Cairo, pyramids & sphinx 15-20 Jan 2011
Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
46Trip End May 28, 2011
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Booked into a cheap and cheerful place called the Egyptian Nights Hotel, in downtown Cairo for 2 nights at a bargain total price of £40 for two. So that's £10 each per night. It will be interesting to see what it’s like! We travel with the Upper Egypt bus company and leave Luxor at 6.30pm. I don’t sleep very well, it is freezing cold sitting in the window seat and the journey is mainly through the desert at night so probably near zero temperatures, bloody chilly. We have many stops on route and it seems to take ages. We eventually arrive in Cairo at about 8am and disembark in what looks like the middle of a roundabout! We jump into a taxi and luckily the hotel is reasonably easy to find and not too far away. It is right opposite the Egyptian Museum…however the taxi driver doesn’t know exactly where it is…but as we discuss its location a passer-by must have overheard us and directed us just up the road
Well it didn’t look too promising on first impressions. A large almost Victorian style building that looked like it hadn’t had a face lift since it was first built and the electrics…and the lift in the centre of the building especially, looked decidedly dodgy. Alaa described it as looking like a prison! I thought that was a tad harsh. We weren’t supposed to check in until 12pm but they had a room ready for us. Again we had to go through the rigmarole of showing them our contact to say we could stay together…at one point I thought they were going to say we had to get separate rooms. But thankfully it was ok, except we had a twin single bed room and no TV. The website said all rooms had cable? Anyway we were shattered as we both had not slept well so we climbed into one of the single beds and huddled together for warmth as it as a cloudy and chilly day in Cairo. We slept for a few hours then go dressed and ready to go out. As the weather was not that good I suggested we visit the museum opposite the hotel today and then the pyramids tomorrow. The hotel offered trips to the Giza and Step pyramids for 180LE each around £20, but Alaa called a friend in Luxor, who has a friend who is a taxi driver in Cairo and we have booked him for the whole day for 200LE. So half the price.
The tourist entrance fee to the museum is 60LE, just over £6, but for Alaa and I it was only 10LE so just over £1
We spend over two hours going around the museum and see Tutankamun’s mask and treasures discovered by Howard Carter in Thebes (Luxor Valley of the Kings) in 1922 - 90 years ago….just think if he had not dedicated his life to finding the tomb of the boy pharaoh would as many people be so interested in Egypt as they are today? We also visit the mummys exhitibion…we saw Hapshepsut, Ramses II, Tutmosisis II, III, IV, Amenhotep II and Seti I. It’s a bit weird knowing you are looking at dead people who lived thousands of years ago, but well worth the extra entrance fee.
When we return to the hotel. I enquire about the room not having a television, and they offer us another one
Monday 17th January
We get picked up at 10am by our driver Abrim to visit the Giza Pyramids and Step pyramid at Saqqara. Unfortunately the weather is bad again, even worse than yesterday. It is really overcast, cloudy, cold and looks like it going to rain. In fact it is so bad I suggest we go to Saqqara first which is a good half an hour drive out of Cairo hopeful by the afternoon the weather will have improved. We get to Saqqara and a cold mist, like an English wintery morning surrounds the local area. We go to the museum first which is a modern new building opened about 4 years and gives an interesting insight into the history of how this pyramid, which is even older than the ones at Giza at almost 5,000 years old, was constructed
Alaa talks to an Egyptian man wearing a tradition galabea. He then leads us to some private tombs at the back of the site where there are very few people. For a small price we can see inside. Here we see impressive carvings in the stone with a spluttering of colour. It is truly amazing how skilled the artists of the time were, these were definitely not cavemen drawings. Just think what the world would be like now if the pharaohs had survived and Egyptian culture had continued and progressed instead of dying out and along with the rest of the world falling into the dark ages. You can only imagine what could have been achieved by now if we had progressed from the days of the pyramids. I overhear a tour guide saying it has been raining at Giza. We then head to Memphis apparently this was the first capital of the old kingdom of the pharaohs
We arrive at Giza driving through the narrow and dirty streets of downtown Cairo and Giza. Giza is a city that has sprung up over the last 20 years. Tower blocks of flats now surround the pyramids - years ago this area was still much the desert and you would have had a half hour drive from Cairo into the desert with not much else to disturb the amazing views at you approached the pyramids. But life has crept up onto the pyramids. As we drive up to the entrance we get hassled immediately hawkers asking if we wanted a horse and carriage ride up to the ticket hall, we say no, there is shouting and banging on the car. Egyptians really can’t talk quietly, they seem to shout all the time and seem angry although I know that is not actually true. However it gets worse. Alaa gets out tickets we pay a fraction to get in. As we walked towards the great Pyramid so Alaa gets approached. When dad and I visited we were continually hassled. They kept asking Dad if I was his wife and he was such a lucky man….they try and sell you gifts and get you to ride camels and horses, its just hassle, hassle, hassle and spoils the experience. Well Alaa got hassled by this guy asking him to go for a ride in a horse and carriage, I was telling Alaa to ignore him, there was shouting and then the tourist police got involved
I had visited the inside of the Great Pyramid with Dad…it’s a long climb up the inside into a tiny room. So this time we visited the 3 Pyramid, this time we had a long climb down into a number of chambers. It was good and worth a visit. By this time it was well into the afternoon. I didn’t realise but they closed the sphinx at 4pm, so by the time we had walked down and taken a few pictures along the way we had missed getting in by 5 minutes! Blast. So all in all not the most successful day. I was upset for Alaa as it hadn’t been the best experience for him. It was ok for me as I’d been before. When we get back to the hotel I check the weather forecast, it is supposed to be a much brighter day…if that is true I really think we should go back to the Pyramids, bearing in mind we get in for about £1 each I think it would be shame not to do it properly.
Tuesday 18th January
Check out is at midday by which time the morning mist is breaking up and blue skies have returned to Cairo - hurrah! So off to see the Pyramids again. Had an unfortunate experience on the way. The traffic suddenly slowed down as we drove along a flyover, we then saw the aftermath of an awful accident. Apparently three young boys who has been sitting in the back of a open ended pick-up truck, as they do all over Egypt….were thrown out onto the road when it crashed. They had bad head injuries and their blood splattered bodies were lying by the side of the road. At least they were not dead, but it was a hideous sight to see and really shook me up, its something I've never seen before.
As we drive towards the Pyramids we wind once again through the narrow and muddy streets that lie between the myriad of blocks of flats which intrude right up to the perimeter of the Pyramids and Sphinx….An artist called David Roberts painted many atmospheric pictures of the ancient sites in Egypt in the 1800s which captures a time when the Pyramids and the Sphinx were still half submerged in the desert sand. Well now to one side of the Pyramids you can still ride out into the desert and dream of life in the time of the pharaohs, but to the other is the new city of Giza which encroaches right up to the entrance gates….even 30 years ago when my dad first visited Cairo you could still drive from downtown and there was nothing on the way only the incredible sight of the Pyramids on the horizon which are still an absolute wonder to behold
To think of the amazing achievements accomplished by the people of this nation 5,000 years ago, and now if you look down the road directly in front of the Sphinx all you see is the squalor and poverty that the people are living in today - it‘s hardly progression and people are probably living in worse conditions than in the times of the Pharaohs….I do wonder what they (the Pharaohs) would think if they could see it now? But we had a much better day. We used the same taxi driver and he took us up to a viewing point that I had not been to before where you get a view of the 3 pyramids in a row….fantastic. As we drove back down I decided I wanted to go on a camel! So off I went on camel ride for an hour into the desert, which meant that we got to see the pyramids from a totally different angle - it was great. On the way back Alaa joined me on the back of the camel and then he rode us back to the road. It was getting late in the afternoon so wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the Sphinx again. We didn’t but I think Alaa was getting a bit embarrassed when I got out Paddington Bear and started taking his photo! So all in all a much better day was had but us all, including Paddington.
Our taxi driver, asked us first if he could take us to a carpet shop just around the corner from the exit at the foot of the Sphinx
By the time we get back to the hotel having driven through busy peak time traffic in Cairo it was getting late. We picked up our bags and then the driver dropped us off at KFC to get our first food of the day! There was a heavy police presence, I wanted to know what was going on. As we left KFC Alaa got out his mobile to phone the taxi driver, but was then ushered away and told to move on by some plain clothed policeman. When Alaa asked why he was told it was ’none of his f***ing business - charming. We later found out that someone important had died and a member of the government was going to visit the family to show his respects and so they were having to close the roads to enable him safe passage…seems a bit extreme
Weds 19th January
We arrive in Luxor around 10am after a 12-hour journey. The journey was ok, but cold again and the weather turned for the worst as we headed through and beyond Hurghada. It was like a desert storm and when we were about 2 hours away from Luxor at around 6am as we stopped off at a roadside cafe it really was grim, dusty and cold….but it cleared up by the time we got home. We went straight to sleep and I got up at 4pm!
Thursday 20th January
Have booked for 2 night stay at the Hathor Hotel in Aswan. The train will cost us 25 LE each, around £3 and is only a 3 hour journey away. We will leave early on Sunday morning and return on Tuesday. We had a bit of an issue with the flat we have been renting so we have decided to move out on Saturday instead of staying until the end of the month, so we will leave for Aswan and then I will spend my remaining few days in Luxor with Alaa’s family. Alaa has a job driving some English tourist to Hurghada when we get back, so he will not be in Luxor when I leave next Friday L. I am sad to think he will not be here, but its good that he has some work.