I spent my last full morning in Cairo working out in the gym, (we’re stayed at the Meridien Pyramids Hotel and Spa), getting a back massage/detox scrub treatment, a little swimming, and sitting in the sauna. The spa treatments were so well priced, actually the hotel and food in general was rather inexpensive given the decreased tourism due to the political unrest of the last 3 years. After 2 weeks of travel, early rises, and a pretty packed sightseeing schedule it was nice to do my own thing.
I saw and did so much over the last 2 weeks that I will never be able to fully express in words. That said, I guess I’ll start in Egypt since it’s still fresh in my mind.
We originally ventured into Cairo on our 10-hour layover from New York to Johannesburg. There was pretty much no preparation for this portion of the journey. We knew we would leave the airport and head to central Cairo to maybe visit the Egyptian Museum and the Citadel, but were unclear on what to do with our bags since they weren’t going straight to Johannesburg (the flights were on 2 separate tickets) and the airport did not have luggage storage.
As we stood by customs debating our predicament a man approached us asking if we were looking for a tour during our layover. Not going to lie, this was pretty creepy!! Unlike most other countries I’ve visited, in Cairo there are individuals to meet you for airport transfers (or apparently tours) as soon as you get off the plane. Not at baggage claim or once you leave the airport, but as soon as you get off the plane. For this reason, and because we had yet to have an opportunity to test out the climate of Cairo, we were apprehensive of the gentlemen who approached us despite his badge that was suppose to solidify his official status. He also gave us his card for “Ginger Tours” which did have an internet presence, but no reviews of the company could be found.
All the same he offered a reasonable offer of $72 for a day of travel (for the 3 of us plus our luggage) to the sites of our interest. The fact that we had a driver who would wait for us, and a place to safely store our bags, we decided to give the tour group a chance. I did also text my mom our location and the name of the company in case anything happened. In the end, it worked out very nicely. Our driver took us to the sites we were interested during our short time in Cairo and exchanged our US dollars to Egyptian pounds for the going rate without charge. We didn’t have to worry about what to do with our bags or finding a metered cab from site to site. I plan to also write a review of Ginger Tours on Trip Advisor to validate the company.
One of the many group of kids who wanted to either take pictures with us or have us take their pictures.
View of the city from the citadel
More Egyptians fascinated with english speakers.
The Egyptian museum
Me looking tired and in need of a shower but I still have 21 hours of travel before landing in Cape Town.
We next stepped back into Cairo on the final leg of our journey. Again we arrived first thing in the morning after an evening flight from Johannesburg. Once we arrived to our hotel we spoke to the concierge about tours to see the pyramids, Memphis museum, and Saqqara. Once more there wasn’t a whole lot of research done for this leg of the trip and we could have probably found a better deal but for peace of mind and the benefit of having a tour guide we went with the tours offered by the hotel. We were right across the street from the great pyramids of Giza and could have probably walked-about a 10 minute walk to the entrance. However, crossing streets in Cairo is seriously a game of chicken. On our way to the hotel from the airport we came across some traffic that resulted from a man crossing the highway (everyone does it) who was hit by a car. He was laying there rather lifeless. The image still-hunts my mind.
Between the traffic and the need for a vehicle or camel between pyramids (for time purposes and being able to see the other sites walking would not have been an option), and a vehicle to get to Saqqara which was quite a distance, I think going with the suggested tour was the best option.
The great pyramid itself was an incredible experience. Each stone (and there are 2.1 million in the largest of the 9 pyramids in Giza) was much larger than I ever imagined. And just sitting on the lower level and taking it all in was a humbling experience. I could feel the history, and the power, strength, ingenuity, and patience (the largest pyramid in Giza took 30 years to construct) of man.
Posting iphone pictures for the pyramids for now, I didn’t have my camera but will edit and add additional photos once I get some from Ryan.
View from hotel
And up close and personal
After seeing the pyramids and the sphinx we were taken to a nearby shop to see how papyrus is made and of course be slightly pressured into buying paints made on papyrus. It was interesting to see how the paper was made but I could have done without this portion of the tour, as it was mostly to get us to buy. To their benefit Ray did end up buying a small painting for his parents-will add photos here.
Next up was a typical Egyptian meal of grilled meat (I kept to the chicken), bread, and baba ganoush.
And then we off to Saqqara to see the first pyramid of the world, built as an alternative to the mastabas and galleries of prior kings. From this site we could also see pyramids to the east and west in the areas of Abusir and Dahshur, I believe. On less foggy days you can apparently also see the pyramids of Giza.
Sites in various levels of disrepair
Our final stop of the day was to Memphis and to the large statue of King Ramesses the second.
Once back to the hotel I was ready to pass out but kept myself up until 9pm so I could get a full night of sleep before our 7am pick up to Alexandria. Which I will put in another post as this one is quite long!!!