Welcome to jdenparis.com.  I'm jd, and I just graduated from college.  For one year before med school, I'll be working and living in Paris, and traveling the world with my job.  Below are my stories, photos, and videos.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Of course, no trip to Cairo would be complete without seeing the pyramids, and mine was no exception. Right after class, I chartered one of the hotel cars to Giza (not a Hummer this time :( ). Since we were running early, the driver told me there was a chance he could get one of his friends there to take me around back through the desert on a camel. That sounded awesome and I was really pulling for it, but, I guess due to that horrible Cairo traffic, it didn't happen. (Un)Fortunately, the driver had some OTHER friends that I would meet before seeing the (interesting? cheesy? educational?) pyramid sound and light show.

First up was perfume lady. The driver told me, "here, you go with him (his friend), he's my friend." The three of us (me, driver, friend) went into a shop where a woman (perfume lady's assistant) offered us drinks. Now, courtesy of a Delta ad on the LIRR, I had read that it was an offense to turn down a drink in Egypt. The ad had led me to believe that this applied primarily to alcoholic beverages. I was probably wrong (drinking is prohibited in Islam), and so perfume lady's assistant asked 4-5 times before accepting 'no' as an answer. After a few minutes, the driver and his friend stepped outside for a smoke (guess I wasn't doing my job there...), and I was left alone with perfume lady and a room full of flasks with colorful liquids.

Perfume lady, noticing I was drinkless, began the incessant drink-offering ritual again. After another 4-5 offers, I realized this one wasn't taking no for an answer. I begrudgingly accepted a tea (I don't really like drinking caffeine, much less in the evening). While the defeated assistant prepared my drink, perfume lady got to work.

She began with a brief schpiel about the origins of perfume and cologne, and how these were all concentrated oils made from all natural ingredients, et cetera. As she took each one from the wall, she opened it, took a bit on her hands or a swab, and rubbed it on a new spot on my person: my left wrist, my right wrist, my palms, the back of my palms, the lapel of my sweatshirt, the other lapel, and so on. She even did some trickery with one, dropping a bit of it into boiling water and forcing me to smell with my eyes closed. That peppermint cleared my passages better than any maror ever has. By the time she was done, I smelled worse than a trigger happy 6 year old in the makeup department of macy's trapped by the promise of KB Toys while his mother is swooned by the lancome salesperson (like I would know...).

After this _powerful_ demonstration, perfume lady started talking about prices. I assured her I didn't want any, but like the tea, 'no' was not an option with this one. I wound up with the smallest bottle of concentrated aftershave (just add a drop to water!) at half the initial asking price. Boy did I take HER for a spin!!

As the sun had set, I figured I was done meeting my drivers' friends and it was time for the show. Nope. The original guy told me to follow him. He led me around a pitch dark bend over the side of the street covered in what felt like livestock excrement (it probably was - the street was lined with donkeys, rams, goats, camels, everything). We arrived at a papyrus "museum," which was run by more 'friends!' Great.

I sat down as the guy in there told me to wait. He left and returned with another woman. After another 40 minutes of drink negotiations (I won this time), the guy stood behind the counter, the woman motioned me over to another counter and started a papyrus demonstration. Cut by hand, soaked for 6 days, turned, soaked another 6 days, fresh water, weaving, pressing, ya ya ya - its a time consuming process. They had all these prints on the walls, supposedly made from hand crafted papyrus! They can even add my name in hieroglyphs!

To make a long story short, I left with 4 of the things with free personalization, the student rate (50% off list), and the 4th free. Guess I took them for a spin too!! Hah!

When I finally met up again with my driver, he asked how I liked the "museums." I said it was interesting, and that they were very pushy. He assuringly replied, "you didn't have to buy anything... These people know how to sell to anyone. You tell them you're Japanese they do one way, American they know how to make you buy, anyone." Well great! Thanks for bringing me to them.

The sound and light show was pretty cool at some points. The Sphinx narrated it. He told us about the 5,000 years of sunrises he's seen, and all of the famous people like Napoleon who've come to visit. I was really quite shocked that the educational show made no mention of the words "Jew," "Jewish," or "slave." Hmph. I found it amusing to hear the people boarding the tour busses saying that the show was the most amazing thing they'd ever seen in their lives.

I guess if you have a family, you can bring them. Otherwise, I'd opt for going during the day, riding a camel around the desert, and watching the pyramids rise above the dunes. I did see them appear in the distance from the highway, and it was really amazing. They're absolutely huge and majestic. This effect was somewhat diminished when I realized exactly how close the Pizza Hut/KFC had encroached on one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world (the answer: you can basically throw a tennis ball from the pyramid and hit the eatery).

When I finally got back to the hotel, I was too hungry to go upstairs. I decided to go to the adjoining mall and find some food. Of course, the entrance has airport security, and so I had to put my papyrus and perfume through the conveyor belt xray machine. Unfortunately, the papyrus look like a pipe bomb, and so the next security guy who saw me carrying it forced me aside and opened it all up to inspect :p

Well, enjoy the pics!

a bientot,

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