Walk Like An Egyptian – Cairo
After two brilliant weeks in Morocco, it finally time to say goodbye and journey to our next African country. We were headed for the land of the pharaohs and home of the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World: Egypt. We organized a private tour through a company called Egypt Day Tours for our eight-day journey through this famed country in order to allow us to see the maximum amount possible in the short timeframe we had available. Our parents and friends voiced some concern over our selection of Egypt as our next travel destination because of the civil unrest that plagued the country in 2011 and 2013. However, we were not to be deterred. Egypt had been high on all of our lists, and we were super excited to see what this magnificent country had to offer.
Mainly because of the number of pictures we took during our time in this country and my need to show you all of them, I divided Egypt into three separate posts. So bear with me on this, I promise it’s worth it. This post covers just Cairo, before our boat tour down the Nile.
What We Did
Day 132 (12/1/16): We left our apartment in Casablanca and headed for the airport. Katie was dealing with a serious stomach illness that for her especially, resulted in a long and arduous travel day. We boarded our plane for the five-hour flight and tried to get some shut-eye. Once we arrived, we were met at the gate by one of our tour operators, who helped us with the visa process. After grabbing our bags, we climbed in a van and headed for our hotel in downtown Cairo. We got checked-in, and Katie and Justin went to lie down. Adam and I got a late dinner at the hotel restaurant before also going to our room to sleep.
Day 133 (12/2/16): Today was a spectacular introduction to Egypt. We awoke early, eating a big breakfast in the hotel, before meeting up with our tour guide Waleed. He took us to the world-famous Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (a.k.a. Egyptian Museum). We spent several hours touring the museum seeing artifacts dating back over 5000 years. We saw sculptures, sarcophagi, jewelry, pottery, ancient scrolls, canopic jars, mummified people and animals, and much more. Some of the highlights included the spoils of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, including his infamous head mask, and the book of the dead. Our guide did a terrific job informing us about the history of the pharaohs and the country and detailing the craftsmanship and stories behind the various artifacts. Unfortunately, Katie’s illness returned and she left us at the museum to return to the hotel for some rest. Afterwards, we crossed the Nile and made a brief stop at a papyrus, where the learned the art of making the ancient Egyptian paper. Then finally, headed for the most well-known sight in the country and one of the most well-known sights in the world: The Great Pyramids of Egypt. We started at the largest of the pyramids; the one built for King Khufu. Waleed gave us some more history on the background and construction of the pyramids, while we fended off packs of overly excited Egyptian teenage boys. We climbed a few levels of the pyramid to get some pictures and see the two entrances to the pyramid before climbing back in the van. From there we headed past the smaller two pyramids to a viewpoint stop a nearby hill to get a better shot of all three of the largest pyramids (we learned there are actually nine in the complex – three for kings, and six for various queens and wives). At the viewpoint, we had a blast with Waleed taking pictures with all of the typical tourist poses before we headed for our last main sight of the day, the Great Sphinx. We got some great shots from the front and side of this magnificent sculpture while our guide explained its history and legends. Feeling hungry, Waleed took us to a restaurant called Abou Shakra that serves traditional Egyptian cuisine, particularly grilled chicken. It tasted amazing and had a picture-perfect view of the pyramids and the sphinx right out the front door. Full and happy, we headed back to the hotel to rest.
What We Learned
- If you come to Egypt as a foreigner, particularly as a younger foreigner, you may experience a bit of a celebrity status. When at the pyramids and the museum we all had multiple people come up and request to take selfies with us. And it can get kind of intense. At the pyramids, I personally was swarmed by about 40 teenage Egyptian boys visiting the site. They all wanted to get pictures with me, and as many as they could. While Adam and Justin were also targets, these young boys seemed to favor me, as an American girl. Our guide, Waleed, explained that many of these people are from smaller towns or areas and do not get to see many foreigners. Therefore, when they see foreigners (and he explained we are easy to identify), and particularly Americans because of our status in the world-wide pop culture scene (music, movies, ads, etc.), they are very excited and wish to take your picture. I found this experience sort of surreal and humorously bizarre, as did Adam, Justin, and Katie. All these people wanting your picture, and in the case of the teenage boys, telling you they love you and your country continuously. I imagine if Katie had been with us at the pyramids, she would have been found to be particularly interesting with her blonde hair. However, if you ask them to stop, they are generally respectful. And in the meantime, enjoy it, you may never know what it is like to be famous again!
- Be careful of the vendors around the pyramids. Do not take pictures of any of the traditionally dressed men unless you are willing to pay for it. Also, do not pay for camel rides or horse rides near the pyramids. The people renting them there will quote you one price to get on the animal and ride it for a short time. However, the price doubles when you wish to get down, for instance. These kinds of tricks can be common, as our guide informed us. However, if you do wish to ride a camel by the pyramids, go up the hill the panoramic viewpoint to do so as the owners up there are more heavily controlled and regulated by the tourism police (yes, there are special tourism police in Egypt).
- Standing in front of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx is one of those ah-ha moments that cause you to travel and propel you to keep traveling. Seeing these heavy-hitters of the ancient world with your own eyes that you have seen portrayed in so many books and films is nothing short of astounding. You cannot even fathom their scale, complexity, and magic until you are there looking up at them. The skill and determination of the Egyptian people is reflected in these ancient wonders. Just this one site alone makes a trip to Egypt the trip of a lifetime.
- In Cairo, my mind was blown by the amount of people who run across the highway. It was literally like a game of Frogger. And loads of people do it. We saw a group of 10 year old boys doing it on our way to the pyramids. And cabs just drop people off on the side of the highway. It was a very strange sight to see.