Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Amsterdam- Part 2

There is nothing better than going to another country and getting to experience the history that another place has to offer. One of the first things we did was go to the house where Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms. The house was built in 1635 and was turned into a museum in 1960. The museum costs €9.50 (or $12.00) and there is usually a pretty long line outside (see picture below).

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Another must see historic site in Amsterdam is the Rijksmuseum Museum. It's the official Dutch museum that houses a lot of famous paintings such as Rembrandt's Night Watch. The cost to get into the museum is  €14.00 (or $18.00) and I would definitely recommend paying the extra €5.00 (or $6.50) for the audio tour.

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Amsterdam is also home to the Vincent van Gogh museum, which has the largest collection of his paintings and drawings in the world. Unfortunately, the actual museum will be closed until April 2013. Part of the permanent collection is being shown at the Hermitage. The cost to get inside the museum is €17.50 (or $22.00) You're not supposed to take any pictures inside, but I snuck two (see below).

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The last stop I'll advise you to see before you leave Amsterdam (or run out of money from the costs of visiting all these places) is the Heineken Experience. It's the first brewery built by the company in 1867 and remained the companies main brewery until 1988. You get to learn about the company and their beer. The cost to get into the factory is €15.00 (or $19.00). They even have horses inside the brewery. Why, I don't know, but they were beautiful.

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And yes you get free beer at the end of the tour.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amsterdam- Part 1

So after spending an ungodly amount of Euros in Amsterdam, I'm back in Cairo. Holland was beautiful. I went with two other AUC study abroad students (Selam from California and Kayin from Philadelphia). I'm not going to lie, I did deal with a little culture shock coming from Egypt to the Netherlands. I went from one country in the middle of protests because of the Muslim Brotherhood to another country with an infamous red light district and lax drug laws.

Amsterdam had all of the typical signs of autumn in Holland: leaves falling, cold weather, and rain. Holland is known for many different things like its wooden clog shoes, windmills, tulips,  and pancakes. 

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 I was really surprised how many people rode bikes in Amsterdam. They're everywhere, and you can rent them throughout the city. You constantly have to watch out you don't get hit by people riding their bikes.

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Thanks to Selam, we were able to rent an apartment for the majority of our stay. Finding a place to stay in Amsterdam is notorious for being expensive. Your options are hotels, hostels, couch surfing, or using a website to book a apartment (we used https://www.airbnb.com/).


I'll update you guys more about the trip in another post. For now, I'll leave you guys with some pictures of Amsterdam.


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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taxis in Cairo

So here is the guide to taking a taxi in Cairo. There are basically two options for a taxi: white or black. For the regular tourist, take the white taxis. The white taxis have air conditioning and meters to track your total cost(usually). Black taxis don't have either of the above. Either way, taxi drivers will try to quote you a price for where you want to go. You have the option of haggling them down or asking for the meter (if they have one/or it's working). Unless you know the estimated fare, don't trust the amount they quote you. They WILL rip you off. I've been quoted 30 EGP for a ride I knew only cost 7.50 EGP. Taxis from the airport are the worst. They will quote you 100 EGP or a ride that only costs 25-30 EGP.

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If you get into a metered taxi, the meter will run even if you're stuck in traffic (at a reduced rate).  Unfortunately, if you don't know the way to your location, you could get a taxi driver who takes you a longer route. The most important thing to remember when dealing with a taxi driver, or anyone for that matter, is be tough. Call them out if you think there going the wrong way or ripping you off.

Just remember, you can always wait until the next taxi. They're everywhere in Cairo, and you will find some really amazing, honest taxi drivers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Trip to the Pyramids

One of my friends studying here at AUC had a friend come visit, so naturally we had to visit the Pyramids. The first (and only) time I had visited the Pyramids, we went with four tour buses of students from AUC. This time it was only four of us. We hopped into a taxi and headed to Giza. On our way up the street to the Pyramids, some young boys and men were jumping on our taxi or standing in the way of our car so they could convince us to pay to use a horse, camel, or donkey for the trip to the wonder. The cab driver was yelling at all them, it was kind of crazy. I don't remember our bus having to stop, but I'm pretty sure no one wants to walk in front of a bus.

We bought our 30 EGP ($4.90) student tickets and went in. We climbed some of the steps of the two big pyramids and just enjoyed the shade provided from the massive structures.

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I got to ride a camel for the first time in my life! It was so amazing. I was really surprised how strong and smart these animals are.  Anyone who has visited the Pyramids knows it can be a pain in the ass to haggle with the guys with the camels. Some tourists pay CRAZY amounts of money, but since our friend Ahmed spoke Arabic, we haggled the ride to 15 EGP($2.45) per person. They took us from the Pyramids to the Sphinx on camel.
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This kid straight up kissed this camel.

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We had a great time. It was cool to show someone else all these amazing places we've already seen. It's really cool to come back to all these places I saw the first couple days after I arrived here. Three months later in Cario, I can comfortably chill on the steps of the Pyramids knowing this trip will be replicated many more times before I leave.
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Egyptian Food 101

So now that I'm back in Cairo, I can start updating you guys with some basic living info, starting with food. Bread is the backbone of most Egyptian cuisine and a lot of popular dishes in Egypt are vegetarian. Thanks to globalization, you can find whatever food you want in Cairo, but Egyptian food tends to be on the cheaper end of options.

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So here's some of the typical Egyptian dishes:

1. Koshary/Kushari is a very popular Egyptian food. It's usually made with rice, lentils, chickpeas, and macaroni topped with tomato sauce and fried onions. It tastes really good and it's super cheap. For 3-6 EGP (or $0.65-0.89) you can get a variety of sizes. I've tried a couple of places, and my favorite is Alex Top in Zamalek.

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2.  Falafel (ta'meyya) is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Falafel is usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, topped with salads, pickled vegetables, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel will costs you anywhere from 1.50-8.00 EGP (or $0.25-1.33)


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3. fool/ ful- is a dish of cooked and mashed fava beans served with olive oil, chopped parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon juice. This is one of my favorite out of all the options. It reminds me of Mexican refried beans. Ful is also eaten in a sandwich option. Ful can cost you anywhere from 1.50-8 EGP (or $0.25-1.33).

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 4. Shawarma- is my least favorite of options because it usually involves this huge stick of meat catching all the particles of pollution and dust from the air. It's a mixture where lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beaf, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit (or rotisserie). The price of one of these sandwiches 10-14 EGP (or $1.64-2.29).

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5. Roasted Chicken- also a big favorite of mine, roasted chicken is very popular in Cairo. I always make sure to order rice on the side.The cost of one of these dinners seems to run around 16-20 EGP (or $-2.62-3.25).

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There's also a very popular dish, wish I have yet to try, called Mahsi ḥamām (or stuffed pigeon).  I promise when I try it, I'll take pictures and do a post. I will also do a post about Egyptian drinks. For now, this is meant to introduce you to the basics of Egyptian cuisine. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jordan Part 4: Last Day in Amman

So here's the final blog about Jordan. My Eid trip was supposed to be spent in Lebanon, but plans changed. I went to Jordan a little disappointed about the change in plans, but the trip was prefect. Everything went smoothly and I had no complaints. Jordan has definitely won me over.

We spent our last day in Jordan back in the capital of Amman. We meet up with some friends from AUC that we ran into at Petra. We went to this really cool T-shirt spot called Jo Bedu. They had really cool shirts written in Arabic.

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We went back to Graffiti Cafe and had to represent AUC on the walls. I tagged AUC in green spray paint and then we all signed our names in Arabic.

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Later that night we all went to this American wing restaurant downtown on Rainbow Street. Rainbow Street is a super popular spot, full of restaurants and bars. On our way down the street, I started to talking to these two teenage boys. They started telling me how they rapped. I grabbed one of the guys in our group that raps also. We started out as a small group of 10 watching them rap, to a group of about 35 people (the only chicks were in our group, the rest were all dudes). It was pretty crazy. All the guys had their phones out videotaping the whole thing. We tried to exit the crowd, but they followed us down the streets until we snuck into a restaurant. I went outside to talk with a taxi driver, and found out some people called the police. Basically we started a mini-riot.

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Overall, I had a blast. Don't get me wrong, I missed Cairo, but Jordan was an adventure. The Eid was amazing and I can't wait to visit again. 
 
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jordan Part 3: Dana

So after walking around Petra all day, we decided to head to Dana for our next adventure. Our taxi driver stopped off at some amazing spots for us to see on the drive.

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Dana is a tiny village near Tafilah in the central-western part of Jordan. There really isn't much to say about the little town except it's surrounded my moutains. There's no store (not even for food) and someone told me there's only 16 people that live in the actual village. The village consists of three hotel/hostels for tourists who want to hike the nature reserve. If you are ever in Jordan, please visit Dana. You wont be sorry.

Again there isn't anything to do in Dana except for the nature reserve. After we arrived at night, we walked around the village and this is what it looked like. The sign says it all: hotels only!

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We stayed at Dana Tower Hotel for the night.We watched the sun set, while talking with an amazing Australian couple who lives in Saudi Arabia.

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They let us bring mattresses up to the roof to sleep under the stars. We awoke the next morning to the view of the mountains. It was perfect.

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This was our view when we woke up the next morning.
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The next day we woke up and hiked the two and a half hour path. Along the way down we ran into two goat herders. It was so cute how the dog was right behind all the goats making sure they stayed in the group.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jordan Part 2: Petra

We only had three full days in Jordan, so after spending the day in Amman, we went to Petra. Now normally we would have taken a bus, but instead we hired a taxi driver for the day to take us from Amman to Petra and then from Petra to Dana. We couldn't have had a better taxi driver. He took us to get food at a place he normally frequents for breakfast and stopped at locations along the way he thought we'd want to see (and we did).

So I went to Petra. Check it off the bucket list. Petra is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It's a historical and archaeological city carved into rock mountains built in 312 BCE. It wasn't discovered to the Western world until 1812. It's indescribable how beautiful Petra is.You may recognize Petra from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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I seriously want to know why these random guys were dressed in costumes.

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It's a pretty good walk to get to all the major parts of the city, but for a nice fee you have the option to go by horse, camel, or donkey. How convenient! I do have one complaint about the entire experience: the cost to get into Petra. It costs $50 Jordanian Dinar (or $70 dollars!!!!) for one day!!! The entire experience is worth whatever charge at the gate, but damn that's a lot of money just to look at some shit. Then again it is a wonder of the world!

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While at Petra we ran into another group of AUC students that were also in Jordan for the Eid break. We ended up spending our last night in Amman with them and causing a mini-riot, but that's for another post.

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