Ricia and Franklin Do Africa, August 2001
OK, that title is a slight exaggeration,
but we did select a few of the more famous attractions to visit.
First, we spent 5 days in and around Cairo, Egypt.
We saw pyramids, of course:
- the pyramids at Giza,
from smallest to largest:
the pyramids of the queens are nearest,
followed by those of Menkaure and Menkaure's father, Khephren,
while the Great Pyramid of Khephren's father, Khufu,
is in the distance
(if they don't look as large as you expected,
note the camels in the foreground);
- the Sphinx,
watching the city of Cairo grow nearer over the millennia;
- Ricia at the base of the Great Pyramid;
- Ricia on camelback;
- at Dashur, Khufu's father, Snefru, had built himself the
which covers nearly the same area as does his son's Great Pyramid
but not as steeply;
- the passageway
descending into the Red Pyramid;
- Snefru's previous attempt, the Bent Pyramid,
started out too steeply but was apparently redesigned halfway up
(in the foreground, Ricia is standing on the capstone of the Red Pyramid
and pretending to be as flat as a hieroglyph).
We took a guided tour of Saqqara.
The guide herself was nearly as interesting as the site.
She was well-versed in Egyptian history, but seemed intentionally ignorant,
or perhaps defensive, about the current state of Egypt.
For example, I asked:
"Why do Cairenes sometimes drive at night with lights off?".
She answered: "Foreigners always ask why we drive with lights off;
of course we don't!".
In the city of Cairo:
- the Nile River at dusk,
as seen from El Tahrir Bridge, looking north;
- the courtyard of Al-Azhar Mosque,
site of the world's oldest university;
- inside the mosque, students read;
- our volunteer guide at Al-Azhar took extra trouble to allow us to climb
one of the minarets, which had this view
(note the loudspeakers on the other minaret, used for amplifying
the call to prayer);
- the "Arab street" (in Coptic Cairo).
Here, we were accosted by a young Egyptian speaking good English,
who wanted to vent his anger at the latest Israeli atrocity and
to ask us how the U.S. could possibly support it.
He described the atrocity as "baby killing" and each time he spat out those
words his right arm jerked downward with an imaginary knife.
I suggested that the Egyptian news was controlled by the government
and therefore his news might not be accurate.
He seemed not to grasp this idea even after I explained it to him.
Later that day, we bought soda at our usual shop near our hotel.
I had befriended the shopkeeper, while using my rudimentary knowledge
of Arabic numbers to ask about prices. This day he was irate
with the same news of Israeli killing and U.S. support.
"I hit the United States!" he yelled at me.
I tried to visualize what form of attack he had in mind,
quickly realizing he meant "hate", not "hit",
and that I'd not adjusted to his accented English.
This misunderstanding was prophetic, given that Egyptians did hit the U.S.
a few weeks later on September 11.
After we came home, I used the Web to look for reporting on Israeli
actions that day. Whatever this "atrocity" was, the Anglosphere press
did not think it newsworthy.
After leaving Egypt, we spent a week in Kenya,
seeking wildlife, starting in Nairobi:
We joined a tour group to "safari" through some of Kenya's game parks.
Our first stop was The Ark:
essentially a hotel next to a salt lick,
around which game would congregate.
The hotel had a system of alarms that would awaken the guests when bigger
and rarer game showed up:
- in the afternoon, some African buffalo
engaged in a half-hearted fight
(I have no idea what the fight was about; perhaps they didn't either);
- at dusk, some elephants arrived
(warning: my camera had trouble with the low level of light);
- in the middle of the night, a few rhino
wandered through (my camera was definitely not adequate for this night
photography, even with floodlights from The Ark);
- between 5 and 6 a.m., a young leopard stalked an antelope but
couldn't quite gather the courage to attack it
(no photo; you'll just have to take my word for it!).
Continuing on to Lake Nakuru, famous for its flamingos:
Our ultimate goal was to see the great wildebeest migration.
We chose to travel in late August because the animals
(also known as gnus) cross from Tanzania into Kenya's
Masai Mara then:
- here they come;
- a bigger herd
(note to geeks: this is the real thing, compared with the
GNU HURD or GNU HIRD);
- wildebeests and zebras travel together;
- and sometimes play on opposing soccer teams
(not shown: a lone warthog was refereeing this game);
- view from a hot-air balloon;
- some wildebeests do not succeed
in fording the river (a man-made car bridge
was a short distance away but they do not use it);
- carcasses are a welcome sight for some;
- the river is also used for hippo
- elephants taking a mud bath;
- parent pachyderm;
- lioness out for early morning hunt
(we were 10 feet away but she ignored us);
- just lyin' around;
- your intrepid photographers:
Franklin sets a bad example by slipping illegally into Tanzania
without a visa while Ricia, still in Kenya, plans on doing the same.
And that's the way it was.