Egypt was quite a trip witnessing yet another wonder of the world while riding camels but we were ready to leave when the time came. With political turmoil and a recent revolution in this country we put our family and friends on edge while traveling here. Amid the upcoming elections next week they have much progress to make. It is safe to a point but as a local put it to us, “the people of Egypt domestically need to learn respect for each other before they are ready to show respect to foreigners”. Our drivers and people on the street were excited to meet us as tourists, welcoming us to their country and continually reassuring us that Egypt is safe. When asked where we were from almost every person’s response was ‘Ah, Yankee Doodle Dandy”!!
Our tour with Egypt Tours to the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the “7 Wonders of the World’ was our first stop. It was a private tour, as they currently don’t have enough tourists to book group tours. Our guide named Taha, an egyptionoligist, over-informed us of ancient stories of gods and kings, but it was such great education. The first glimpse of the massive pyramids was unreal as they came into view out of the smog then instantly we were zapped back into reality as garbage trucks and large building blocked our view. In the desert heat we wandered around 9 pyramids entering a couple to visit the tomb sites. Entering a narrow corridor walking backwards was a bit nerve-racking lead by a guard who was supposed to prevent us from taking pictures. But as we learned he was there to secretly take pictures of us for tips. This happened 3 times throughout the day and our guide’s response was, ‘yes, we are very corrupt’! Remarkable and such precise hieroglyphic script and paintings were viewable in the tomb areas and Katie actually laid inside of King TuTu’s tomb!
Then came the camel riding. Katie was not too keen on participating as its known the treatment of the animals is not the most humane and dealing with the price and tipping is exhausting. Nevertheless, when would we have the chance to ride camels next the Egyptian pyramids again?! So, Taha gave us the reasonable price and negotiation began until we got it. Some pleasant young boys lead us on our camel ride through sand and old plastic bottles. What a surreal experience, especially when the rains were handed over for us to ride on our own as the locals galloped by on their horses.
The Egyptian Museum in the center of downtown Cairo is where all the discovered artifacts, buried treasures, sarcophaguses and mummified bodies are housed and is guarded heavily with military tanks. Some of these items date back to 3,000 B.C. and are the oldest articles we have seen on our travels. This ancient culture revolved around preparing their bodies for the afterlife involving mummification, properly sheltering their bodies in sarcophaguses, then into tombs along with gold treasuries and even to the extend of having boats buried next to the pyramids to carry them across the Nile in the afterlife. Paying the extra fee at the museum to see actual preserved mummies from thousands of years ago was well worth it and a bit creepy.
Cairo itself is an expansive, dirty, overcrowded city with ruthless traffic. Opting out of visiting the main bizarre we simply walked the streets to experience the yelling and bargaining of everything on the streets. Every side street is lined with little tables and plastic chairs with people smoking ‘shisha’, flavored tobacco smoked out of a hookah while drinking tea. Our hotel balcony looked down on this bizarre scene and we couldn’t resist trying it. Trying to enjoy ourselves, the blasting Arabic music and incessant attempt of people selling us things outweighed our enjoyment. On the other hand, the street food of shawarma, falafel and koshary was not a disappointment. A touch of genuine friendliness was in our encounters on the street but ultimately something was trying to be sold. Zane’s over-friendliness landed us on a couch in an art and perfume gallery being offered tea for just a quick “Egyptian minute”. Then Katie’s over directness set in getting us out of the situation while Zane smiles and shakes hands. This balancing act is a proper blend to have experiences yet not purchasing items or so Katie thinks, Zane would prefer much more adventure!
Hotel Royal, where we stayed was is in a very rundown building, but they have made a valiant effort on the guest rooms with the funny exception of the bathroom being partitioned off by frosted glass with an open ceiling which makes for the not the best smelling room.
The staff at the hotel made us feel at home by taking us with them on a cruise on the Nile River as part of their staff outing. The entertainment on the cruise was a subpar belly dancer (from America!) and a great whirling dervish dancer that we caught on video. The citadel with the Mohammed Ali Mosque and Coptic Cairo with multiple churches and one synagogue were also visited. After our African, Middle Eastern detour we are now back in Eastern Europe in Budapest, Hungary for the week.
More pics: https://picasaweb.google.com/105315223482012434599/Egypt