This text was voluntarily translated by Ilan C. Kochen - Thanks!

From the minute I stepped into the city until the glorious moment that I got on the plane heading towards Ethiopia, I felt that myself experiencing some kind of scam. After nine hours by bus and cautious researches in my travel guide and with my traveling companions about how much should cost a taxi ride from the station to downtown, I got off the bus to hear an amount six times greater.

Regarding the attempts to exploit tourists, I must confess that I´m used to this from my experience in India. I think what affected me the most in Egypt was the basement of these lies. It is not enough to charge abusive prices. The strategy is to try to convince tourists that everything will go wrong and the best option is to rely on the new “friend”. “The bus? It´s no longer coming this way”; “Your hotel is closed”; “It´s too far, the bus is not coming and you better take my cab”.

I checked one information on the Internet, and then checked again in the guide, talk to backpackers and as I went out to the streets, everybody was trying to convince me of the apocalypse. Usually the hostel staff is very helpful and gives tips on how to avoid cheating. But not here. My worst enemy was the reception, which held me for hours trying to convince me to hire several services before checking the streets of the city. But I´m stubborn.

I left in the morning to withdraw some money and thanks to the inefficiency of my bank, wasn´t able to do it. The door was open for an ordinary passerby to approach and offer me the purest of friendships. After him, four others offered me exactly the same friendship, even with the same personal information and proposals. I came to believe that all people live in Giza (that´s where the pyramids are) and love to have dinner in the company of tourists like me. I believe I would have been one of the main dishes.

I ended up going to the pyramids by bus, following the unpretentious advice of a water seller, who could not take advantage of my question (because I had already bought water from him). Forty minutes later the driver shows me one of the pyramids that could be seen from the street. My Arabic is as fluent as his sign language, but it was clear that there was only one way to follow. Twenty minutes later, I´m facing the entrance complex of the pyramids. And was particularly perplexed.

I had heard that the pyramids were located right in the middle of the city, but had no idea how this influenced the climate, the topography and impacted the landscape. From one minute to another I found myself in the middle of the desert, with a bottle of water in my hand, shirt tied around my head and sunglasses. Among the crowd of camels, horses and all kinds of offers, I decided to explore the monuments on foot, saving my money and my patience. After walking for 20 minutes under the blistering sun I made an interesting geometrical discovery: pyramids do not produce shadows at any time of the day.

The pyramids are really impressive, but I confess that what interested me the most was the contrast between city and desert. Some steps climbed up in the second largest pyramid exposed this contrast: in the foreground a secular pyramid, an altar of celebration of the continuity of life, and behind, the urban expression of how this life continued.

I do not know exactly the ideological line and the real motivations that led them to build such monuments, but I feel that the ongoing discomfort caused to the tourists would not please them. There are endless offers of products and services in this area. I watched Japanese, Italians and Russians fighting with vendors and cops to get rid of unwanted services. The white cops provide a significant disservice: they offer the so-called best view of the pyramid, with photographs included, in exchange for some Egyptian "Bounds" (Arabic pronunciation, replacing the "p" with "b").

I then decided to return. A bus took me to the train, which led me to Tahrir Square. From there, I tried to enter the Egyptian museum, but due to Ramadan, the opening hour was changed and I was excluded from the experience. No problem, my interest in this single day was more focused in the square than on tourism itself. After all, Egypt is experiencing an interesting transition moment and I was there in the middle of the mess.

The presence of the police and the army is just for precaution. Another instance of Mubarak's trial is scheduled for the day and the nerves of the country rise. Trucks bring dozens of armed cops dressed in black, while camouflaged soldiers hold machine guns from the top of their tanks. No mess around, and after five o'clock a lull. I was told that people went home to watch the trial broadcasted live on national television.

I also fasted on that day, along with millions of Muslims for Ramadan. Fasting begins around three in the morning and ends with the sunset. I felt the differentiated taste of a Shwarma, but even with hunger the dish did not surprise me. It was interesting to walk and see different public events of breaking fast over the adjacent streets. Within minutes, the whole city turns into a huge restaurant, with everyone breaking their fast at the same time.

After struggling against offers to pay three times more in a taxi, I went to the bus station and waited. And I waited a little longer. After one hour and my bus never showing up, I decided to give up and get a cab. In a few minutes I was at the airport, ready to catch the flight to Ethiopia. I was surprised by the diversity of people on the plane on a flight in the middle of the week, at dawn, from Cairo to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Obs: I decided to decrease my stay in Egypt because of the relevance of this country regarding my proposal. In other words, I was counting the days to get to Addis Ababa.


This text was voluntarily translated by Rafaella Danon Schivartche. Thanks!

- So, this is the Suez Canal?

-Yes... What do you know about the Suez? 

-Well, what everyone knows… 

- Haven’t you heard about the revolution? 

This was how I started talking to Mina, a young Egyptian man of 22. During the next 3 hours we would talk about the recent Egyptian revolution, which began on January 25th, 2011, of the recent demonstrations for justice in Israel, about Brazil, and about life. During the 9 or more of our bus trip between Dahab, in the Sinai, and Cairo, in Egypt, I had both the pleasure and the opportunity to listen to the opinions of a young Egyptian amidst a revolution in his own country.

Before I let Dahab, I talked to the manager of my Inn in the effort of trying to understand what kind of impact the revolution – Arab Spring - had in a region like the Sinai. With a smile on his face, he answered my questions euphorically, as if the issue was a motive of pleasure to him. He could easily be included in the crowd on the streets, even though he had not been there, saying that the end of the Mubarak regime brought opportunities for the country’s reconstruction.

Tourism in the region, according to him, had not altered much since the Egyptian struggle, but the regime’s downfall would ensure more control and development of the Sinai region, which nowadays suffers from the occupation of different groups such as terrorists and hosts a series of illegal activities inside it’s mountains and vast territories, mostly at the north and at the border with the Gaza Strip. He talked and I could feel that not only he included himself in that movement, but he expressed feelings of freedom in his speech and in the head gestures of the driver, also in his twenties.

Outside our bus, I listen carefully to what Mina tells me. He too was there, in the Tahrir Square (Midan Tahrir) when the Egyptian youth decided to put an end to the 30-year-old regime. “No one could foresee, even a day before, what was about to happen”, he says. “Who lead the movement? The common feeling stored somewhere deep in every Egyptian”, he adds. 

He looked into my eyes and with pleasure repeated the expression “Game Over”. “The people decided to look in the eyes of those in charge and say: Game Over!”. The bus runs smoothly, the road is excellent and the conversation was being held under a beautiful sunset, privilege of the over 300 kilometers of the west cost of the Sinai desert. In the landscape, on one side the blue ocean water, that no camera can ever capture, and on the other, a desert scenario exactly as I pictured it would be. Mina’s voice won over the Stooges of the Orient movie that was being shown on the bus’ small screen.

And now? How will the post-revolution movement come about, especially if Mubarak is tried, I ask defiantly? “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter exactly who will come to govern the country. The Egyptian people has shown itself united against an oppressive regime and has publically demonstrated a dissatisfaction that had been kept away from public eye over the years. The time now is to strengthen the Egyptian people”. I confess to have been a bit unsatisfied with this reply, but I can also understand the moment of euphoria and decided not to ruin the glow in his eyes with more profound questions.

As to the calmness noted in the last few days, he tells me that demonstrations have diminished not only because of Ramadan (actually, Mina is catholic), but also because of some of the demands of the people are being met by the military coalition that is guaranteeing the country’s safety. But he warns me: the military Friday is not a day for Tourism in the Tahrir Square, periodic public demonstrations continue and many of them end up in stray bullets.

I arrived in Cairo at night and after a long search for a hotel (being so luck as to find one of the dirtiest and poorly managed of the region) I was impressed with the intense movement of people on the street and followed them to the Tahrir Square. There, I stood observing together with the crowd (minuscule if compared to the number of people that had been at the Square lately) the moving around of the police troupes occupying the center of the Square and the many military trucks that surrounded the place.

I was approached by a young man wearing a T-shirt with broken shackles and the flag of Egypt. He wanted to know my opinion. Soon we were joined by a few young others and talked briefly about all that was happening. He showed me a photo of his brother, who was killed in the demonstrations, and also said he had been shot in the right leg. Nothing happened that time in the Square, but apparently visiting the region became a routine for many young people of the country.

I asked for one last comment from Mina. I want to know how he sees the Israeli demonstrations calling for social justice. With enthusiasm similar to that expressed by his own history, he blesses the demonstrations and welcomes the neighbors’ initiatives. I share my photos of the protests, the tents and banners displayed during the demonstrations and see his eyes light up when reading one of them in Arabic: "This means: move, get out. It was used in the statements of Tahrir Square and we all saw this tribute here through Israeli newspapers. "

From Sinai to Cairo, across the country, young people seem to not only celebrate the revolution that I followed in the papers, but also a new opportunity to express themselves. Throughout all trade in the region, flags and clothing shouting out to love and appreciation to the new freedom in the country. My shirt said: "The power of people is stronger than people in power" 

This text was kindly translated by Daniel Fisberg. Thanks!

During my first day, I noticed, deep down the Red Sea, this blue color I had never seen before. In the following morning, a spectacular red color made me smile involuntarily, from the top of the Sinai Mount, in which is believed that Moses received the 10 Commandments. In a day with much more than 24 hours, I moved from the bottom of the sea to one of the highest parts of the Sinai desert.

Mont Sinai

We agreed to meet at eleven in front of the hotel. From there, we would head towards de Saint Catherine monastery that lies on the Sinai bottom. Our plan was to climb the mount during the early morning, avoiding the burning sunshine but on time for the breaking dawn. Hundreds, if not thousands, of commuters coming from Dahab and Sharm El Sheik decided to share that full moon night with us. Dozens, if not hundreds, Bedouins decided to use the night to make a living.
Right at the beginning of the climb, our 19-year old guide showed us the meeting point and told us the duration of our journey: approximately 3 hours going up. He was expecting the Sun to rise at around 5 in the morning. Hundreds of Bedouins offered their camels in the pitch of the night, for a variety of prices. The moon struggle to lit the way, blocked by the several hills in the region.
The way up is not easy. The recommendation to us was to bring extra clothes (because we would sweat a lot along the way), a warm jacket and a flashlight. The steepness is not the biggest challenge, but the heat and the extension of the rock and sand trail are. From time to time we could spot a little hut offering a break, water, tea and some appetizers – all, of course, at western prices. My guide was convinced that I looked like a football player named Pato. In every stop, after some words in Arabic, the Bedouins were waving and calling me by my new nickname. 
After a few hours I could feel my t-shirt soaked up, but my feet and my operated knee indicated I could go all the way till the end. The landscape showed only the outline of the different mountains around, but the reflection of the moon and the tourists flashlights drew an interesting scenario. The final resting was 750 steps away from the summit, suggested as the best place to watch the sunrise
 Hundreds of people gathered, seeking the best view and watched the beautiful drawing of colors in the sky. Red and yellow tones not only gave color but also shaped the landscape. Slowly the Sun went hiding and groups of religious passersby - most of Eastern origin - were singing and celebrating the divine presence in one of the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims. And whatever the belief of the observer, the place conveys a different energy.
Suddenly, a tip of the sun dawned. The red horizontal line is now united in a well defined semicircle rising rapidly and trying to free up from the mountain. With the sun completely exposed, more songs in several languages could be heard. The spectacle of the sun was over and gave room  to the observation of several hills below us.
To descend, an alternative way of "just" 300 steps, almost a shortcut – a two hour walk- straight to the monastery. On the way down my legs begged for a pause and trembled every brief rest. With the monastery always in sight, the descent had a visible goal and served as motivation for the last strength of this 7 hour journey. Sure, the rocks in various shades of orange, brown and yellow were breathtaking.  An unforgettable experience.

Dive in the Red Sea– Blue Hole

I am not a big diving fan. I think fishes are better off without me. However, this time I decided to try snorkeling in a region with no more than 30 meters of diameter, called Blue Hole. The dive is literally done in this hole in the coral reef.
As soon as I entered the water I realized I wasn’t in a random place. The various shades of blue, mainly affected by the sun light, served only as a backdrop to the marine biodiversity in a space so restricted. The coral reefs serve as a gateway to the open sea. In a few seconds of swimming, the depth exceeded 30m. Other seconds and the sea could only be touched 120m deeper.
 From the "high ground", I watched the distance fish I had only seen before in saltwater aquariums, usually mentioned as rarities. Brightly colored or patterned in discrete shoals of hundreds if not thousands of flying fish with scuba divers, apparently already familiar with the constant presence. They say the Sinai is one of the best places to dive. I guess it was a good start for a first time diver.