was replaced by simpler examples in the port, but we did go out for man overboard rescue and for going fast in an FRC, we were just riding the waves! so we called it FRC surfing Image and that was REALLY COOL! We had our exams, i did my four knots correctly, and scored highest in the exam Image. We went afterwards to get the sweater Aurelia chose for her father, and then had dinner and went out to find a place to play pool, we had loads of fun, i played 3 times and won the 3!

Next day was our flight home, but it was almost at 3, so we had the whole morning for oursleves, i went out for Klubba, it was windy and snowing all the time, the whole place turned white but i had a nice walk and loads of fun (i don't see the snow that often anyway, so i enjoy the moment), then we went with Aurelia and Pierre (our french colleague) to an internet cafe nearby, till it's time to leave for the airport and i had some really good hot chocolate Image.

One very good thing in Kristiansund is the free trend! You go into that bar called Kontoret Bar (right next to Rica hotel) and the pool is for free! You go into the internet cafe next to the mall called Onkel and the internet is for free! I loved Kristiansund for that Image.

As usual we had to run for our plane (which isn't much of a surprise for me, i've been doing that a lot for the last 6 weekends Image) but we managed to get on the plane to Oslo, my next flight to Amsterdam was cancelled as well, but that's another story...

Friday, 3 November 2006

Paris, je t'aime

J'etait a Paris le weekend dernier. Oops, excusez-moi, je retournerai a anglais Image

Last weekend i was in Paris, that city is just a dream. No matter how people may tell you it's dirty and how they didn't like it there, i'm telling you that city is really cool.

I arrived on Friday evening, Adel met me at the airport (who's Adel? read the prevoius blog),the first impression of CDG airport and the train and subway of Paris weren't so impressive, they're so similar to what we have in Egypt, our terminal 1 is much better now than their CDG. We went to his house, left my bag and we started my sightseeing straight away.

First of all we headed to the Sacre Coeur, the old famous church, it looks really great at night, wheh it's all lit up and beautiful, we went inside and they had a service, it gives you a special feeling, no matter what religion is there, it always remind you of your own and makes you feel God. Then we headed down from that religious place to one of Paris' most shameless streets (it's funny how these two places are so close together and the church is like on a hill, looking directly at that street!), it's Montmartre with all it's casinos and XXX shops, the street of lights and this is also where Moulin Rouge is (and it's not that impressive from the outside, just a normal night club).

Now we were getting quite hungry and it was time to get something to eat, we stopped at a KFC for supper, ate, relaxed and got going again, our walk lead us to L'Arc de Triumphe, quite an impressive sight at night too, this is where Champs Elysee street starts, we walked all along it till its end at Place de la Concorde with the famous Egyptian obelisque, that's a huge square with this obelisque right in its center and two green and golden fountains standing at its sides and there stand Paris most expensive two hotels, and by the way, you can see the Eiffel tower from Champs Elysee and the lights they put on it at night are one of Paris' most beautiful sights for sure.

From Concorde, we started our way back home,passing by St.Lazare station and through the streets of Paris back home, we arrived at 3 something a.m. were quite tired, we just had a quick snack, i fell asleep close to 5 a.m. though and Adel stayed awake till 6, of course nobody woke up before 12 next morning (or should i say noon).

The one who actually woke up at 12 was me, and it wasn't a simple job to get Adel up Image We actually didn't go out till it was 2 something...

This time we headed for Paris' most famous museum, yes, the Louvre, it's just HUGE!!! and to go all around it you need to go from the hour it opens till the hour it closes (that'll be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.), we went through the Egyptian part, some of the Greek part, and around some of the paintings, of course we went to see the Monalisa, but if you think it's like a huge impressive thing, you're absolutely wrong, it's just like A3 size paper, so if you go to Louvre get ready for disappointment (i already knew it was small before going so mine wasn't that great), when it was about to close and started calling people to go out, we went walking again passing the National Academy of Music, then we headed home for eating, his mum cooked us great food that we really enjoyed, we had some rest, a cup of tea and went to see the greatest sight, the Eiffel tower.

Eiffel tower is located on board of Seine, quite a nice long walk from Concorde square and i'm not gonna talk about the great lights again, it's lit in bright yellow light that is actually reflected on the clouds! (i'm not exaggerating) then every now and then they start sparkling white lights that makes it look even more glorious.

By the time we got there it was too late to go up, so we sat around for a while, then had some crepe and walked to Trocadero, the biggest expedition house in Paris and were planning to go see Notre Dame de Paris, we stopped at a place on the way where some Paris youth play street music and play with the fire, when they're all down there waving their fire and dancing to the sounds of their own music, it looks so good that you want just to keep watching them, we stayed there for a while, then went forward, after walking for a while we decided to go home as we were quite tired, Adel took me through very nice small old Parisien streets that got me more tired as we were mostly going up but bumped my mood up just as much.

The original plan was to get up early, go up the tower, see Notre Dame and maybe Lafayyette if we got enough time, what happenned is that we got up at 12 again, went to the Eiffel tower, spent most of the time there, took loads of photos, went down, looked at our watches and realized there was actually no time for anything else, passing by Trocadero to the subway station we stopped for some time there watching a really talented african guy manoevering a football, he even has a website, but i haven't seen it yet so i won't recommend it yet Image I also saw the subway train without a driver, that was really impressive (please excuse a girl from a third world country).

As usual i was almost late for my plane, i got to the airport just 20 minutes before the departure time, passed all security stuff and arrived there just in time but i was lucky enough and the plane had a delay, so they didn't board on time and i caught it safely.

Getting back to Asker felt like getting back home and was so relaxing, but my weekend in Paris was one thing in my life that i'll never ever forget...

Truly, Paris, je t'aime .