Camel vs. Donkey

I was told I would be able to ride a donkey out to the pyramids. In the end, three of us ended up rotating between two horses and a camel. I am (was) petrified of horses. But after being face to face with a camel’s horrendously smelly mouth, I can now see horses as comparatively gentle and unmenacing creatures. Because I told the stable guy (who we chose because he promised us donkeys which he couldn’t deliver) of my equinophobia he gave me a “Very nice horse, very quiet.” Which in reality meant ‘lazy’. In order to get him to move the 10-year old boy who was leading the camel had to also drag my horse behind him. This means, taking into account the height of a camel vs. a horse, that my face was at the level of the camel’s. I kept getting whiffs of corpse mixed with feces and rotting onion and thinking, “Wow, the smells in Cairo almost rival those in China!” When the stinky ruminant began bellowing the way camels do I realized I was within biting or spitting distance and quickly learned to ride a horse on my own!
Because we set out early we took in the pyramids without too many people and our guides had some sort of deal with everybody that allowed us to take the back entrance to the site. Julie and Zeynep took turns racing with Ali, while I hung back and admired the clear blue sky, fantasizing about what it must have been like back in the day. I was unimpressed by the Sphinx, but interested in what an Egyptian colleague had to say about it’s destruction and that of the pyramids. Instead of blaming it on Napoleon, as Egyptians usually do, there is also an idea that the Muslims were responsible for defacing these things, which certainly seems plausible given historical precedent. But it really doesn’t matter about “the truth” because here we are in the present in a country that is 99% Muslim and they can make up their own history.
The highlight of our sight-seeing day was visting the City of the Dead and the tomb of Muhammed Ali’s (Mohammed’s brother in law) family. I gave a little squatter girl a huge glop of lip gloss by squishing it out on her finger. Then she was faced with what to do with the blob that was much more than she could use on her whole body –so she smeared it all over her face. It was absurd but better than giving her the whole tube, which is what she wanted. I think it was much better this way.


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