Egypt 3: Luxor

Abby had booked us a private tour for the day so we woke up early, had a relatively decent hotel breakfast, and went to the lobby to meet our tour guide. We saw one of Abby’s colleagues from the conference in Cairo, who had also come to Luxor and was waiting for her private tour guide as well. Sure enough, the tour operator in Cairo had seen that two parties of Americans had wanted a private tour of Luxor, and she had put us together. Fortunately, Abby’s colleague Devinia was very nice and we all got along. We drove out…

Egypt 2: Cairo, next day

One effect of Cairo’s vast size (described in the previous entry) is that the Pyramids are much nearer to the city than I expected. In a somewhat Baudrillardian way, I’d come to Egypt with an already-developed experience of the Pyramids as lying in a wind-swept desert, watched over by a dramatically silent Sphinx. The reality is much different: we drove out of center Cairo toward the Pyramids on Friday morning, and within 15 minutes, we were there. It’s as though the Pyramids were in the middle of Arlington. I shouldn’t overstate my complaint: the Pyramids are more than 4000 years…

Egypt 1: Cairo

(Abby had a conference in Cairo, Egypt from 5 November to 8 November, so we decided that I would join her on the 7th, do some touring on the 8th, then we’d see Giza on the 9th before going to Luxor for the weekend.) What does one say about Egypt? Cairo, the city of mysterious back alleys, of the Pyramids at Giza, of the mosque of Mohamed Ali; Luxor, the capitol of the ancient New Kingdom and site of the Valley of the Kings; Steve Martin performing “King Tut” on Saturday Night Live, the Bangles singing “Walk Like an Egyptian”,…

What It’s Like (Part 4)

(Written too self-consciously in the style of a New Yorker “Talk of the Town Piece.”) The U.S. green card lottery is one of the most popular contests in Albania. Each month, some scores of Albanians learn that their application has been approved and, pending a clean criminal history, they will be awarded a green card from the U.S. State Department that allows them to move to Worcester (Massachusetts), Detroit, Philadelphia, or any other American city to seek a more prosperous life than any of them could find here. The U.S. green card lottery may be a major culprit in the…

MONTENEGRO: The Mini-Series. Part 4: Back before we knew it

I’ll finish up our Montenegro adventures of last month quickly, since I now have to get on to the Egypt trip. We woke up early, had massages at a nearby spa, and started driving south back to Albania. On the way, we decided to stop at a resort town called Ulqin (“ul-CHIN”), or as the Montenegrans call it, Ulcinj. Ulqin was a majority-Albanian city during the days of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, but due to the insistance of the Montenegrans, and the general carelessness and cynicism of the European ambassadors who decided the new borders in London and…